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ICE Punishes Immigrant Women On Hunger Strike With Isolation, Cold Cells

Guards at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas, are retaliating against immigrant detainees engaged in a hunger strike to protest their deplorable living conditions and demand their immediate release.

Hutto is the nation’s only all-women’s detention center and is operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), under contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The facility holds roughly 500 women, nearly all of whom were detained after fleeing violence in their home countries, seeking asylum in the US.

Cristina Parker, a program director at the Texas-based social justice organization Grassroots Leadership which supports the hunger strikers, told Shadowproof the retaliation began October 28: the day at least 27 inmates at Hutto initiated the hunger strike by refusing dinner.

That day, inmate advocates organized a vigil that could be seen and heard by inmates during their evening outdoor recreation time, around 5pm. The guards were allegedly very upset by the demonstration and rushed the inmates back inside. Since then, there has been no outside recreation time provided to inmates in the evenings, when such shows of support could take place and be seen by them.

The retaliation continued over the weekend, as Grassroots Leadership was informed one of the hunger strikers was moved into medical isolation. Parker said this is an ICE tactic in which the threat of solitary confinement is used to deter hunger strikers, and was used at the Karnes detention facility during the hunger strike there.

After a lot of arguing, Parker said the inmate’s attorney and a community member were allowed to visit the inmate this weekend and confirmed there was no real health-related reason for their isolation. They believe the placement was punishment.

Other inmates claim they have been placed in cold rooms [PDF], threatened with transfer and deportation, disciplinary reports filed for those who refuse to participate in meal times and invasive surveillance. Parker also said guards have placed water and food in front of the hunger striking inmates and demanded they consume it in front of them.

“We are not going to sit by and let this happen,” Parker told me, “and we’re not going to be quiet.” Grassroots Leadership recently published letters from eighteen of the hunger strikers describing their perilous trips to the United States and treatment by officials in detention here.

Another hunger strike among immigrant detainees began today, this time at the Adelanto detention center. Around twenty male inmates are estimated to be taking place in that demonstration.

Brian Nam-Sonenstein

Brian Nam-Sonenstein

Publishing Editor at Shadowproof and columnist at Prison Protest.