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Hunger strike in detention center in Louisiana

From the editors  |  Issue: May | June 2019

FERRIDAY, Louisiana — Two dozen people being held in immigration detention in Louisiana are on a hunger strike to protest their inability to be free while making a case for asylum. Immigrant advocates say the strike started last week with about 150 people, but U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says only 24 people have continuously denied meals.

Operated by the LaSalle Corporation, a private prison company, the River Correctional Facility opened to ICE in January of this year with the majority of the currently detained asylum seekers arriving in February after being transferred from the Tallahatchie Detention Center.

River Correctional is not listed on the ICE locator system or list of detention centers, making it extremely difficult for families to find their loved ones for visits and legal support.

“We support hunger strikers’ courageous action to protest and amplify the inhumane nature of the immigrant detention system. The ongoing and increasing number of hunger strikes at facilities across the country indicate the urgent need to release people from ICE custody immediately,” said Gabriela Benitez-Marquez, Membership Director at Detention Watch Network.

Since May 2015, Freedom for Immigrants has documented nearly 1,400 people on hunger strike in 18 immigration detention facilities. A troubling pattern as President Trump continues to expand the detention system to skyrocketing proportions at over 50,000 people detained per day, leading to an increase in abuse and death. Since the start of the new year there have been at least seven hunger strikes that immigrant rights organizations are aware of, where protesters faced retaliation by ICE in the form of physical abuse, force-feeding and deportation.

The hunger-strikers at River Correctional demand “the presence of a human rights monitor at each court” and “that Judge Landis be removed or that we be transferred to courts in other states so that our cases can actually be reviewed in accordance with the law and human conscience.”

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