Conroe, TX - Today marks the second day of a hunger strike initiated by immigrant detainees at the Joe Corley Detention Facility run by for-profit private prison company, GEO Group. This strike, part of a larger effort to end deportations, was inspired by one that began March 7th in Tacoma, Washington at a facility that is also run by GEO Group.
An attorney that confirmed the strike during a visit to Joe Corley yesterday morning was able to communicate the following demands from the strikers:
· Stop the deportations
· Just treatment for detainees
· End overcrowding in the cells
· End double judgment for old cases
· Food with nutrition in it
· Better medical care
· Lower calling prices
· Lower rates at commissary
The demands of the Texas strikers are very similar to those expressed by the Washington group and make clear that these strikes are not isolated events, but rather a symptom of a private detention system that promotes and preserves an environment rife with inhumane conditions because it benefits the bottom line.
Helping to ensure that this system persists is a federal policy that funnels a steady stream of detainees into private detention centers. In 2007 the detention bed mandate was introduced, which set an arbitrary quota requiring Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold 34,000 detainees per day regardless of crime or immigration rates.
Although the bed mandate has been decried by immigrant rights activists, government officials, and even the Department of Homeland Security itself, ICE is still being forced to adhere to the quota and will often resort to detaining undocumented immigrants for such small infractions as a broken taillight just to meet numbers. Once these men and women arrive at detention centers they are held indefinitely and often without bond while their case is under review.
What those in Texas and Washington are aiming to do is shed light and instigate action on a system that values numbers more than a basic understanding of the dynamics of immigration and human rights. Although the strikers at Joe Corley will likely face the threats of force-feeding, isolation, and possible denial of asylum cases that their counterparts have, the Washington strikers have released some words of encouragement for them that can be heard below (transcription and translation also available below):
RAMON MENDEZ PASCUAL MESSAGE FOR TEXAS (RECORDING TRANSLATION)
My name is Ramon Mendoza Pascual and I am one of the ones on strike in the detention center in Tacoma. The only thing I want to say is don’t be afraid, we must keep going, so that we are heard and so that we can be free.
Do you have any advice for those in Texas?
Well, just to not be afraid, they can’t do anything to us. We are locked up, they can’t lock us up more. They can’t do anything against us because we’re not doing anything wrong, we’re demanding our rights. You should keep going forward, and not yield. I know it’s hard but we must keep going.
JESUS GASPAR NAVARRO MESSAGE FOR TEXAS (RECORDING TRANSLATION)
Hello, my name is Jesus Gaspar Navarro. Don’t despair, keep up your efforts, yes we can, keep on with your efforts. May God help you and may God keep you safe, because this is worth doing for our families. Just remember your families and that will give you strength. That’s all I want to say to you, and let’s keep going, yes we can.
Any advice for them, about what they will be facing with ICE?
Talk to your families so that you can stay strong. Just don’t let yourselves be intimidated by anything, they won’t do anything to you.
And who are these messages for?
For all of those who are on hunger strike in Texas.
Thank you very much.