Detainees on hunger strike call for new course on immigration detention

By Katherine Vargas
Cross post from the ImmiPolitics blog

More news today about the deplorable and un-American state of our immigration detention system. On the day that the Department of Homeland Security decided to reject —after a two and a half years delay — a federal court petition calling for legally enforceable detention standards, detainees in a detention center in Basile, Louisiana declared a hunger strike to protest substandard conditions. The Associated Press describes the situation:

“It’s not fit for a human being,” read a comment attributed to Fausto Gonzalez, according to the report a detainee from the Dominican Republic.

“There are rats, mosquitoes, flies, and spiders inside the cell and inside the dorm. The ventilation is terrible,” he said. “We have tried to complain about all of these problems, and we haven’t gotten anywhere. They tell us, ‘It’s a jail. This is how it is.’”

Immigrant detainees hunger strike over conditions, July 31, 2009

Although the ICE field director acknowledges that immigration detainees should be held in administrative – not punitive – custody given that immigration law violations are civil and not criminal infractions; we hear a pretty different picture from the immigrant detainees who compiled their accounts on the egregious conditions and abuses in the detention center in a report published by the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice:

Even though I was showing many symptoms, no one offered me any medical attention […] I was so sick that I was delirious, vomiting, had no appetite, a strong head ache, fever, I was very cold, and I had a cold sweat. In my cell there are more than forty people who are sick. As far as I know, no one in my cell has had a blood test or any lab testing done.

Edwin Dubon Gonzalez, Detainee, human rights monitor, hunger striker in Basile, Louisiana immigration detention center

I am preparing to die here in detention. I hope my body will provide testimony that the system needs to change.

—Juan Marin Corona, Detainee, human rights monitor, hunger striker in Basile, Louisiana immigration detention center

For about three weeks in May, the jail ran out of soap and toothpaste — except in the commissary. If you did not have money you had to just bathe with water and no soap.

These unsanitary conditions affect our mental and physical health. I developed a rash on my groin because of the lack of soap. When one person gets sick – a fever or cough – it spreads very quickly. We are not the strong, healthy men we were when we arrived.

Edgar Bojorge Alcantara, detainee, human rights monitor, hunger striker in Basile, Louisiana immigration detention center

Detention conditions under the Obama Administration, New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice, July 29, 2009

This is not the America that our forefathers envisioned, a land of liberty and justice, a bright beacon of hope for the rest of the world. Our country shouldn’t treat people this way. Detainees, including children, are often subjected to arbitrary punishment, including neglect of basic medical and hygienic needs and lack of due process.

Immigration raids have torn apart families, disrupted businesses, increased racial profiling and have done little to solve our immigration crisis. That’s why the immigrant rights community is telling the Obama Administration Enough is enough! We need leadership that will put an end to these abuses and fix our deteriorating immigration system.

Please join us in our call to DHS Secretary Napolitano to uphold President Obama’s promise of a new day of immigration policy for America.

Sign this petition to the Department of Homeland Security at:


2 Responses to Detainees on hunger strike call for new course on immigration detention

  1. Vote -1 Vote +1Brittancus
    August 1, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    These politicians voted Against the Nathan Deal Amendment, that would Prevent Health Care Benefits to Illegal Aliens. Simply put–it’s not their BLOODY MONEY! So what! Do they care if taxpayers have to foot the behemoth bill, for anybody who snubs our laws and enters a sovereign country called America? The nationwide parasites are –CHEAP LABOR–businesses who could care less, because they pile up enormous profits. The corporate hierarchy have been having a field day–FOR DECADES. A foreign national gets hurt, their service manager or whoever the underling is, drives the maimed person and relinquishes any responsibility by dumping them on the emergency hospital entranceway. BINGO! nothing to pay!

    Perhaps Americans should find some old shoddy clothes, no shave, no haircut and enter every emergency room in our country in the millions? Speak a lot of gibberish and carry no identification with a small splinter in their finger, a touch of a fever or any minor condition. By federal law the hospital will have an emergency on a–EMERGENCY. I am afraid Americans have been Lemmings going over a proverbial cliff, since who knows when? We just keep paying and paying even more to the IRS, to support–ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS. Try getting free health care in any other country, other than societies in the European Union? A FAT CHANCE! We are literary being taxed to death, to give welfare to the business overlords. These legislators have already tried to weaken E-Verify, local police action 287(g) and now unwinding the 1986 Simpson/Mazzoli enforcement law–which worked, but again was never enforced.

    Even our Democrats who are trying to engineer health care for every American—INCLUDED 20 PLUS ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS AND THEIR LARGE FAMILIES. Here are 29 Judas Iscariot’s, who sold the American people out–for a lot more than 13 pieces of silver? HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS EVERY YEAR. Capps (D-CA), Eshoo (D-CA), Harman (D-CA), Matsui (D-CA), McNerney (D-CA), Waxman (D-CA), DeGette (D-CO), Murphy (D-CT), Castor (D-FL), Rush (D-IL), Schakowsky (D-IL), Braley (D-IA), Sarbanes (D-MD), Markey (D-MA), Dingell (D-MI), Stupak (D-MI), Pallone (D-NJ), Weiner (D-NY), Butterfield (D-NC), Space (D-OH), Sutton (D-OH), Doyle (D-PA), Gordon (D-TN), Gonzalez (D-TX), Green (D-TX),Welch (D-VT), Christensen (D-VI), Inslee (D-WA) and Baldwin (D-WI). I’m afraid I would be banned if I used the right epithet, when leaving a comment for these so called lawmakers?

    These are the betrayers of–ALL–taxpayers. These 29 traitors gave illegal immigrants the right to pilfer your billfold and purse, while they sit in their Washington office collecting their 6 figure salaries. REMEMBER THEM AND THROW THEM OUT! DEMAND NO AMNESTY! NO FAMILY UNIFICATION KNOWN AS CHAIN MIGRATION! BUILD THE ORIGINAL FENCE! NO MORE HEALTH CARE OR ANY OTHER KIND OF BENEFITS FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS. CLOSE THE BORDER AND STATION THE NATIONAL GUARD. $2.5 TRILLION DOLLARS, JUST IN RETIREMENT BENEFITS? Learn uncorrupted facts at NUMBERSUSA.
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  2. Vote -1 Vote +1Abused Citizen
    August 1, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    There should be NO Detention! Illegal aliens should be immediately repatriated. If they wish to appeal, they can do so in their own country at the nearest American embassy or consulate. I support the hunger strike! American resources should not be used to provide benefits to illegal aliens. If an illegal alien wishes medical attention, they should pay for it from a physician in their own country. I am appalled that illegal aliens break into the country and then make up a long list of demands to be paid for by the citizens of the country they violated! Then they have the gall to claim that they are the victims and solicit signatures on petitions to perpetuate their illegal activities! Illegal aliens should expect no sympathy from this abused citizen!

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