A cry for help: a letter from Cameroonian women detained at T. Don Hutto

Click here to view the full letter: 

A group of Cameroonian women who courageously put their bodies on the line to protest their indefinite confinement and inadequate medical care at the T. Don Hutto detention center wrote a letter describing the conditions inside the immigration jail and the treatment by the guards and ICE. 

In the letter, the women describe how some of them are being forced to sign deportation and parole denial letters against their will, even after filing for an appeal. 

They mention how the medical department tells the women who are sick that they are just pretending to be sick even when someone is in serious pain. 

They mention how they're discriminated against by being denied parole and bond while other white women who arrived after they did have been released and given parole.

They mention how T. Don Hutto has increased its commissary prices and are being told the profits are used to provide recreational activities and maintenance in the facility. The little money they have is being drained by the outrageous commissary prices.  

We cannot allow for ICE to continue to cage people and profit from the imprisonment of immigrants and migrants. The Cameroonian women inside T. Don Hutto, the other women locked inside, and everyone who is currently locked away by ICE need to be released immediately, and the privately-owned immigration jails need to be shut down once and for all. 

The women who wrote this letter had no choice but to put their bodies on the line just to be heard. They need to be free.

On February 24th, approximately 80 Cameroonian women staged a sit-in inside T. Don Hutto detention center protesting inadequate medical care and their indefinite confinement as they wait on their asylum cases. Following the sit-in, ICE suspended visitation, turning away attorneys and community visitors as well as blocking access to legal representation and community members who could help bring attention to the medical abuses happening inside.

We were angered to hear 47 Cameroonian women were transferred to the Laredo Detention Center in retaliation for putting their bodies on the line. 

For roughly the past six months, ICE has denied granting parole or bond to any of the women detained. This leaves women who present themselves at the port of entry—what the US government says they should do—languishing in detention for the duration of their asylum case without any way to appeal for their release. Right now, many of these women who crossed the bridge are from Cameroon, where the English speaking population is fleeing persecution from the French majority.

At the time of the protest, there were approximately 300 Cameroonian women detained at T. Don Hutto, according to women detained inside. A few days ago, we learned that 150 more women from Cameroon were transferred out of the T. Don Hutto detention center in further retaliation for the protest by 80 women calling for their freedom and for adequate medical care.

These women have fled extreme, targeted violence and ICE is now trampling on their right to seek asylum by keeping them locked up indefinitely. Cameroonians won asylum in 81% of cases in fiscal year 2019, but now ICE is sending them to remote detention centers in locations such as Natchez, Mississippi where judges on average deny more than 80% of the cases they hear.

We are outraged by this further retaliation against the courageous women who spoke up for their rights and by ICE's continued denial of parole to everyone locked up inside T. Don Hutto. We know that ICE and CoreCivic will continue to resort to extreme measures to keep these detention centers full and profit from locking up our immigrant community members as long as they remain open.

At this very moment, ICE is attempting to push through 10-year contract renewals for T. Don Hutto, Pearsall, and Houston detention centers. The brave actions of these women show us why we cannot tolerate 10 more years of ICE’s abuse. ICE must release stop retaliating against these women for speaking up for their human right to proper medical care and release them immediately on humanitarian parole.