On any given day, at least 34,000 people are detained in immigrant detention centers in the U.S. to meet an arbitrary lock-up quota dictated by Congress. Stopping the quota would be a giant step forward in ending our reliance on detention. Grassroots Leadership researches and exposes the role of for-profit prisons and their lobbyists in enacting the quota contributes to the growing national movement to stop immigrant detention.
Detention and the #ShutDownHutto Campaign
Last week, 27 immigrant women detained at the for-profit T. Don Hutto facility in Austin began refusing meals, demanding an end to mistreatment and their immediate release. Most are asylum seekers from Central America, which has seen a surge in migrants fleeing violence and abuse. The detainees said they’ve faced threats and unjustified surveillance as they languish in custody without hope of freedom. Immigration officials have denied the hunger strike is even taking place. While exact figures are unknown, advocates say the hunger strike grew this week substantially, possibly into the hundreds. Hutto is run by the country’s largest private prison firm, Corrections Corporation of America. The hunger strike is the latest by immigrant detainees around the country, following three others in the past month. "Women are fleeing Central America and Mexico because they are in danger," says Cristina Parker, immigration projects coordinator for Grassroots Leadership. "We respond by putting them in a prison for profit that cuts corners, that serves bad food, that neglects people’s medical care and needs. This is the system that these women are exposing, and they’re doing so, so bravely." Read more about Locked Up & Neglected After Fleeing Danger, Immigrant Women Detainees Launch Hunger Strike in Texas
One striker's daughter says staff retaliated against her mom by transferring her to solitary confinement in an all-male facility.
She had had enough.
Two weeks ago, nearly seven months into her stay at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, northeast of Austin, Francisca Morales Macias went on a hunger strike. Morales Macias, fleeing an abusive partner in Mexico, was detained at the all-female immigration detention center in April and decided to protest after she was repeatedly served rotten milk and undercooked, and even uncooked, food.
Monica Morales, her 27-year-old daughter, told the Observer that her mother was also experiencing mistreatment by guards inside the center.
“All she did was try to save her life and try to come back to her family” in Texas, said Morales, who lives in Amarillo. Women detained at Hutto, she said, “aren’t animals, they’re human beings.”
By last Wednesday — nine days ago — 26 more women had reportedly joined Morales Macias, refusing dinner and vowing indefinitely not to eat until they are released from the detention facility. Many women, including Morales Macias, have fled violence and persecution in their home countries, including Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala, and are seeking asylum in the United States. Read more about Hutto Hunger Strike Reportedly Growing Despite ICE Denials
On October 28, 27 women being held at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center began a hunger strike with a single demand: immediate release from an immigration detention center that they say neglects them and their rights. Fourteen days later, local advocacy group Grassroots Leadership reports that the growing group of women is still refusing to eat and is now facing retaliatory measures.
We spoke to Christina Parker, Grassroots Leadership’s immigration program director, for an update:
How many women do you estimate are currently on hunger strike at Hutto?
Parker: The hunger strike has moved into a new phase of rolling strikes. The original strike started almost two weeks ago and women have a biological need to begin eating again. So now, women will fast one section (each section is about 40 to 50 women) for a few days, and then stop and another section will begin. Twenty-seven women started the strike, and over the course of the last week, we confirmed that three sections were on strike at the height of the protest. So that’s at least 125 women, with 40 to 50 striking at any given time.
How are they sustaining themselves?
During the initial strike, women only took in water or sugar water. During the rolling strikes, they'll use time to rest while another section strikes to sustain themselves. In addition being a way to sustain themselves, they told us they are employing this system this to try to hide from ICE who is and isn’t eating. ICE has been taking inventory of who is eating and who isn’t and intimidating women they believe are not eating. The rolling hunger strike is a way for them to continue to resist, but be less easy to target for retaliation, which is brilliant and shows how committed they are.
How many of the striking women have reportedly been moved to other facilities?
We know of two women [Francisca Morales Macias and Amalia Arteaga Leal] who have been moved to the detention center in Pearsall, a historically all-men’s facility that is notorious for its conditions. Apparently, there is a small women’s wing. We know of at least four others moved to the Laredo detention center on the border, which is also known for bad conditions. According to a rushed phone call from inside the night they were moved (late Thursday, early Friday), as many as 12 may have been taken to Laredo and perhaps half of them had been participating in the strike.
How many have been moved into solitary confinement?
Two women have faced solitary confinement that we know of. Insis [Maribel Zelaya Bernardez] was placed in solitary at Hutto the first weekend of the hunger strike. This was confirmed by her attorney and friend who went and demanded to see her and a letter she wrote about the experience. Francisca, who was moved to Pearsall, has been in solitary since she arrived. We and her family are extremely concerned about her well-being and want her released to pursue to case outside of detention as soon as possible. It is worth explaining here that ICE will say they do not have any solitary confinement cells in immigrant detention. But what they leave out is that they do have single cells in the medical units and this is where they will lock women up, under the pretext of medical care. But it is obvious to the women that it is a punishment, especially since they have reported that don’t see anyone while they’re in there, including any doctors or nurses. This was what we saw in the reports of solitary used against mothers and children during the Karnes hunger strikes. Read more about UPDATE: 100+ Women Now Refusing to Eat in Texas Immigration Detention Center
Close to 100 women being held in a detention center for immigrants in Hutto, Texas, have joined a hunger strike asking for their release and better living conditions, especially in regard to medical attention.
Twenty-seven women had started the strike on Oct. 28.
Cristina Parker of Grassroots Leadership, an organization that advocates for the release of detained immigrants, told EFE that the women – mostly from Mexico and Central America – are being held in detention centers while their asylum claims are being looked at. They could be deported if their cases are rejected. Read more about Nearly 100 women held in Texas immigration detention center on hunger strike
As a hunger strike inside the Hutto immigrant detention center in Taylor, Texas spreads throughout the facility, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials are ramping up retaliation and abuse against women participating in the protest. Read more about This is what you can do: Demand release of women targeted for retaliation in #Hutto27 hunger strike
(AUSTIN, Texas) — On day 6 of the hunger strike initiated Wednesday night by 27 women, women inside the detention center have reported that the hunger strike is spreading rapidly and in at least one section of the T. Don Hutto Detention Center, nearly all women are now participating. Read more about Day 6 of #Hutto27 Hunger Strike by Women at Texas Detention Center
On day 6 of the hunger strike at the Hutto Detention Center, sources inside report that the hunger strike has grown dramatically within the detention center, including at least one section where all women are participating. Read more about #Hutto27 hunger strike spreads, two women moved, one punished with solitary confinement
Al menos 27 inmigrantes detenidas en el centro T. Don Hutto, en Taylor, Texas, habrían empezado una huelga de hambre la noche del miércoles 28, según informó la organización Grassroots Leadership, en un comunicado.
Las internas, todas mujeres procedentes de México y varios países de Centroamérica, hicieron llegar cartas escritas a mano a la organización que apoya causas relacionadas con justicia social, inmigración y activismo ciudadano, en las cuales explican los motivos de su protesta, entre los que destacan mala alimentación y la incertidumbre que les causa estar encerradas de forma indefinida, muchas a la espera de resoluciones en casos de asilo político.
Las internas también exigen su libertad y piden una oportunidad para quedarse de forma legal en los Estados Unidos, pues sus vidas están en riesgo en sus países de origen, según explicaron en los documentos, los cuales fueron publicados en Internet. Read more about Inmigrantes detenidas en Taylor habrían iniciado huelga de hambre
At least 27 women in a Texas immigration detention center have started a hunger strike and are demanding their release, an advocacy group in the state said Wednesday.
The women, who are being kept in the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas, refused dinner Wednesday night, according to Texans United for Families.
Detention center officials disputed the report. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson Adelina Pruneda said in an email that administrators were not aware of any detainees who had refused dinner at the facility cafeteria. Read more about Women at Texas immigration detention center start hunger strike, activists say
In Texas, 27 women detained at a for-profit immigrant detention center say they’re on a hunger strike to demand their immediate release. Most of the women are from Central America, which has seen a surge in migrants fleeing violence and abuse. They are held at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas, as they apply for asylum. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency denies there is a hunger strike. This comes as another hunger strike by 14 South Asian asylum seekers held at Louisiana’s for-profit LaSalle Detention Center enters its 12th day. Read more about 27 Women in For-Profit Immigrant Detention Center on Hunger Strike