Over 100 People Detained in ICE Custody Begin Hunger Strike and Work Stoppage Inside the Northwest Detention Center

From: Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) Resistance:
Feb. 9, 2018

Over 100 People Detained in ICE Custody Begin Hunger Strike and Work Stoppage Inside the Northwest Detention Center
Migrants detained begin hunger strike, demand better conditions, lower bonds and end of indefinite detention

Tacoma, WA – At least 120 detained migrants in four units at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) have begun a hunger strike to protest the abuses they face inside the facility, which is owned and operated by GEO Group, a private prison company, for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The strike comes at the heels of a work stoppage on Wednesday February 7th by detained people who work in the kitchen and just days after NWDC Resistance held a People’s Tribunal in front of the NWDC.

Leaders of the strike report continued inhumane conditions and abuse at NWDC. Strikers are demanding GEO Group provide edible, nutritious food and emphasized the egregiousness of GEO’s practices by saying “food has gotten so bad it makes people sick. Food served in the hole [solitary confinement] is hardly enough, as we received smaller portions than people in general population.” The use of isolation, particularly as a form of retaliation, is a prevalent issue at NWDC. Strikers have also reported that GEO guards constantly search the beds and units of detained people without reason nor explanation and demand an end to these searches.

In addition, strikers demand ICE provide fair hearings and lower bonds, particularly in light of recent bond amounts as high as $35,000. This contributes to ICE’s practices of indefinite and prolonged detention, as do excessively long delays in carrying out deportation orders. Together, these have the effect of keeping people incarcerated and growing GEO’s profits.

Lastly, strikers delivered a message of resistance and called on others to join their efforts, “We are used to retaliation and intimidation, we are placed in the hole constantly, but no more! We need everyone to join us and stop working!”

NWDC Resistance activists and allies will mobilize to support strikers at the Northwest Detention Center. For live updates on the strike, visit https://www.facebook.com/NWDCResistance/

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NWDC Resistance is a volunteer community group that emerged to fight deportations in 2014 at the now-infamous Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA. NWDC Resistance is part of the #Not1More campaign and supported people detained who organized hunger strikes asking for a halt to all deportations and better treatment and conditions.

NWDC: Despite Threats and Retaliation, Hunger Strikers Continue Protest ICE Ignores Demands for Improved Conditions

NWDC: RELEASE May 4, 2017
Despite Threats and Retaliation, Hunger Strikers Continue Protest
ICE Ignores Demands for Improved Conditions

Tacoma, WA/The Dalles, OR – Immigrants held at ICE facilities in two states – the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC), run by GEO Group, and NORCOR, a rural public jail – continued their hunger strike today, despite growing weakness from lack of food. The exponential growth of immigration detention has led ICE to contract the function of detaining immigrants out to both private prison companies and to county governments, with both treating immigrants as a source of profit.

ICE has been using NORCOR as ‘overflow’ detention space for immigrants held at NWDC, and is regularly transferring people back and forth from the NWDC to NORCOR. People held at NORCOR have limited access to lawyers and to the legal documents they need to fight and win their deportation cases. They are often transferred back to NWDC only for their hearings, then shipped back to NORCOR, where they face terrible conditions. Jessica Campbell of the Rural Organizing Project affirmed, “No one deserves to endure the conditions at NORCOR – neither the immigrants ICE is paying to house there, nor the people of Oregon who end up there as part of criminal processes. It’s unsafe for everyone.”

The strike began on April 10th, when 750 people at the NWDC began refusing meals. The protest spread to NORCOR this past weekend. Maru Mora Villalpando of NWDC Resistance confirmed, “It’s very clear from our contact with people inside the facilities and with family members of those detained that the hunger strike continues in both Oregon and Washington State.” She continued, “The question for us is, how will ICE assure that the abuses that these whistle-blowing hunger strikers have brought to light are addressed?”

From the beginning of the protest, instead of using the strike as an opportunity to look into the serious concerns raised by the hunger strikers, ICE and GEO have both denied the strike is occurring and retaliated against strikers. Hunger strikers have been transferred to NORCOR in retaliation for their participation. One person who refused transfer to NORCOR was put in solitary confinement.

Just this week, hunger striking women have been threatened with forced feeding – a practice that is recognized under international law to be torture. In an attempt to break their spirit, hunger strikers have been told the strike has been ineffective and that the public is ignoring it.

Hunger striker demands terrible conditions inside detention center be addressed- including the poor quality of the food, the $1 a day pay, and the lack of medical care. They also call for more expedited court proceedings and the end of transfers between detention facilities. Hunger strikers consistently communicate, “We are doing this for our families.” Despite their incredibly oppressive conditions, locked away and facing deportation in an immigration prison in the middle of an industrial zone and in a rural county jail, hunger strikers have acted collectively and brought national attention to the terrible conditions they face and to the ongoing crisis of deportations, conditions the U.S. government must address.

For live updates, visit https://www.facebook.com/NWDCResistance/.

Hunger Strike at Texas Detention Center Swells Into the Hundreds

This comes from the RH Reality Check Reporter

by Kanya D’Almeida, Race and Justice Reporter, RH Reality Check
November 2, 2015

The number of hunger strikers at a Texas immigrant detention facility has swelled to almost 500 since last Wednesday, an Austin-based advocacy group revealed in a phone call with RH Reality Check.

When news of the protest action broke on October 28, about 27 women at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, 35 miles east of Austin, were reportedly refusing their meals.

While grievances ranged from abusive treatment by guards to a lack of medical care, the women, hailing primarily from Central America, were unanimous in their one demand: immediate release.

The strike snowballed over the weekend, according to Grassroots Leadership, an organization that forms part of a larger umbrella group known as Texans United for Families (TUFF).

 

Read the rest here.

Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law

NPR
by Laura Sullivan for NPR
October 28, 2010

Picture: Glenn Nichols, city manager of Benson, Ariz., last year two men came to the city “talking about building a facility to hold women and children that were illegals.”

Last year, two men showed up in Benson, Ariz., a small desert town 60 miles from the Mexico border, offering a deal.

Glenn Nichols, the Benson city manager, remembers the pitch.

“The gentleman that’s the main thrust of this thing has a huge turquoise ring on his finger,” Nichols said. “He’s a great big huge guy and I equated him to a car salesman.”

What he was selling was a prison for women and children who were illegal immigrants.

“They talk [about] how positive this was going to be for the community,” Nichols said, “the amount of money that we would realize from each prisoner on a daily rate.”

But Nichols wasn’t buying. He asked them how would they possibly keep a prison full for years — decades even — with illegal immigrants?

“They talked like they didn’t have any doubt they could fill it,” Nichols said.

That’s because prison companies like this one had a plan — a new business model to lock up illegal immigrants. And the plan became Arizona’s immigration law.

Behind-The-Scenes Effort To Draft, Pass The Law

The law is being challenged in the courts. But if it’s upheld, it requires police to lock up anyone they stop who cannot show proof they entered the country legally.

When it was passed in April, it ignited a fire storm. Protesters chanted about racial profiling. Businesses threatened to boycott the state.

Supporters were equally passionate, calling it a bold positive step to curb illegal immigration.

But while the debate raged, few people were aware of how the law came about.

NPR spent the past several months analyzing hundreds of pages of campaign finance reports, lobbying documents and corporate records. What they show is a quiet, behind-the-scenes effort to help draft and pass Arizona Senate Bill 1070 by an industry that stands to benefit from it: the private prison industry.

(photo: Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce)
Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, pictured here at Tea Party rally on Oct. 22, was instrumental in drafting the state’s immigration law. He also sits on a American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) task force, a group that helped shape the law.

The law could send hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to prison in a way never done before. And it could mean hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to private prison companies responsible for housing them.

Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce says the bill was his idea. He says it’s not about prisons. It’s about what’s best for the country.

“Enough is enough,” Pearce said in his office, sitting under a banner reading “Let Freedom Reign.” “People need to focus on the cost of not enforcing our laws and securing our border. It is the Trojan horse destroying our country and a republic cannot survive as a lawless nation.”

But instead of taking his idea to the Arizona statehouse floor, Pearce first took it to a hotel conference room.

It was last December at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C. Inside, there was a meeting of a secretive group called the American Legislative Exchange Council. Insiders call it ALEC.

It’s a membership organization of state legislators and powerful corporations and associations, such as the tobacco company Reynolds American Inc., ExxonMobil and the National Rifle Association. Another member is the billion-dollar Corrections Corporation of America — the largest private prison company in the country.

It was there that Pearce’s idea took shape.

“I did a presentation,” Pearce said. “I went through the facts. I went through the impacts and they said, ‘Yeah.'”

Drafting The Bill

The 50 or so people in the room included officials of the Corrections Corporation of America, according to two sources who were there.

Pearce and the Corrections Corporation of America have been coming to these meetings for years. Both have seats on one of several of ALEC’s boards.

Key Players That Helped Draft Arizona’s Immigration Law

Source: NPR News Investigations

Credit: Stephanie D’Otreppe/NPR

And this bill was an important one for the company. According to Corrections Corporation of America reports reviewed by NPR, executives believe immigrant detention is their next big market. Last year, they wrote that they expect to bring in “a significant portion of our revenues” from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that detains illegal immigrants.

In the conference room, the group decided they would turn the immigration idea into a model bill. They discussed and debated language. Then, they voted on it.

“There were no ‘no’ votes,” Pearce said. “I never had one person speak up in objection to this model legislation.”

Four months later, that model legislation became, almost word for word, Arizona’s immigration law.

They even named it. They called it the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act.”

“ALEC is the conservative, free-market orientated, limited-government group,” said Michael Hough, who was staff director of the meeting.

Hough works for ALEC, but he’s also running for state delegate in Maryland, and if elected says he plans to support a similar bill to Arizona’s law.

Asked if the private companies usually get to write model bills for the legislators, Hough said, “Yeah, that’s the way it’s set up. It’s a public-private partnership. We believe both sides, businesses and lawmakers should be at the same table, together.”

Nothing about this is illegal. Pearce’s immigration plan became a prospective bill and Pearce took it home to Arizona.

Campaign Donations

Pearce said he is not concerned that it could appear private prison companies have an opportunity to lobby for legislation at the ALEC meetings.

“I don’t go there to meet with them,” he said. “I go there to meet with other legislators.”

Pearce may go there to meet with other legislators, but 200 private companies pay tens of thousands of dollars to meet with legislators like him.

As soon as Pearce’s bill hit the Arizona statehouse floor in January, there were signs of ALEC’s influence. Thirty-six co-sponsors jumped on, a number almost unheard of in the capitol. According to records obtained by NPR, two-thirds of them either went to that December meeting or are ALEC members.

That same week, the Corrections Corporation of America hired a powerful new lobbyist to work the capitol.

The prison company declined requests for an interview. In a statement, a spokesman said the Corrections Corporation of America, “unequivocally has not at any time lobbied — nor have we had any outside consultants lobby – on immigration law.”

Read more here

Listen to the Story [7 min 47 sec]

Produced by NPR’s Anne Hawke.

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