Eleven detainees at an ICE detention facility in El Paso, Texas, have been refusing food, some for more than 30 days, and six of the detainees are being force-fed per orders by a federal judge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed Thursday.
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An additional four other detainees are on a hunger strike at ICE detention centers nationwide — one each in the Miami, Phoenix, San Diego and San Francisco areas — bringing the number of detainees refusing to eat to 15 nationwide, according to ICE.
The Associated Press, the first to report the hunger strike, said as many as 30 are striking, per interviews with detainees, relatives and an attorney representing those on hunger strike. The hunger strikers are from India and Cuba, the AP reported, and some were so weak they can’t stand up or talk.
The detainees are on hunger strike because of verbal abuse and deportation threats from detention facility guards, as well as long detention periods prior to legal proceedings, according to the AP.
Two detainees first began a hunger strike on Dec. 30 and were ordered to undergo “non-consensual hydration/feeding” by a federal judge in Texas about two-and-a-half weeks later, according to ICE. Three more detainees began hunger strikes days later on Jan. 2 and four more began strikes on Jan. 5. On Wednesday, another two detainees joined the hunger strike, ICE said Thursday.
Hunger strike protocols — which begins with a referral to a medical department, according to ICE policy — were triggered after detainees missed their ninth consecutive meal.
The detainees are being force-fed through nasal tubes and those undergoing the procedure “are having persistent nosebleeds, and are vomiting several times a day,” according to Amrit Singh, the uncle of two men from India currently in ICE detention who have been on hunger strike for about a month, the AP reported.
ICE “fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference,” the agency said in a statement, and “does not retaliate in any way against hunger strikers.”