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Why the hunger strikes in detention centers?

Marú Mora Villalpando  |  Issue: September | October 2017

In the past months, immigrants detained in three different places on the West Coast have gone on hunger strike to protest their terrible conditions. One would think that under this new fascist regime, vulnerable people who have been used as scapegoats would not protest, especially while being processed for deportation. Nevertheless, hundreds of people in Tacoma, WA, in The Dalles, OR and in Adelanto, CA have demanded food fit for eating, medical services, clean clothes, speedy trials, affordable bonds and no more transfers out of state.

During the hunger strikes between April 10 and early June – including a 28-day strike in Tacoma alone – retaliation was quick and ranged from threats of force-feeding and transfers out of state, to impacting people’s immigration cases and violent physical attacks. This was the case in Adelanto where the strikers were pepper-sprayed, beaten and sent to the “hole.”

In Adelanto and Tacoma, one private prison company benefits from the incarceration of thousands of people who wait for a decision on their future: Geo Group.

Geo, along with other corporations living off the criminalization of immigrants, has invested in a political system that allows them to profit immensely. But this administration’s goal of deporting us all will require use of local jails and governments also. This is the case in Oregon, where the local jail Norcor has more bed space every day to hold people under ICE custody. They are transferred to a place without access to an immigration law library, for example. This makes it impossible to represent yourself and reduces the possibility of winning your case and stopping your deportation.

We have to stop the ways in which government and corporations benefit economically and politically from the criminalization of immigrants. First, stop believing there are communities that deserve to be deported. Second, stop normalizing this system which profits from caging human beings under some of the worst conditions and the worst violations of human rights.

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