Things That Matter

Migrants Are Being Detained Indefinitely By The Trump Administration. Here’s How They’re Getting The Word Out

Detained undocumented people don’t have much of a say about their treatment under custody by the U.S. government. We are not talking about felons, murderers, rapists, or hard criminals; we’re talking about detained undocumented migrants seeking asylum. So what is left for them to do? How else can they get people’s attention about their situation? They’re taking desperate measures.

More undocumented detainees are going on hunger strikes to protest bail policies and unfair treatment in detention centers.

According to NPR, there have been six hunger strikes at detention centers this year and immigration advocates say it’s due to the changing policy. The Trump administration has changed the policy to allow holding detainees without bail.

Since last year, President Trump has been saying that detainees won’t be released and await trial. Bail has long been the standard policy called due process under the law. Instead, the Trump administration wants to hold migrants until their cases are settled.

“We’re going to catch, we’re not going to release,” he said during a news conference in November. “They’re going to stay with us until the deportation hearing or the asylum hearing takes place…And they await a lengthy court process. The court process will take years sometimes for them to attend. Well, we’re not releasing them into our country any longer. They’ll wait.”

Attorney General William Barr went further and said that in 90 days they will implement a new no bail policy, which will cause overcrowding at centers and also more hunger strikes. The American Civil Liberties Union is already planning on using the Administration.

Last week, 150 detainees went on a hunger strike in Louisiana.

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The Associated Press reports that detainees protested poor conditions and medical care in the detention center, others said they were frustrated that they were denied bond.

Officials there said only 24 detainees went on a hunger strike, but immigrant advocates say the number was actually 150.

“We have never seen so many hunger strikes in so many different places in less than three, four months,” Maru Mora Villalpando, an immigrants rights activist told NPR. “And the ones we have been able to engage with have been led by asylum-seekers.”

We shall see how many more detainees choose this route in the coming months.

READ: This Detention Center has Driven its Women to Go on a Hunger Strike

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ICE Detainees Are Leading A Hunger Strike In Solidarity With George Floyd And Black Lives Matter

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ICE Detainees Are Leading A Hunger Strike In Solidarity With George Floyd And Black Lives Matter

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Across the country (and, in fact, the globe) diverse communities are coming together to denounce racism, expose systemic inequality, and demand justice for Black lives which have been cut short.

The call for justice knows no borders – it doesn’t respect walls or fences. You need to look no further than migrant detention centers across the U.S., where some detainees have banded together in solidarity with George Floyd and #BlackLivesMatter by conducting a hunger strike.

Immigrants in ICE’s detention facility have staged a hunger strike in solidarity with George Floyd.

Migrants paid tribute to George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement with a hunger strike at a California migrant detention center.

However, when ICE first announced the hunger strike at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center in Bakersfield, Calif., on Friday, they tried to minimize the act of solidarity. In a statement, ICE alleged that detainees were being coerced — both internally and externally — into a hunger strike, and detainees reportedly said they were told that the purpose of the hunger strike was to protest the repetitive cycle of the menu. 

But according to new reports, the detainees began refusing meals as a show of solidarity for Floyd and the hundreds of other Black Americans killed by police. Even inside the detention center, news of Floyd’s murder – who died while being detained by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25 and whose death sparked protests against police brutality that continue across the nation – has angered detainees.

Many migrants in ICE custody are of African descent and identify with the growing calls for racial justice.

Credit: Oliver de Ros / Getty Images

Although many view the detained migrant populations as a monolith, there are several majority communities that are in detention – and the majority at several centers are of African descent. In fact, Black people from Cameroon, Mexico, Ghana, Haiti, Jamaica, Ethiopia, Brazil, and other countries, are held across ICE detention centers.

Our Prism reports, while undocumented Black immigrants represent about 7.2% of the U.S. population, in immigrant holding facilities (a statistic very similar to American prisons) people of African descent make up the majority of those detained.

Thus, those being held have a high sensitivity and support to the civil unrest that the rest of the country is participating in. In support, they have decided to protest.

Asif Qazi, a Bangladesh immigrant who has been in captivity since February, handed a guard a written statement about their strike.

We, the detained people of dormitories A, B, and C at Mesa Verde ICE Detention Facility, are protesting and on hunger strike in solidarity with the detained people at Otay Mesa Detention Center,” Qazi wrote.

“We begin our protest in memory of our comrades George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Oscar Grant, and Tony McDade. Almost all of us have also suffered through our country’s corrupt and racist criminal justice system before being pushed into the hands of ICE,” the statement read in part.

This recent hunger strike isn’t the first time migrants have stood up for their beliefs while in custody.

Just one week ago, several detainees at a Texas detention facility went on strike to protest the close conditions in a Covid-19 world. many expressed shock and concern over so many vulnerable people being crammed into tiny areas with little access to adequate healthcare.

Norma Herrera, a community organizer for the grassroots coalition Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network, told CNN that one protester had missed 21 meals during a week-long hunger strike. She says he is protesting the cramped living conditions where he fears contracting coronavirus during this ongoing pandemic.

“They feel like there’s no way to protect themselves from the virus. They’re in really crowded dorms within feet of other people. They’re sharing tablets. They’re sharing phones. When they go out to recreation they share the same equipment and they’re sharing with the same people under quarantine,” Herrera said via phone with CNN. “So they feel there’s just no way to keep themselves safe.”

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ICE Detention Centers Are Allegedly Using Dangerous Disinfectants That Cause Burns And Bleeding

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ICE Detention Centers Are Allegedly Using Dangerous Disinfectants That Cause Burns And Bleeding

Chris Carlson / Getty

As soon as the Coronavirus pandemic began to ravage the globe, ICE detainees and migrant rights groups have all worried about a potentially devastating outbreak inside ICE detention centers.

And in fact, dozens of migrants have become infected with the virus while in ICE custody – and so far two men have died. Despite this, ICE still refuses to mass release detainees to ensure their safety and well-being. Instead, ICE has doubled down on migrant detention amid a global pandemic and they are using potentially deadly chemicals to ensure a sanitized environment.

Immigrant detainees say ICE is using Coronavirus disinfectant sprays that cause bleeding, burns and pain.

Credit: David McNew / Getty

Two immigrant advocacy organizations have filed a complaint against ICE detention centers ran by the GEO Group, alleging that the center is using a Covid-19 disinfectant on the facility over 50 times per day.

The spray the center is allegedly using is called HDQ Neutral. On the bottle, according to detainees, it says “that it can cause ‘irreversible eye damage and skin burns. Avoid breathing in. Do not get in eyes or on skin. Wear goggles and face shields. Wash thoroughly after using.”

According to the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice and Freedom for Immigrants, the disinfectant is being used inside un-ventilated areas – causing direct danger to detainees. In fact, the company that manufactures HDQ Neutral – Spartan Chemical – warns that it is harmful and can cause skin burns and serious injuries when inhaled.

Several groups of migrants have spoken out about the harm and danger they’re facing.

Detainees who have been interviewed by the migrant rights organizations have said that many migrants have become severely ill, with at least nine requiring medical attention since May 11. One detainee told Insider, “When I blow my nose, blood comes out. They are treating us like animals. One person fainted and was taken out, I don’t know what happened to them. There is no fresh air.”

According to another detained migrant, the guards have started spraying the chemical everywhere, all over surfaces that are used by detainees, all the time.

Another inmate said he started profusely bleeding after coming into contact with the bathroom, which an official sprayed with disinfectant. They said the official told them it was HDQ Neutral. 

GEO Group Inc. — the company that runs the detention center — has also come under fire for not doing enough to protect detainees from Covid-19 infection.

Credit: Chris Carlson / Getty

The GEO Group, which runs many of ICE’s detention centers, has frequently come under fire for its treatment of detainees. In fact, the Adelanto Detention Center – where several have complained about the chemicals use – has previously had complained filed against it and its staff.

Throughout the course of the coronavirus pandemic, GEO facilities have been criticized for not taking the spread of the novel coronavirus seriously — leading to a massive number of COVID-19 cases among those imprisoned 

And in New York City, where GEO Group runs the city’s only private prison, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez tweeted her outrage at the conditions of the facility where at least 38 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19. 

“Conditions at these detention centers are so poor that this man contracted #COVID19 TWICE,” Velázquez tweeted. “These institutions are not a safe place for inmates or those detained. We need compassionate release of vulnerable populations who present no public safety risk.”

News of the incidents have started circulating on social media and people are demanding action.

Thousands have taken to social media to share their outrage and demand action. Some have even likened the poor ventilation and exposure to toxic chemicals to the gas chambers used to kills Jews, homosexuals, and other targeted groups during the Holocaust.

The immigration detention centers have also been frequently called concentration camps, especially after a wave of unaccompanied minors from Central America arrived in the US in the summer of 2018. Many of them were swiftly locked in detention facilities, shocking the world with images of small children locked in cages. 

A Change.org petition has gathered more than 250,000 signatures demanding ICE stop using the dangerous chemicals.

People are also demanding action. A Change.org petition has more than 259,000 signatures demanding that the facilities immediately stop using the dangerous chemicals.

For their part, ICE has responded saying it’s “committed to maintaining the highest facility standards of cleanliness and sanitation, safe work practices, and control of hazardous substances and equipment to ensure the environmental health and safety of detainees, staff, volunteers and contractors from injury and illness.”

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