America's immigration court system is facing a backlog of cases that will take years to sort through. Some migrants have been sent to Mexico to await asylum hearings, while others are being detained in the U.S. as their status is processed.
But while embarking on a hunger strike to protest conditions in immigration facilities, some detainees in El Paso, Texas have been force fed by immigration officials, The Associated Press reported Thursday.
Nearly 30 detainees, largely from India and Cuba, have been refusing food and drink for upwards of 30 days, a relative and attorney tells AP. They are protesting "rampant verbal abuse and threats of deportation from guards," as well as "lengthy lock ups while awaiting legal proceedings," AP writes. The recent government shutdown only exacerbated those long waits, pushing asylum hearings scheduled during the shutdown to the end of a very long line.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has "a more narrow definition of hunger strike," AP says. But a spokeswoman confirmed Thursday that 11 detainees at the El Paso Processing Center are refusing food and four more are doing so across Miami, Phoenix, San Diego, and San Francisco. In a Wednesday statement to the El Paso Times, ICE said six strikers are "currently being hydrated and fed non-consensually under court orders" using nasal tubes.
ICE also said it is monitoring the striking detainees' food and water intake "to protect their health and safety," AP writes. But one relative countered that, saying his two nephews have had nosebleeds and been "hospitalized, back and forth." A self-described dissident in detention and an attorney both said hunger strikers are being put in solitary confinement "as punishment." Read more at The Associated Press.