Immigration officials at a Texas facility are force-feeding detainees who have been on a hunger strike in protest of abusive conditions and prolonged imprisonment. Some of the 11 strikers have been refusing to eat for over a month now. “They are not well,” said Amrit Singh, a relative of two detained men. “Their bodies are really weak, they can’t talk and they have been hospitalized, back and forth.”
Some of the men began the hunger strike at the El Paso Processing Center on Dec. 30, protesting conditions that included guards taunting them with threats of deportation and other verbal abuse. Other men have said that while they passed their initial asylum interview, they continue to remain locked up. When detainees stopped eating for two weeks, a federal judge allowed the force-feeding.
”To force-feed someone,” the Associated Press reported, “medical experts typically wind a tube tightly around their finger to make it bend easily, and put lubricant on the tip, before shoving it into a patient’s nose. The patient has to swallow sips of water while the tube is pushed down their throat. It can be very painful.” Singh said that the men are getting nosebleeds and are throwing up all the time.
To continue going through this torture truly shows the desperation of detainees. “By starving themselves, these men are trying to make public the very suffering that ICE is trying keep hidden from taxpayers,” said Christina Fialho of Freedom for Immigrants. According to the advocacy group, “Homeland Security received a total of 33,126 complaints of sexual and/or physical abuse from January 2010 to July 2016. Of those, only 225—.07 percent—have been investigated.”
Most of the men participating in the hunger strike are from India and Cuba, and fear persecution in their home countries. Singh’s two nephews are asylum-seekers from Punjab, India, while Eiorjys Rodriguez Calderin, another detained asylum-seeker, “said conditions in Cuba forced him and other detainees to seek safety in the U.S., and they risk persecution if they are deported.”