U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement force-feeding detainees on hunger strike

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Protestors walking along Montana avenue outside the El Paso Processing Center in June 2018
While awaiting the processing of their applications to enter the United States, they are detained in prison-like facilities for long periods of time and have been subjected to what they describe as rampant verbal abuse and threats, including of deportation, by guards.

Four men are also on hunger strike in Miami, Phoenix, San Diego and San Francisco.

While ICE did not respond to NPR’s questions regarding the allegations of solitary confinement, the agency’s policy states, “When medically advisable, a detainee on a hunger strike shall be isolated for close supervision, observation and monitoring”.

ICE classifies a detainee as a hunger striker after they refuse nine consecutive meals.

It remains to be seen, though, if detainees’ grievances are being addressed. “Their bodies are really weak, they can’t talk and they have been hospitalized, back and forth”, Singh said.

“They want to get out and be with their families”.

In recent years, numerous hunger strikes at ICE facilities have been reported, with detainees at one facility in Tacoma-Washington, making headlines for repeated hunger strikes over poor conditions and alleged abusive treatment from ICE workers.

“They are restraining people and forcing them to get tubes put in their noses”, Eiorjys Rodriguez Calderin, a detainee at the facility, told AP.

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ICE spokeswoman, Leticia Zamarripa, told AP that a federal court had approved the use of force-feeding against the hunger strikers in mid-January, about two weeks after detainees started refusing food. However, for those die-hards who refuse to abandon the cause, the next step can be very risky: after being restrained, a small tube is shoved up the nose and down the throat. He said he’d passed his “credible fear” interview, which immigration authorities conduct in the beginning stages of asylum requests, and tried to be released on parole.

In July 2017, a federal judge refused to allow ICE to restrain and force-feed a hunger-striking Iraqi detainee who wanted to be housed with fellow Iraqi Chaldean Christians detained in an Arizona facility.

The detainees are on hunger strike because of verbal abuse and deportation threats from detention facility guards, as well as long detention periods prior to legal proceedings, according to the AP.

The force-feeding of Guantanamo Bay detainees through nasal tubes garnered global blowback.

“You can become demented and lose coordination, and some of it is reversible, some of it isn’t”, Stern said.

Force-feeding raises ethical issues for medical professionals who work inside ICE facilities. Physicians may be hesitant to participate in the force-feeding of inmates, as the American Medical Association has stated many times that the practice is ethically questionable.

But the relatives of the detainees say they are suffering more because of the force-feeding.