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
A detainee participating in the weeks-long hunger strike at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas, confirmed women are being transferred to other detention centers as punishment for participating in the strike, according to audio released Wednesday by Grassroots Leadership, an organization that forms part of a larger umbrella group known as Texans United for Families (TUFF).
The woman in the audio clip said detainees are being told the transfers are happening because new women are arriving and the beds are needed, “but it has to be because of the hunger strike … because there are women who’ve been here over a year.”
“ICE can deny the hunger strike is happening and that these transfers are coincidental, but what that guard said is acknowledgement that this is punishment and retaliation for participating in the hunger strike,” Parker said. “In the face of all of this, the women want to continue resisting.” [node:read-more:link]
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." [node:read-more:link]
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. [node:read-more:link]
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. [node:read-more:link]
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. [node:read-more:link]
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. [node:read-more:link]
(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. [node:read-more:link]
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. [node:read-more:link]
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. [node:read-more:link]
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. [node:read-more:link]