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/.

ACLU: Supreme Court Rules Government Doctors Not Individually Liable For Death Of Immigration Detainee

May 3, 2010
Ruling Removes Important Means Of Upholding Constitutional Rights Of Detainees Subjected To Mistreatment, Says ACLU

CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that individual Public Health Service officials cannot be held personally liable for failing to properly care for an immigration detainee who died after developing penile cancer that went untreated while he was in government custody. The American Civil Liberties Union argued in a friend-of-the-court brief that the estate of Francisco Castaneda, a Salvadoran who died in February 2008 at the age of 36 after he was denied a biopsy for a lesion that developed on his penis while he was detained at an immigration detention facility in San Diego, CA, should be able to sue the health officials charged with his care for violating his constitutional rights.

“Today’s ruling is a disappointment and yet another missed opportunity to bring about the meaningful reforms that our nation’s immigration detention system desperately needs,” said Gabriel Eber, staff attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project. “With today’s decision, the Supreme Court has unfortunately closed the door on an important avenue of accountability for the gross mistreatment that immigration detainees across the country have suffered.”

The medical personnel who were responsible for providing proper medical care to Castaneda were officers of the U.S. Public Health Service assigned through the Division of Immigration Health Services (DIHS). While the federal government admitted in April 2008 that its negligence was responsible for Castaneda’s death, the government claimed that, under federal law, individual Public Health Service officials are immunized against lawsuits alleging that they failed to provide medical care that meets constitutional minimums. A government physician charged with Castaneda’s care said in sworn testimony that she knew a biopsy was the only way to determine whether Castaneda had cancer. She failed, however, to arrange for him to have this critical test.

The ACLU argued in its brief that holding individual Public Health Service officials accountable for their unconstitutional misconduct is a vital way to incentive for greater oversight and reform, as well as deterrence, that are necessary to help prevent future tragedies like the pain, suffering and death of Castaneda.

The ACLU’s brief also argued that without the ability to hold individual Public Health Service officials accountable for constitutional violations, victims and their families have no way of meaningfully addressing the cruel conduct inflicted upon them. Additionally, the lack of liability severely inhibits the ability to generate pressure from within DIHS to reform policies that unconstitutionally restrict detainee medical care.

Documents obtained by the ACLU through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in 2008 exposed the deaths of several detainees in detention that the government had never previously accounted for, a pattern of grossly inadequate medical care provided to detainees in detention and an intentional campaign of obfuscation by government officials to hide mistreatment of detainees.

“Today’s ruling heightens the urgency for Congress to take immediate action to reform the immigration detention system,” said Joanne Lin, ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Because Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has proven that it cannot be trusted to police itself on immigration detention, it is crucial that meaningful immigration detention reforms be a part of any comprehensive immigration reform legislation and that Congress exercise strong, meaningful oversight of ICE.”

Among the specific reforms being advocated by the ACLU are independent oversight of ICE to ensure transparency, the enactment of legally binding and enforceable detention standards, the ability of independent observers to visit and monitor all immigration detention facilities and to require ICE to provide critical medical treatment – including heart surgeries and biopsies – regardless of whether the agency arbitrarily deems the care to be “non-emergency.” The ACLU is also urging Congress to swiftly pass the Strong STANDARDS Act (Safe Treatment, Avoiding Needless Deaths, and Abuse Reduction in the Detention System).

Additionally, ICE needs to divorce itself from its over-reliance on immigration detention in the first place. ICE annually detains approximately 30,000 people in county jails and other immigration detention facilities, including people fleeing persecution by other governments, longtime permanent residents with U.S. citizen children and people with no criminal records. Many ICE detainees don’t warrant being detained and are denied access to the kind of individualized determinations that are the essence of due process and the Constitution.

A copy of the ACLU’s brief in the case, Hui v. Castaneda, is available online at: www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/hui-v-castaneda-aclu-amicus-brief

Additional information about the ACLU National Prison Project is available online at: www.aclu.org/prison

Published on American Civil Liberties Union (http://www.aclu.org)
Source URL: http://www.aclu.org/immigrants-rights-prisoners-rights/supreme-court-rules-government-doctors-not-individually-liable-de