Immigrant Prisoners on New Hunger Strike at Northwest Detention Center

June 24, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


On June 15, at least a dozen women at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma, Washington, began a hunger strike against the inhumane conditions they and nearly 1,600 other prisoners face at the immigration prison. Four days later, on June 19, immigrant rights activists launched a solidarity hunger strike and a 24-7 encampment in support of the women inside NWDC. They are also acting in solidarity with nine immigrants at the Adelanto Detention Center (#Adelanto9) in southern California who have been on a hunger strike to demand political asylum and better conditions.

As of June 21, the ranks of hunger strikers inside NWDC had grown to 31, and there were four solidarity hunger strikers in the encampment outside. The solidarity hunger strikers are getting broader support, including students from Puget Sound University, Bellingham, and elsewhere. At the same time, they are being threatened and harassed by goons from GEO—the private corporation that runs NWDC, Adelanto, and other prisons for ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

There have been repeated hunger strikes by immigrants at NWDC to demand basic rights such as expedited court hearings, adequate and decent food, and improved mental and physical medical care. In April of this year, 750 immigrants at NWDC went on a hunger strike. As in other immigrant detention centers—in reality, internment camps—it often takes months and even years for NWDC prisoners to even get to a court hearing. A letter from detainees in April said prolonged detention “is harming us physically, mentally, morally, and emotionally...and to our families....We don’t want to be encaged for so long, we believe this is unjust.”

The NWDC hunger strikers are adopting many of the demands of the #Adelanto9: for political asylum, affordable bonds, clean underwear, time in the yard and for religious services, paperwork in the language of the detainees, edible/nutritious food and clean drinkable water. They are also demanding that GEO and ICE stop transferring them to a county jail in Oregon as retaliation and punishment, including for the April strike. A Willamette Week article described the jail, North Oregon Regional Correction Facility: “Eighty-five miles east of Portland, an unknown number of immigrants are being jailed in a windowless, single-story beige box surrounded by barbed wire in an industrial district at the eastern end of the Columbia River Gorge.”

One of the solidarity hunger strikers from NWDC Resistance/Resistencia, Maru Mora Villalpando, said: “Am very clear Trump is a fascist regime that has declared a war on immigrants, of hatred for anyone not born here, for Mexicans. In his campaign, executive orders and guidance to ICE, he made clear they can grab anyone they want. General Kelly [head of Department of Homeland Security] is making statements that ‘every immigrant should worry’ and see all immigrants as potential criminals. The level of fascism—hate, bigotry, racism—are at an all-time high, it is out there and permitted. The detainees face direct attacks in the worst conditions of jail that are really cages, and in the face of these horrible attacks, they still go on hunger strike. They are brave! It was bad even under Obama, but there was pressure and we got some people released. Now we won’t even have that but people still want to fight, wage real resistance. Immigrants been target for a long time but want to be an example to other communities—Native Americans, Blacks, Muslims—to stand up and fight back, to resist and stand together and protect each other.”

The struggle also continues to intensify at the Adelanto Detention Center. On World Refugee Day, June 20, an inter-faith group went to Adelanto to hold a prayer vigil and to meet with the hunger strikers and other detainees. However, ICE and GEO put the detention center on lockdown, preventing any contact.

The courageous struggles of the prisoners at NWDC and Adelanto, standing up for the basic rights and humanity of immigrants, are important and must be widely supported. At the same time, the reality is that the Trump/Pence Regime has already done huge damage—and if they are not stopped soon from consolidating their fascist rule, the result would be catastrophic for the people of the world. The fight against attacks on immigrants, police terror and murder, assaults on the environment, gutting of health care, and other streams of resistance need to join together in powerful struggle this summer, with the nationwide protests called by Refuse Fascism for July 15 a crucial focal point, to demand: The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go. In the Name of Humanity, We REFUSE to Accept a Fascist America.


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