Women in Hutto announced to Texans United for Families last week that they would begin a rolling strike that would move through the center section by section. They said this means that one section, which locks up 40-50 women, will strike for several days before ending the strike as it is taken up by the next section. The women have said they will continue the rolling hunger strike indefinitely, they said.
ICE has also begun the transfers of women who have participated in the strike to other detention centers far from their attorneys and supportive community. Two women were moved to a detention center in Pearsall, near San Antonio, that has been at the center of sexual abuse allegations. The Pearsall facility is operated by private prison corporation GEO Group. At least 4 women who had been on hunger strike at Hutto were moved to the Laredo Processing Center, which is operated by Corrections Corporation of America.
“ICE denies retaliating against the women,” said Virginia Raymond, an Austin-area immigration attorney who represents one of the women who has faced retaliation. “One deportation officer told me my client was put in isolation because she has a history of disciplinary issues, and that she has ‘aggressive and belligerent’ nature. A second officer told me that she was isolated for ‘medical observation.’ Then ICE told me that she was moved to a different detention center — hours away from legal assistance and emotional support — not as punishment for participating in the strike, but so that someone who hadn’t yet had an asylum interview could take her place at Hutto. In response to all these stories, I asked for documentation — and ICE says it ‘respectfully declines’ to provide any records, because it doesn’t have to.”
Upon arriving at one of the detention centers, one women reported that a guard told her, “your vacation is over.” Both the Laredo and Pearsall detention centers are higher security facilities than Hutto.
One woman reported to Texans United for Families that a Hutto guard telling her shortly before the move, “God does not decide your fate here, ICE does.”
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Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works to end prison profiteering and reduce reliance on criminalization and detention through direct action, organizing, research, and public education.
Cristina Parker, firstname.lastname@example.org, 512-499-8111