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Hearing of the Detention Center Tribunal – Spanish

El 6 de febrero del 2016, un tribunal, justo afuera del Centro de Detención del Noroeste en Tacoma Washington, escuchó testimonio pertinente a los procesos de detención y deportación, las condiciones del centro de detención y el trato hacia las personas detenidas.

INTRODUCCION.

Los Tribunales del Pueblo tienen una larga historia de ser utilizados en cualquier momento que los sistemas políticos o legales no proveen remedio adecuado a los daños en casos de abusos o injusticias. Los testimonies escuchados el día de hoy demuestran la importancia de usar los Tribunales del Pueblo porque nuestros sistemas claramente han fallado.

Basado en los testimonios de la gente detenida, el Tribunal somete este escrito de Decisiones sobre Cuestión de Hechos:

  1. DECISION DE CUESTION DE HECHOS.

Hechos Generales:

  1. Los sistemas de inmigración y detención son parte de la deshumanización extensa de inmigrantes.
  2. Todos los migrantes son refugiados económicas, políticos, y/o sociales de algún tipo.
  3. Los tratados comerciales permiten que el capital y los productos fluyan libremente pero no así a los seres humanos.
  4. El Tribunal halla en base a la evidencia presentada ante él que el Grupo GEO, el Sistema de Inmigración de los Estados Unidos, el Servicio de Inmigración y Aduanas y La Patrulla Fronteriza de los Estados Unidos son responsables de todas las violaciones de derechos humanos y violaciones a la dignidad humana de manera sistemática.

 

En lo que concierne al Servicio de Inmigración y Aduanas de los Estados Unidos (de aquí en adelante “ICE”) y el Grupo GEO:

  1. Las dos organizaciones (ICE el grupo GEO) al pasarse la responsabilidad por la seguridad de los reclusos de uno a otro hacen más difícil que se establezca responsabilidad;
  2. Actualmente hay alimentos/calorías inadecuadas proveídas durante las comidas;
  3. El uso de aislamiento confinado como represalia es una práctica común;
  4. La contratación a terceros de los servicios de teléfono y el economato con tarifas exorbitantes a una población cautiva.

En los que concierne solo a ICE:

  1. Salario de $1 al día por “trabajo voluntario” es una práctica regular.
  2. Impactos Tóxicos del Medio Ambiente: el Centro de Detención del Noroeste en Tacoma esta localizado en un área industrial tóxica, en un sitio designado como uno de los más contaminados (barriles abandonados), donde los detenidos por procesos administrativos toman agua de la llave sin saber de los efectos a largo plazo por esta exposición. Ellas y ellos también respiran los gases tóxicos de paredes con pintura fresca y pisos encerados porque ellos y ellas no pueden cambiar de lugar cuando estos trabajos se realizan.

 

 

En lo que concierne a la Patrulla Fronteriza de los Estados Unidos (de aquí en adelante “CPB”)

  1. CBP continua usando y alentando el uso de perfil racial.
  2. CBP depende de sembrar miedo en las comunidades inmigrantes como una estrategia vigilancia comunitaria policial.

En lo que concierne a las Agencias de Ejecución de la Ley Local en el estado de Washington

  1. Muchas Agencias de Ejecución de la Ley Local continúan utilizando la cooperación con CPB y ICE para proveer un flujo constante de cuerpos al Grupo GEO sin importar las circunstancias individuales.
  2. Redadas en conjunto de fuerzas policiales se llevan a cabo en nombre de la “guerra contra las drogas,” sin embargo la mayoría del comercio de drogas en el estado de Washington es organizado por pandillas de blancos supremacistas (por ejemplo 8854) el cual incluye a oficiales y guardias de prisiones.

 

  1. DECISION/RECOMENDACIONES DEL TRIBUNAL.

Basados en los Testimonios presentados aquí y en las Decisiones sobre Cuestión de Hechos, este Tribunal da las siguientes recomendaciones:

  1. Al Servicio de Inmigración y Aduanas de los Estados Unidos:
  • Poner fin a la Detención de Inmigrantes.
  • Cesar todos los contratos de detención privada.
  • Terminar con todas las garantías de camas de detención.
  • Dar representación legal e interpretación sin costo a la gente que actualmente estén enfrentando un proceso de deportación.

 

  1. Al Grupo GEO y Servicio de Inmigración y Aduanas de los Estados Unidos:
  • Cerrar el Centro de Detención del Noroeste y cesar el uso de esta instalación para cualquier cosa que tenga que ver con gente.
  • Dar libertad a todos los detenidos inmediatamente.
  • Dar indemnizaciones en forma de servicio medico por los daños físicos y emocionales a los sobrevivientes de la detención y sus familias y comunidades, así como por las perdidas de salarios, casas pérdidas, etc.

 

  1. A las Autoridades Federales de Inmigración incluyendo a ICE y CBP:
  • Establecer un moratorio inmediato en deportaciones.

 

  1. Al Concilio de la Ciudad de Tacoma y a la Alcaldesa de Tacoma:
  • Actuar de manera inmediata en anular los permiso de uso de tierra y hacer todo lo posible en su poder para contribuir a cerrar esta instalación.
  1. Al Congreso de los Estados Unidos:
  • Terminar con el mandato de meta numérica de camas de detención y reformar las leyes de detención obligatoria que le niegan a la gente la oportunidad de salir bajo fianza.

 

 

Hearing of the Detention Center Tribunal – English

On February 6, 2016, a tribunal, sitting in the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma Washington, heard testimony pertaining to the detention and deportation process, conditions of the detention center, and treatment of the detainees.

People’s Tribunals have a long history of being used anytime legal or political systems do not provide adequate remedy for harm in cases of abuse or injustice. The testimony today demonstrated the importance of using the People’s Tribunal, because our systems are clearly failing.

Based upon the testimony of the detainees, the Tribunal submits these written Findings of fact:

  1. FINDINGS OF FACT.

General Findings:

  1. The immigration and detention system is a part of a broader dehumanization of migrants.
  2. All migrants are Economic, political, and/or social refugees of some kind.
  3. Trade agreements allow for the free flow of capital and products, but not human beings.
  4. The tribunal finds on all evidence presented before it that GEO group, the United States Immigration and Customs Service and the United States Border Patrol are responsible for gross, widespread, and systematic violations of human dignity and human rights.

 

As it concerns to the United States Immigration and Customs Service (hereinafter “ICE”) and GEO Group:

  1. The two organizations (ICE and The GEO Group) passing the responsibility for inmate safety makes accountability more difficult to achieve;
  2. There are currently inadequate food/calories provided during meals;
  3. The use of retaliatory solitary confinement is a common practice;
  4. The Subcontracting of phone and commissary services is at exorbitant rates for a captive population.

As it Concerns only ICE:

  1. Wages of $1 a day for “voluntary work” is an ongoing practice.
  2. Toxic Environmental Impacts: the Tacoma Northwest Detention Center is located on a superfund site (abandoned drums) in an industrially polluted zone, where the administrative detainees are drinking the tap water without the knowledge of the long term effects of this exposure. They are also breathing in the toxic fumes of wet paint and floor wax because they cannot move to a different location when those tasks are completed.

As it concerns the United States Customs and Border Protection (hereinafter “CPB”)

  1. CBP continues to engage and encourage racial profiling.
  2. CBP depends upon sowing fear in immigrant communities as a community policing strategy.

 

As it concerns Local Law Enforcement Agencies in Washington State

  1. Many Local Law Enforcement Agencies continue to engage in cooperating with CBP and ICE to provide a constant stream of bodies regardless of individual circumstance to GEO group.
  2. Joint task force raids are conducted in the name of the “war on drugs,” however most of Washington’s drug trade is organized by white supremacist gangs (i.e. 8854) that include prison guards and officers.

 

  • JUDGMENT/RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE TRIBUNAL.

Based upon the Testimony taken herein and the Findings of Fact, this Tribunal makes the following recommendations:

  1. To the United States Immigration and Customs Service:
  • End Immigrant Detention.
  • Cease all private detention contracts.
  • End all bed guarantees.
  • Provide legal representation and interpretation at no cost to people currently facing deportation.

 

  1. To the GEO Group and the United States Immigration and Customers Service:
  • Shut down the Northwest Detention facility, and Cease using this facility FOR ANYTHING to do with people.
  • Release detainees immediately.
  • Provide for reparations in the form of medical care, for both physical and emotional needs, for survivors of detention and their families and communities as well as for lost wages, lost homes, etc.

 

  1. To the Federal Immigration Authorities include ICE and the CBP:
  • Provide for an immediate moratorium on deportations.

 

  1. To the City Council of Tacoma and the Mayor of Tacoma:
  • Take immediate action to rescind any land use permits and do everything in their power to contribute to this facility shutting down.

 

  1. To the United State Congress:
  • End bed mandate and reform mandatory detention laws that deny people the opportunity for bond.

 

DEMOCRACY NOW!: Obama’s Action Marks Historic Victory for Immigrant Rights, but Activists Warn of a Long Way to Go

Friday, 21 November 2014 12:38 By Amy Goodman and Juan GonzálezDemocracy Now! | Video Interview 

In a prime-time speech Thursday night, President Obama outlined his plan to take executive action granting temporary legal status to up to 5 million undocumented immigrants, protecting them from deportation. Under the plan, undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents will be allowed to temporarily remain in the country and work legally if they have lived in the United States for at least five years and pass a background check. But the new plan will not provide relief to the parents of undocumented children, even those who qualified for deferred action in 2012. The executive order will also not provide undocumented immigrants any formal, lasting legal status. Many will receive work permits, which will give them Social Security numbers and the ability to work under their own names. But they will have to reapply after three years. We get analysis from Democracy Now! co-host and New York Daily News columnist Juan González, who watched the speech with a large group of undocumented immigrants Thursday night. We are also joined from Seattle by a family team of activists: Maru Mora Villapando, an activist and undocumented immigrant with the group Latino Advocacy, and her daughter, Josefina Mora, a U.S. citizen.

TRANSCRIPT:

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In a prime-time speech Thursday night, President Obama outlined his plan to take executive action to grant temporary legal status to up to five million undocumented immigrants, protecting them from deportation.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic or the Pacific or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like or what our last names are or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal: that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will.

AMY GOODMAN: Under the plan, undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents will be allowed to temporarily remain in the country and work legally if they’ve lived in the United States for at least five years and pass a background check. But the new plan will not provide relief to the parents of undocumented children, even those who qualified for deferred action in 2012. Immigrant rights groups held gatherings across the country last night to watch the president’s speech.

Juan, you were at one of those gatherings in Queens. Where were you? Who was there?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yes, in Jackson Heights on Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, Make the Road New York, a very influential immigrant rights group, a grassroots organization here in this city, held a viewing party. The place was jammed, over 200 people crowding every single room with about a half dozen television sets. But to me, the most important part of it was not just the president’s speech, but the people giving testimony beforehand, talking in really emotional terms about the deportations that had torn apart families, the struggles that they had had coming to this country, being here 15, 20, 25 years without any kind of legal status. It was really an emotional night as they prepared to hear the president give his presentation.

And, of course, this—we’ve got to take this in context. It was nine years ago next month when the infamous Sensenbrenner bill was passed in the House of Representatives that would make it a felony for you to be in the country illegally or for anyone to assist an undocumented immigrant. And that is really what touched off this modern human rights movement, that we know as the immigrant rights movement, in a massive way, because by that spring millions of people had poured into the streets of all the major cities in the country. And everything that’s gone on since then has been a reaction to this whole new grassroots human rights movement of the immigrant community in the United States.

So this was a historic moment here, a culmination of that, although it’s—as everyone said in the speeches last night, there’s a long way yet to go, because this temporary resolution is just that, a temporary resolution. And in fact, it will be six months before any of the parents of undocumented immigrants can actually apply for legal status. And so that the Republicans in Congress, a new Republican majority has basically a six-month window, as Congressman Luis Gutiérrez said, to finally do something, rather than just complain and whine about what the president has done now.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s go back to President Obama’s speech Thursday night.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Now, here’s the thing. We expect people who live in this country to play by the rules. We expect that those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we’re going to offer the following deal. If you have been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes, you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s President Obama last night in this historic address. I want to bring into this conversation two guests from Seattle, Washington, a mother and her daughter. Maru Mora Villalpando is an activist and undocumented Immigrant with the group Latino Advocacy. And we’re joined by her daughter, Josefina Mora. She is a U.S. citizen.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Because Josefina is a U.S. citizen, that means that you, too, will become a U.S. citizen—is that right—under President Obama’s plans?

MARU MORA VILLALPANDO: Good morning. Well, under this plan, I only get to be here for three years without being deported, and I could apply for a work permit. But that doesn’t put me in the path to legal permanent residence and then the path to citizenship. This is just a temporary relief. This is not permanent. It’s not really immigration status whatsoever. It’s very similar to what was granted to the childhood arrivals, the famous DACA.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And when you hear that already some of the Republicans in Congress are threatening to go to court, and some Republican governors are saying they will fight in their local states against providing work permits or providing driver’s licenses under the president’s executive order, what’s your response?

MARU MORA VILLALPANDO: Well, it’s not surprising. I think that Republicans have been really good at showing that they’re anti-immigrant, anti-women, anti-poor, anti-children. So when we fought for this incredible victory of ours, when we decided to shut down ICE, to put ourselves at risk of arrest and deportation, when the hunger strikers decided to call the attention of the world the detention center in Tacoma by putting themselves on risk, and their lives and their health, we knew that our target was the president, Obama, and we knew we were right. Obviously, we knew that whatever he does will be challenged by the Republicans, because that’s all they’ve been doing throughout all these years is challenging all his work.

So, what we are going to do is to continue fighting, not only to keep what we have right now—which is very little, but it’s a step—but also to expand it, to make sure that others are included, because the Not One More campaign, that’s what it’s about, is to stop all deportations. And most importantly is to make it permanent, not only a three-year program that will be renewed, but who knows what will happen if another president comes in? We cannot be relying anymore on politics and allow politicians to use us anymore as their political ball to play with.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Josefina Mora, one of the things that the president mentioned is that he plans to eliminate the Secure Communities program and replace it with a new program that would target much more those undocumented immigrants who are felons. Could you talk about how Secure Communities has affected the many Latino communities across the country?

JOSEFINA MORA: Yeah, so, Secure Communities has really implemented more dividing families, not only because it allows local enforcement to work with ICE, but also because even if these people don’t have—aren’t charged with anything, they’re going to be—they have an ICE holder on them, and they can at any time be taken by ICE. So, many of the cases that we’ve worked with, many of the people that I know, have been affected by Secure Communities. And that’s actually, I think, the biggest thing that has leaded to detention, is Secure Communities.

And although he, Obama, announced that he was going to end it, he said that he was going to ramp up more enforcement for those who do not qualify for this. So that puts people who do not qualify for this in even more danger than they were before. And, you know, really, that’s—although he’s granting temporary relief, he’s still making it a little bit worse for people who will not qualify. And although I’m lucky that my mom qualifies for this, I’m worried for people like me who actually are not citizens, my counterparts, who will be even in more fear than I am right now for my mom. They will be in more fear for their parents in the future.

AMY GOODMAN: Josefina, how old are you?

JOSEFINA MORA: I’m 17.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, I think your view is reflected by the satirical newspaper The Onion. It’s headline captured many critics’ disappointment, saying, “5 Million Illegal Immigrants to Realize Dreams of Having Deportation Deferred.” Republicans, though, say President Obama has overstepped his constitutional power by acting on his own. This is House Speaker John Boehner.

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Instead of working together to fix our broken immigration system, the president says he’s acting on his own. That’s just not how our democracy works. The president has said before that he’s not king and he’s not an emperor. But he’s sure acting like one. And he’s doing it at a time when the American people want nothing more than for us to work together.

AMY GOODMAN: So, we’re going to go back to our guests right now in Seattle, in Seattle, Washington. How are you, Josefina, going to organize? And, Maru Mora Villalpando, how will you be organizing at this point, because this is a period where decisions will be made as the Senate becomes Republican?

JOSEFINA MORA: Well, you know, I have always organized with my mom. I kind of have followed her wherever I’ve gone—wherever she’s gone, since I was about three years old. So, whatever she does, I will support her, and I will follow her, and I will do whatever I can in my school and in my community for people my age who do not—are not informed about the issue to really get involved and to really use, especially my white friends, to use their white privilege and their power to really influence decisions that are made in the future. And I hope to even in the future run for political office so that I can help in some small way to change this broken system, even though it’s changing, but very, very, very, very slowly. So, hopefully in the future, I’ll be able to help change that.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting that President Obama is flying right now to Nevada. IN Nevada, it’s something like 17, 18 percent of kids have at least one parent who is undocumented, and I think in the state something like 8 percent of the whole population is undocumented. That’s where he will be making his announcement again, following two years ago where he was in Las Vegas, as well. Maru Mora Villalpando, your response?

MARU MORA VILLALPANDO: Yeah, absolutely. I think that he is trying to sell this. And that’s the way he sounded last night: very apologetic. I think he just played with the rhetoric that the Republicans have used all this time.

For us, when reading the details of his action, of his executive action, it shows that now more than ever he made it really easy for us to know how we’re going to organize. We’re going to organize those that are left behind. We’re going to organize those that are going to be drafted into the military because there will be no route for them into any status. We’re going to work with those that will be targeted by this different program, just with a different name, but it’s really the same program—the PEP instead of the Secure Communities program. We’re going to work with border communities, including here in Washington state, that will see even more militarized border. We will continue working in addressing—pushing for the addressing of the roots of migration and the political stand and economic stand that the U.S. has portrayed throughout our countries that has really been the one that pushed us to this point of having to migrate. So, for us, the work at the detention center will continue more than ever, because it’s really—it’s really sad that those that organized the hunger strike, that those that put themselves on the line inside, are not going to benefit from this executive action. So, really, for us, the work just begun.

AMY GOODMAN: Maru Mora Villalpando, I want to thank you for being with us. And, you know, we last talked to you when you were protesting the immigration detention center in Washington. In Texas, a new 2,400-bed family detention center is set to open this December in Dilley, Texas. Josefina Mora, we also want to thank you for being with us. Again, Josefina is 17. She’s a U.S. citizen, so her mother, Maru Mora Villalpando, will qualify for the—under the executive order. This is Democracy Now! We’re going to continue on the issue of immigration and also the mass protests that are taking place in Mexico. We’ll talk to a leader of the New Sanctuary Movement. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Triste Bufon, “Canción de Protesta,” “Protest Song.” This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. And we’re going to link to Juan’s column in the New York Daily News today, having just come last night from a big gathering in Queens, New York, of hundreds of people—the headline, “Obama’s Immigration Actions are Bittersweet for Some.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS: Immigrant advocate: Many left out by Obama action

Published:  Nov 21, 2014 at 4:45 PM PDT Last Updated: Nov 21, 2014 at 5:53 PM PDT

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) – One day after President Barack Obama announced his executive action on immigration, advocates and immigrants gathered outside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma on Friday to highlight those left out.”For those millions and millions that are not going to be protected under the president’s executive action, we’re here for them. We’re going to tell the stories of those that are not going to be protected,” said Maru Mora Villalpondo, an immigrant advocate who will now be covered by Obama’s plan.Obama’s executive action affects more than 4 million immigrants nationwide, including about 105,000 in Washington state, according to government estimates and a think-tank’s study.The biggest part of the president’s plan protects parents who are in the country illegally but whose children are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, regardless of age. To be eligible, the parents would have to have lived in the U.S. for five years.

But Villalpando says single workers; gay, lesbians and transgendered immigrants who usually don’t have children; as well as people with minor criminal records will be left out.

“I don’t think it’s fair that with this decision, there’s a lot of people left out,” said Ramon Torres, a farmworker from Skagit County.

According to estimates by the D.C.-based Migration Policy Institute, there are about 77,000 parents in Washington state who could qualify for the deferred action program for parents of citizen children or children in the country legally. Another 28,000 people could join the expanded program for young immigrants.

A recent Pew Research Center study estimated there are 230,000 immigrants in the country illegally residing in Washington state.

Also attending the event on Friday was Claudia Martinez, who will be eligible for protection but her husband will likely not qualify because of a drunken driving arrest. One of her children has already enrolled in the program for young immigrants.

“I feel sad for my husband because he’s the one who works. I’d like him to have a work permit, so we can advance,” she said in Spanish.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said the president’s actions were limited but will allow those eligible to stop “living in fear.”

“This is a band aid, not a complete fix. This will help some people, not everyone,” Murray said Friday. “The real answer to this is to pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

Meanwhile, Republican criticisms of Obama’s action continued.

Rep. Dave Reichert said “I believe that our immigration system is broken and that we can find and must find a solution, but it is not up to the president to do it alone.”

RADIO BILINGÜE: “No nos dividirán” dice activista

Posted on noviembre 25, 2014

José Luis Buen Abad,
Noticiero Latino, Seattle Washington
La acción ejecutiva que el presidente Barack Obama anunció la semana pasada podría ayudar a 105 mil inmigrantes en el estado de Washington.

Maru Mora Villalpando ha luchado durante más de 20 años por una reforma migratoria. Además de ser la directora de la Organización Latino Advocacy, es una de los 77 mil madres y padres de familia que se estima serán beneficiados en esta entidad.

Maru Mora:
“Definitivamente el grupo de beneficiados son los padres de familia como yo, que tenemos niños ciudadanos y hemos estado en el país por más de cinco años y lo podemos comprobar”.

Sin embargo un amplio sector de la población no podrá beneficiarse con la acción ejecutiva del presidente Obama. Entre (los que no serán beneficiados) ellos se encuentran muchos de los internos del Centro de Detención de Tacoma.

Para Mora la lucha continua:

“Definitivamente vamos a continuar el trabajo en el centro de Detención. No vamos a permitir que nos dividan en la gente que si merece y la que no”.

Se estima que de las más de 11 millones de personas indocumentadas en el país la mitad podrán solicitar la protección de la acción diferida.

THE NATION: Why Immigrant Detainees Are Turning to Civil Disobedience

Reform legislation has stalled, and the private-prison industry is making obscene profits from a captive population.

Northwest Detention Center

Detainees inside a holding cell at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

On a cool autumn night eight months ago, Ramon Mendoza Pascual ambled out of a bar in a blue-collar suburb outside Tacoma, Washington, and slumped into the passenger’s seat of his car. He had had a few beers and was not about to risk it all. So Mendoza Pascual did what he thought was the right thing: He called his wife to ask for a ride, then waited around as revelers poured out of the bar and carried their banter into the street.

Mendoza Pascual was an accomplished builder who had just remodeled his family’s new home to perfection. When he was not on the job site, he volunteered his skills to Rampathon, a local charitable program that constructs wheelchair ramps for low-income disabled residents. His three children were born and raised around Tacoma and knew the United States as their only home. For his years of hard work and dedication to his community, Mendoza Pascual had a lot to show for himself. However, his status as an undocumented immigrant cast a shadow over his future.

When Mendoza Pascual’s wife, Veronica Noriega, pulled up to the bar in the family minivan, the sidewalk was eerily empty. Her husband had vanished without a trace. A half-hour later, she was informed that he had been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. Some neighbors had called the police to complain about the ruckus outside the bar, the cop swept loiterers up in arbitrary, over-aggressive fashion and now her husband was in a jail cell. And his nightmare had only begun.

As soon as she appeared at the court to pay her husband’s $1,000 bail, Noriega was told that he would not be leaving prison anytime soon. Though a judge had cleared him of driving under the influence of alcohol, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) placed an immigration hold on his case. That meant that Mendoza Pascual would be immediately transferred to the Northwest Detention Center, a vast immigration detention facility in Tacoma operated by a private prison firm called GEO Group.

Eight months later, Mendoza Pascual still languishes in the jail. He has not been charged with any crime, yet he has no idea when he will be released. He has been indefinitely detained for living in the United States without documentation, and deportation to Mexico is a looming possibility.

“We have no other relatives here, we’re by ourselves,” Veronica Noriega told me, “so I’m left all alone with the kids. There’s no reason for my husband to be [in Northwest Detention Center]; he wasn’t even charged. But the hardest part for me is seeing him in a situation where he hasn’t been eating for so many days.”

Mendoza Pascual’s plight is anything but unique in the Tacoma immigration jail. Having endured indefinite detention and inhumane conditions in the prison, from barely edible food to isolation and soul-crushing boredom to janitorial work for one dollar a day, he and hundreds of his cellmates recently resorted to the only means of protest available to them: refusing to eat.

Starting in early March, undocumented migrants locked in the Northwest Detention Center battled back against their jailers with empty stomachs, launching a hunger strike that spread across the prison in a peripatetic but increasingly strategic fashion. The strikes spread to the GEO Group’s Joe Corley Detention Facility in Conroe, Texas, another privatized vessel of cruelty, where detainees have endured reprisals including solitary confinement and being shackled to steel beds.

At the Northwest Detention Center, GEO Group and ICE stand accused of attempting to suppress the protests through a draconian regime of intimidation, locking strikers in solitary and even threatening them with Guantánamo Bay–style force-feeding sessions if they refuse to relent. Those confined to solitary have been relegated to cells for twenty-three hours a day with no reading material, television, radio or other diversions that might stave off the borderline insanity that accompanies sustained deprivation.

In April, a group of immigrant rights activists staked out a patch of grass across the street from the White House. For weeks, they beseeched President Barack Obama to take executive action to slow the wheels of the deportation machine that has sent some 2 million immigrants away since his inauguration, including members of their families. Among the demonstrators was Ernestina Hernandez, the wife of a hunger-striking detainee at the Corley detention center. “Breaking up a family isn’t going to stop us from fighting. It’s going to make us stronger, and we’re not going to stop until the president takes action,” Hernandez told The Nation’s Zoë Carpenter.

The hunger strikes finally ceased in early May, but not without substantial results. After visiting strikers inside the Northwest Detention Center, Washington State Representative Adam Smith introduced legislation that would answer many of their key demands. Called the Accountability in Immigration Detention Act of 2014, the bill would establish new mechanisms for oversight of prison conditions, limit the use of solitary confinement and completely eliminate a quota requiring ICE to keep at least 34,000 immigrants in detention.

Angélica Cházaro, a University of Washington professor and immigration attorney representing several of the leaders of the hunger strikes in Tacoma, sees the legislation as a historic milestone in activism. “This is the most direct example I’ve seen of people directly affected by imprisonment possibly having a say in the laws that govern their confinement,” Cházaro told me.

“The language of immigration reform is being abandoned in favor of more radical demands that are coming from the bottom up,” she added. “The hunger strikers are saying it shouldn’t matter whether you were born here or not—it’s a demand to change the way people without documentation are treated.”

Cházaro pointed to National Council of La Raza president Janet Murguía’s labeling of Obama as “the deporter-in-chief” as further evidence of the impact of bottom-up organizing.

“The fact we’re seeing people taking these risks even though they’re going to be deported—this is not something that ICE can put back in the bag,” Cházaro explained. “It’s a transformative moment where the Obama administration can no longer pretend it’s the fault of Congress for blocking immigration reform. This is a great period of unmasking.”

“This Is the Only Power We Have”

With most immigrants held in the Northwest Detention Center unable to afford legal representation, they have turned to a coalition of legal activists like Cházaro to keep the pressure on ICE. Detainees’ families and former cellmates have assumed a frontline role in the activism, mounting boisterous demonstrations outside the jail that often transform into acts of full-scale civil disobedience.

In a windswept parking lot next to a busy highway in Tukwila, Washington, I met a few of those who are leading efforts to support the hunger strikers. They had just wrapped up a demonstration outside the nearby Department of Homeland Security’s Seattle Field Office, the home of ICE’s bureaucratic parent. Among them was Maru Mora Villalpando, an undocumented immigrant and a leading member of the ad hoc #Not1More deportation coalition that coordinated the frequent demonstrations.

On February 24, Mora Villalpando chained herself to other activists, blocking the road leading to the prison and obstructing the path of buses filled with shackled migrants. By her side was the wife of a detainee who was being held at the detention center. The woman threw her body in front of the bus while protesters advanced, forcing the vehicle to retreat back into the prison. It was a powerful symbolic victory that galvanized the protesters, both inside the jail and out.

Just over a week later, the hunger strikes began. “We began getting calls inside the prison telling us, ‘This is the only power we have to make ICE negotiate with us,’ ” Mora Villalpando recalled. “We noticed that ICE and GEO [Group] thought the whole thing would end right away, but it had only begun.”

By March 21, the number of hunger strikers exceeded 750. As the national media focused in on Tacoma, Mora Villalpando and two local immigration lawyers attempted to initiate negotiations with ICE. Their demands were drawn up by the hunger strikers: an end to the indefinite waits for hearings, the solitary confinement regime, the medical deprivation and the callous and arbitrary separation of families. Instead of negotiations, they were met with an iron-fisted crackdown.

During the height of the hunger strikes in March, prison guards burst into a wing of Northwest Detention Center where a despondent young detainee had just attempted suicide. The guards asked if any detainees wanted to discuss jail conditions with an assistant warden. When twenty men raised their hands, Mora Villalpando recalled, the guards immediately cuffed them and dragged them into solitary confinement, where they would spend twenty-three hours in near-total isolation.

Mora Villalpando and her allies immediately contacted the ACLU of Washington and Columbia Legal Services, who slapped ICE with a lawsuit demanding a restraining order against the intimidation tactics. Within days, the detainees were let out of solitary, but the recriminations continued. Commenting on background, an ICE official told me the agency could not discuss the use of solitary confinement and other punitive practices in its prisons due to “pending litigation.”

When five female detainees joined the hunger strike in late March, according to Mora Villalpando, they were locked in solitary for a week and barred from meeting with their lawyers. One of three original strikers, Jesus Cipriano Ríos Alegría, was placed in medical isolation, a practice applied to any detainee who refuses as many as nine meals. The longest-enduring hunger striker, Jesus Gaspar Navarro, lasted twenty-five days without food. As soon as he terminated his protest, he was locked in solitary confinement. Then the feeding tubes came out.

Jose Moreno, a 25-year-old undocumented immigrant from Mexico who helped coordinate hunger strikes when he was detained at Northwest Detention Center, told me that guards attempted to intimidate hunger strikers into accepting food. They presented the detainees with stiff rubber feeding tubes, Moreno said, describing in explicit detail the process of jamming the long hoses through the esophagus and toward the gastro-intestinal organs. The numbers of strikers began to drop as detainees recoiled at the prospect of being subjected to such a violent practice.

Yet the strikes continued, prompting further recriminations. According to Cházaro, GEO Group guards have barred hunger strikers from congregating in groups larger than two or three, and have transferred two leaders of the protests to other facilities. Detainees who have complained about doing janitorial work for only a dollar a day are now being given a single candy bar or a bag of chips for volunteer work, she told me. “It’s becoming clearer that the demands [the hunger strikers] made are only scratching the surface of the abuses,” said Cházaro.

Despite attempts to sever lines of communication between detainees, they managed to coordinate the strikes through carefully timed calls to a local Spanish-language radio station, El Rey 1360 AM, using the airwaves to broadcast their situation to allies on the outside and offer directives to those fellow prisoners able to tune in. With each passing week, the strikes grew more sophisticated, with a new wing of the detention center joining the protest in staggered fashion as another group of detainees broke its fast.

As the pressure mounted, ICE refused to budge. Instead of agreeing to negotiate with the strikers’ legal advocates, the agency relied on community roundtables initiated by activists. There, ICE representatives were able to project a sense of receptivity to grievances without assuming any obligation to act.

At one such event on March 21, Mora Villalpando said ICE officials refused to allow the wife of a detainee to bring her daughter into the meeting, claiming the child would present “an unnecessary emotional distraction.” Claiming to be unaware of the detainees’ complaints, ICE representatives boasted throughout the meeting that the Northwest Detention Center was one of its premier facilities.

GEO Group vice president of corporate relations Pablo Paez echoed the ICE officials in an e-mailed response to my interview request. “During their most recent [American Correctional Association] accreditation audits,” Paez wrote, “the Northwest Detention Center and the Joe Corley Detention Facility received scores of 99.2% and 97.9% respectively.”

That month, Representative Smith visited the detention center to test ICE’s public relations against the reality he witnessed. According to Mora Villalpando, ICE officials attempted to lead Smith on a propaganda tour that was closed to the press, initially rebuking his demands for meetings with the detainees. Once Smith was able to speak with some of the prisoners, he reeled at the “shocking” and “very, very tough” conditions he said they described to him. Calling prison food rations “wildly inconsistent and sometimes inedible,” Smith told the Seattle-based alt weekly The Stranger, “It is really problematic having a private company running this. So I can imagine that the less they pay for food, the more money they make.”

What Smith witnessed at the prison moved him to introduce his Accountability in Immigration Detention Act. The bill would impose a rigorous regime of oversight on privately maintained ICE prisons and immediately shutter those that fail two consecutive inspections.

In an e-mailed response to questions about allegations of abuses at Northwest Detention Center, ICE public affairs officer Andrew Munoz insisted to me, “We take very seriously the health, safety and welfare of our employees, detention facility staff and the individuals in our care. To that end, ICE has been responsive to Northwest Detention Center detainee suggestions, including reducing commissary prices, increasing the variety of items on the commissary list and implementing menu changes.”

However, according to legal advocates for the detainees, ICE officials offered them only a single concession.

“After telling us that everything was fine, that there’s nothing they can do,” Mora Villalpando told me, “[ICE] offered to serve the prisoners chicken on the bone on Mondays. We had to remind them that this is not about chicken, it’s about treating people like human beings.”

Moreno, the ex-detainee, interjected, “They literally tried to throw us a bone!”

While the hunger strikers persevered throughout April against an intensifying regime of punishment and intimidation, GEO Group marshaled all the resources at its disposal to protect a growing enterprise.

A Captive Market

The abuses unfolding behind the razor wire–topped fences and pre-cast concrete walls of Northwest Detention Center are the inevitable byproduct of decades of anti-immigrant lawmaking, lobbying and corporate profiteering.

Private prison corporations like GEO Group have yielded whopping gains during the Obama era, leveraging record levels of deportations overseen by the administration to win new contracts across the country. With hundreds of millions in taxpayer money channeled into company coffers each year, GEO Group has ratcheted up its lobbying efforts in Washington, joining with other members of the private prison industry to guard against financially damaging reforms. This year, the company shelled out at least $100,000 in lobbying fees, while donating even more to candidates in both parties.

The 9/11 attacks were the turning point for the private prison industry. Two years after that fateful day, the newly created Department of Homeland Security introduced <a href=https://www.fas.org/irp/agency/dhs/endgame.pdf>Operation Endgame.</a> The DHS document was essentially a blueprint for total deportation, urging the federal government to “increase its overall number of removals annually in order to thwart and deter continued growth in the illegal alien population. Moving toward a 100% rate for removal of all removable aliens is critical…”

The year after DHS introduced this startling proposal, the Northwest Detention Center opened on a badly contaminated Superfund site in Tacoma’s Tideflats area. Over vehement public opposition, the Tacoma City Council approved the jail on the grounds that it would create “hundreds of family-wage job opportunities.” It was to be operated by the Florida-based Correctional Services Corporation (CSC), a private prison contractor eager to offset construction costs through public funding.

An in-depth joint investigation by the Tacoma-based News Tribune and the nonprofit InvestigateWest found that CSC collaborated with local lawmakers to ensure that city taxpayers covered the bulk of costs associated with building the jail. In the end, only forty-five jobs arose from the prison’s construction—far less than the hundreds initially projected.

For decades, GEO Group had operated under the banner of Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, a scandal-scarred private security and prison firm with a lengthy and well-documented record of human rights abuses. Following scores of abuse claims by prisoners and harsh condemnation by the Department of Justice for “excessive abuse and neglect,” Wackenhut was acquired by the European prison corporation G4S in 2002. (G4S holds contracts to operate Israeli prisons in the occupied Palestinian territories, where human rights advocates have documented widespread abuses.)

Formerly a subsidiary of Wackenhut/G4S, GEO Group established itself as a fully independent corporate entity in 2003. In 2005, GEO Group acquired CSC, taking direct control over the Northwest Detention Center. Within five years, GEO Group had secured contracts to administer nearly 100 prisons across the country with room for at least 77,000 beds.

Private prison industry profits have skyrocketed since 2007, when a bipartisan vote in Congress authorized a peculiar law known as the bed quota. The provision required the Department of Homeland Security to detain at least 34,000 people a day in federal immigrant prisons, imposing an incarceration mandate that remains unchanged despite declining levels of illegal immigration.

According to Mora Villalpando of the #Not1More coalition, policies like the bed quota inspired ICE to classify any contact between undocumented migrants and law enforcement as “criminal activity.” And thanks to Secure Communities, a controversial program linking local police to the ICE database, beat cops have been transformed into de facto immigration agents. For the undocumented, an arrest for even the most minor offense could mean deportation, or least several months inside a prison like the Northwest Detention Center.

In privatized jails, every body has a monetary value. Indeed, GEO Group bills the federal government $164 per day for each immigrant it holds. As a direct result of the bed quota, the cost of detaining undocumented immigrants to US taxpayers has spiked to $2.8 billion a year, over double what it was in 2006. The federal money flows straight into the coffers of GEO Group executives; their team of lobbyists at Navigators Global, a DC firm; and to Lionel Aguirre, another GEO Group lobbyist with a wealth of connections on both sides of the political aisle in Austin.

In 2012, following three decades of skyrocketing incarceration rates and almost 2 million deportations since Obama’s inauguration, GEO Group announced a record $1.4 billion in profits. The company’s CEO, George Zoley, became the wealthiest correctional officer in America, raking in a whopping $22 million between 2008 and 2012 while his employees’ incomes stagnated and conditions worsened in his jails.

In 2013, after spending over $1 million to lobby members of Congress, GEO Group announced it would not pressure lawmakers in any way over the immigration reform efforts proposed that year. However, as reporter Lee Fang revealed in The Nation, the corporation had already renewed its contract with Navigators Global in DC.

Asked about GEO Group’s lobbying efforts, Paez insisted to me that his company hired Navigators Global to push for alternatives to detention like ankle-bracelet monitoring, a reform proposed by some members of Congress opposed to the bed quota. Paez freely conceded that GEO Group’s interest in detention alternatives stemmed not from humanitarian concerns, but from more profiteering. As he explained to me, GEO Group owns BI Incorporated, the firm that won a hefty contract from ICE to administer the high-tech surveillance program. “Our company’s discussions have been entirely focused on educating lawmakers on the benefits and successes of the Alternatives to Detention program since our company’s subsidiary is in fact the main provider of community supervision alternatives to detention,” Paez stated.

Following on the heels of the private prison industry, companies like Talton Communicationshave moved in to exploit a literally captive market. A tech firm contracted by ICE to maintain for-profit telephone services at the Northwest Detention Center, Talton routinely absorbs telephone credit from immigrants who had been deported. According to Mora Villalpando, the company may have seized hundreds of thousands of dollars for deported former detainees. Other telecommunications firms like Global Tel*Link have been accused of charging $17 or more for each fifteen-minute long-distance call placed by detainees from immigration prisons.

In January, after a lawsuit by telecommunications firms, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit blocked substantial portions of an FCC order that would have limited the telecom industry’s price-gouging of prisoners.

In 2013, the year after ICE detained almost half a million undocumented immigrants, federal spending on immigration enforcement reached a record high—over $3 billion more per year than it spent on all other criminal law enforcement activities. Even conservatives in Congress had begun to bristle at the Obama administration’s approach. “It looks to me like maybe there’s an overuse of detention by this administration,” GOP Representative Spencer Bachus complained during a House Judiciary Committee hearing. Months later, sixty-five House Democrats issued a letter to Obama demanding the repeal of the bed quota.

The White House has staunchly refused to issue an executive order halting the mass deportations, with Obama deferring responsibility onto Congress for any reforms to the immigration system. One of the few reforms proposed by the administration arrived in a bloated 2015 Department of Homeland Security budget in the form of alternatives to mass detention—the kind that represent a cash cow to GEO Group subsidiaries. Buried in the budget request was perhaps the most significant clause: $1.3 billion to fund 30,539 prison beds, only a few thousand lower than the established bed quota.

“These tepid changes aren’t going to change anything,” Chárazo maintained. “A lid has been taken off, and ICE won’t be able to put this lid back on.”

At his April 10 keynote address at the Texas summit commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act, Obama paid tribute to the political courage of President Lyndon Johnson. “He liked the feel of [power], the wielding of it,” Obama said of LBJ. “But that hunger was harnessed and redeemed by a deeper understanding of the human condition, by a sympathy for the underdog, for the downtrodden, for the outcast.”

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While Obama spoke, three immigrant rights protesters were arrested outside. Another protester, Isaac Chavez, wondered, “How can you really say you’re fighting for civil rights when so many people are being denied their basic civil rights of being with their family?”

An Endless Cycle

While Congress awaits a vote on Representative Smith’s prison reform legislation, the deportation machine’s blades spin with increasing ferocity. In Tacoma’s mostly Latino immigrant community, it seems that few families can escape the thresher.

Wendy Pantoja Castillo is a recently naturalized American citizen from Mexico who has kept an unrelenting vigil at the Northwest Detention Center, joining the protests and visiting detainees whenever she can. She rattled off an almost endless litany of horror stories she gathered from her trips inside the jail. “Seeing the family separation is the hardest part of it all,” Castillo told me.

Two years ago, Castillo rushed to Northwest Detention Center to search for a single mother who had just been detained by ICE. Having not been told that their mother was arrested and jailed, her despondent children were forced to wonder whether their mother had been involved in some kind of accident or abduction. When Castillo arrived at the jail, she said she had to help the woman arrange for a neighbor to adopt her children, who were born in the United States. In the end, the woman was deported, forced to leave her children behind for good.

Others have not been so lucky. According to Castillo, children are routinely placed into foster care and put up for adoption when their undocumented parents fall into the hands of ICE. “Just imagine if someone takes you away from your kids and you can’t tell them where you are and they wind up in the hands of the state,” Castillo remarked. “The fact that this is happening in the USA shows there is a huge hole in the law.”

More recently, in February, Castillo escorted a family from the nearby town of Salem to visit their father in Northwest Detention Center. The detainee’s four children were American citizens, as was his wife. Separated behind a wall of blast-resistant glass, one of the detainee’s children, an autistic boy, began to sob uncontrollably. “He just wanted to touch his father,” Castillo said. “But the visits are noncontact. He could only cry behind the glass.” Several weeks later, the man was deported, prompting his family to give up on life in the United States to reunite with him in Mexico.

Castillo has met detainees from around the world: from Africa, the Middle East, East Asia and Eastern Europe. She said some have been held in the Northwest Detention Center for several years without receiving a hearing. “They work all day out here for nothing,” she said. “A lot of them don’t speak any English, don’t know anyone and no one knows where they go. They just disappear.”

Mora Villalpando described the Northwest Detention Center as a dark abyss from which some never emerge. “One family we have spoken to had a son inside who was mentally ill,” she said. “He disappeared after going into the jail and they have not heard from him since. Another woman who contacted us said her first husband died in the desert after being deported. And her second husband was just taken by ICE. We have entire families out here that have been devastated by ICE.”

During one of the protests in support of the hunger strikers, a young man who had just emerged from the jail approached Mora Villalpando. He explained that he had just visited his brother inside and that he had been detained there two years before him. Several years before that, he said, he was among the undocumented immigrants who were hired to build the prison.

With congressionally mandated reforms on the distant horizon, a sense of siege has engulfed immigrant communities around Tacoma. Jose Moreno, the former prisoner in Northwest Detention Center, is among the swelling ranks of the undocumented trapped in a legal gauntlet. Initially arrested for driving under the influence, his detention by ICE prevented him from completing the intoxicated-driver classes he was sentenced to attend. As a result, a warrant was issued for his arrest. When he appears before a judge in the coming weeks to explain his extenuating circumstances, Moreno must prepare for the worst.

“If they put me in jail, ICE could put another immigration hold on me,” he worried. “Then they could transfer me to Tacoma [to the Northwest Detention Center]. And it will never end. The cycle never ends.”

SLOG: Immigrant Placed in Solitary Confinement as Hunger Strike Hits Tacoma Detention Center, Again

by Ansel Herz • Aug 1, 2014 at 5:58 pm, SLOG

scaled.IMG_5772.jpg
ALEX GARLAND, PROTESTERS Outside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma during the first hunger strike this spring.

Immigrant detainees outraged by shoddy food, high commissary prices, and the government’s failure to reform its “broken”—President Obama’s words—immigration system began a second hunger strike on Wednesday at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, which is run by GEO Group, the nation’s second largest private prison corporation.

Already, one of the hunger strikers has been placed in solitary confinement, according to a document sent to The Stranger by a paralegal who visited the hunger strikers today.

Solitary confinement is the equivalent of what immigration officials have generally described as “administrative detention” or “administrative segregation.” The document (full image) states that Cipriano Rios-Alegria was transferred to a “special management unit.”

“Pending investigation for trying to recruit other detainees for hunger strike,” it says.

LOCKED AWAY IN SOLITARY For trying to recruit other detainees for hunger strike.
ALEX WEST, LOCKED AWAY IN SOLITARY “For trying to recruit other detainees for hunger strike.”

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), which contracts with GEO to run the prison, refused to confirm the authenticity of the document, citing privacy concerns. Spokesman Andrew Munoz also declined to clarify—beyond repeatedly referring me to ICE’s disciplinary guidelines—whether recruiting others for a hunger strike is an offense that merits investigation or solitary confinement.

In addition, Munoz would not say whether a hunger strike was even taking place. (ICE generally does not acknowledge hunger strikes until detainees have gone 72 hours without food.)

At one point in March, Munoz acknowledged that the detention center was placed on lockdown because of the first hunger strike—”as a safety precaution.”

In May, detention authorities reportedly released hunger strikers from solitary confinement after the ACLU sued to stop what it called “retaliation.”

According to Alex West, the paralegal who provided us with a copy of the administrative detention order, there are at least 150 detainees now on hunger strike—roughly the same number as at the height of the previous strike in March. “It seems so soon to be singling anybody out,” West told me by phone, before entering the facility today to visit detainees. “I think people are really fed up with being retaliated against.”

West described a repressive atmosphere at the prison, with detainees engaging in “a lot of clandestine note passing and communication when people are on work duty” in order to organize the hunger strike.

“GEO is so ready to pounce on anything that looks organizing,” he says. “The guards are telling them, ‘You’re the only one. You’re the only one going to hunger strike.'”

Rios-Alegria was one of the longest-running participants in the hunger strike earlier this year and during that strike was placed in medical isolation and in administrative detention, according to West.

Why go without food for days on end and risk additional punitive measures inside the prison? Jose Moreno, a 26-year-old who participated in the first hunger strike but has since been released, told me the conditions—which Representative Adam Smith called “shocking”—are still the same. “What they’re demanding is still the same…We started the hunger strike because the food is terrible. Even the guards say they don’t want eat nothing [sic] of it.”

“So you’re always hungry,” Moreno explained by phone. He’ll be at a solidarity rally scheduled for tomorrow outside the jail, timed with a corresponding demonstrationoutside the White House. “As we know, GEO is a private corporation. And the main goal is make money no matter what. The way to make money is give us small portions of food, but also have this commissary inside. When you work, they deposit the money to your account in order to buy extra food.”

The Gates Foundation, by the way, is still invested, to the tune of $2.2 million, in GEO Group.

SEATTLE TIMES: What’s behind the hunger strike at Northwest Detention Center

MORE than 700 people detained at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma began a hunger strike on March 7 in protest of their conditions. Those still reported to be on hunger strike are on medical watch and have been threatened with force-feeding if they continue to refuse food. According to their attorneys, participants have experienced other reprisals for the strike, including solitary confinement and threats to their asylum efforts.

In a public statement, the hunger strikers demanded an end to deportations and the separation of families. They also demanded better food, medical care and wages for work inside the facility (they currently receive just $1 a day for their labor), and an end to exorbitant commissary prices. Detainees pay $8.95 for a bottle of shampoo and $1 for a single plastic plate.

These problems are not limited to federal detention centers. Along with people being held in local jails and state and federal prisons, the detainees have launched what may be the most urgent human-rights movement in our country today. Just this week, a New York inmate died on Rikers Island when his jail cell overheated.

The U.S. prison system is the largest in the world. With 5 percent of the world’s population, we have 25 percent of the world’s prison population. Sentences are longer and conditions harsher than at many prisons throughout the world.

The use of long-term solitary confinement — where some 80,000 Americans now spend 23 or 24 hours a day without human contact and are often denied adequate nutrition, reading material or visits with loved ones — has sparked a growing series of lawsuits, legislative hearings and demonstrations.

In California, prisoners have staged a series of hunger strikes since 2011. At its height in the summer of 2013, 30,000 people in prisons around the state refused food.

Similar to the Tacoma detainees’ demands, the California prisoners call for an end to group punishment and for prison officials to follow United Nations protocols on the use of solitary confinement as well as adequate food. Similar smaller hunger strikes have occurred in prisons in Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois and Virginia since 2011.

Deportations have expanded dramatically in recent years. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of deportations has increased from approximately 165,000 people a year in 2002 to almost 400,000 people annually for the last five years.

Soon, the Obama administration will have deported 2 million people, who are processed through a network of detention centers. By congressional order, these detention centers must hold 34,000 people on any given day. Many of those facilities are privately run. The Northwest Detention Center, one of the biggest in the country, is managed by The Geo Group, a company that describes itself as the “world’s leading provider” of private prisons and detention centers.

Such investment in detention and deportation has sparked a series of efforts among undocumented workers and youth around the country. The hunger strike in Tacoma follows a two-week hunger strike that activists, many of them undocumented, staged outside a Phoenix detention center starting Feb. 24. This week, citing Tacoma as inspiration, migrants in the Conroe, Texas, detention center launched a hunger strike.

Nonviolent civil-disobedience actions have prevented deportations in 16 cities around the country, including at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma days before the hunger strike began.

Such activism has prompted a series of legislative hearings, judicial rulings and conversations about long-term isolation, mass incarceration and the force-feeding of detainees. Still, there is much work to be done. While the United States may like to be a world leader in human rights, its routine practices of confinement violate both international standards and human decency.

We do not often look to prisons and detention centers to understand the social and political needs of our generation. But we should. Some of the most passionate advocates for fairness, justice and human rights are incarcerated.

Dan Berger, a historian of activism, teaches ethnic studies at the University of Washington Bothell. Angélica Cházaro, an immigrant-rights attorney, teaches at the University of Washington School of Law.

UNIVISION: Activistas agradecen que Obama revise las deportaciones pero piden que las detenga ahora

Por Jorge Cancino, Univision

“No existe razón alguna que pueda calificar como ‘más humana’ la deportación de miles.”
El anuncio hecho por la Casa Blanca la noche del jueves, que el presidente Barack Obama está profundamente preocupado por las deportaciones y le pidió al jefe de la seguridad nacional que revise la política de deportaciones, fue bien recibida por la comunidad inmigrante pero prefieren los hechos y no las palabras.
“Un anuncio es una cosa y la acción es otra”, dijo a UnivisionNoicias.com el sindicalista Eliseo Medina, uno de los principales líderes del movimiento Fast for Families que batalla para que el Congreso apruebe una reforma migratoria en el 2014. “Esperamos ver qué va hacer el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional (DHS) bajo el mando de Jeh Johnson”, agregó.
Medina se dirige a Washington DC a bordo de uno de los buses de una caravana que recorre más de 70 distritos electorales en 29 estados y que arrancó de Los Angeles a finales de febrero. “Pero es solo una medida temporal (el anuncio de Obama) y lo que se necesita es acción, una reforma migratoria permanente del Congreso”, apuntó.
El 27 de junio el año pasado el Senado aprobó un plan bipartidista de reforma migratoria que incluye un camino a la ciudadanía para los indocumentados. Los republicanos de la Cámara de Representantes lo rechazaron y anunciaron que debatirían un plan propio, pero ocho meses más tarde el debate sigue estancado. Mientras, las deportaciones continúan y se acercan a los 2 millones desde que Obama llegó a la Casa Blanca el 20 de enero de 2009.
“Ya casi van 2 millones de deportados desde el 2009 y 1000 muertos en la frontera desde 1996, dijo Enrique Morones, fundador del movimiento Angeles de la Frontera. Los dirigentes del grupo permanecen desde el domingo en la frontera de San Diego en para ayudar a los más de 100 dreamers y familiares que masivamente pidieron asilo político en el cruce fronterizo de La Mesa de Otay.
“No queremos ni una muerte y ni una deportación más. Queremos acciones no palabras”, insistió a través de un correo electrónico enviado a la redacción de NoticiasUnivision.com.

Univision

Barack Obama ordenó revisar el proceso de deportaciones

Como Santo Tomás
En el otro extremo de la costa oeste, Seattle, el anuncio de la Casa Blanca es un buen indicio. “Creo que ya dejaron de ignorarnos, pero no es la primera vez que escuchamos lindas palabras del presidente, por un lado, y por el otro sus acciones han sido lo opuesto”, dijo Maru Mora Villalpando, vocero de la organización Latino Advocacy, un grupo está apoyando una huelga de hambre que llevan a cabo, desde hace ocho días, cientos de inmigrantes en el centro de detención de la Oficina de Inmigración y Aduanas (ICE) en Tacoma.
“A mi parecer, las acciones directas para parar las deportaciones y reunificar a las familias que se han tomado en todo el país, han puesto suficiente presión para que dejen de ignorarnos y se vean obligados a responder a la demanda del pueblo. Pero hasta no ver no creer”, recalcó.
La activista dijo que, por ahora, el anuncio “no es suficiente. El presidente Obama tiene que parar las deportaciones inmediatamente, dejar salir a las personas de estos centros de detención para que estén con sus familias y continúen sus procesos civiles. Y tiene que extender la Acción Diferida a todos los indocumentados del país”.
Para los analistas el mensaje de Obama llega en un buen momento. “Es un paso importante en la dirección correcta”, comentó el profesor Roberto Izurieta, director del departamento de Política Latinoamericana de la Universidad George Washington. “Es el tema más sensible para la comunidad hispana. Ya se dio un primer paso cuando se priorizó en inmigrantes indocumentados, aquellos sin antecedentes penales que entraron siendo niños” (dreamers)”, señaló.
A mediados de 2012 el DHS anunció la Acción Diferida (DACA, por sus siglas en inglés, que frenó temporalmente las deportaciones de entre 1.2 y 1.7 millones de soñadores y les otorgó un permiso de trabajo también temporal. A la fecha más de 540 mil han sido amparados por el beneficio.
“También otro paso es que el año pasado disminuyeron las deportaciones por primera vez en muchos años. Aún son extraordinariamente altas, pero comenzar a disminuirlas es esencial”, dijo Izurieta. La presión funcionó
En Washington DC están convencidos que la presión que durante meses han ejercido las organizaciones pro inmigrantes, las iglesias y el sector político, entre otros, está dando resultados. “La Casa Blanca está reaccionando a la enorme presión de las familias y las comunidades afectadas por las deportaciones, y de los grupos pro reforma y legisladores que los apoyan”, dijo Frank Sharry, director ejecutivo de America’s Voice.
Sharry precisó que “la parálisis legislativa de los republicanos de la Cámara de Representantes en el tema de la reforma migratoria ha intensificado esa presión en busca de alivio para las familias. Y aunque damos la bienvenida al desarrollo, una revisión no supone necesariamente acción, y necesitamos que el presidente actúe pronto y tome acciones significativas”. A juicio del director ejecutivo, Obama “tiene la autoridad de conceder protección temporal de la deportación y permisos de trabajo a millones de indocumentados, como los que podrían legalizarse bajo el proyecto de ley S.744 que el Senado aprobó el año pasado”.
El plan del Senado permitiría que entre 7 y 9 millones de indocumentados sin antecedentes criminales, que están en el país desde antes del 31 de diciembre de 2011 y pagan impuestos entren en un estado de residencia provisional por 10 años. Al término de ese plazo podrán pedir la residencia y tres años después gestionar la ciudadanía.
“Existe una crisis en nuestras comunidades y nuestras familias. Unas 1,100 personas son deportadas a diario y el presidente puede poner fin a esta crisis en tanto sea posible avanzar la solución legislativa permanente que se requiere con urgencia”, dijo Sharry.
Faltan detalles
Para la Coalición por los Derechos Humanos de los Inmigrantes de Los Angeles (CHIRLA), hay que esperar para ver resultados. “Es muy temprano para saber qué realmente significa el anuncio del Presidente Obama referente al proceso de deportaciones”, dijo Jorge Mario Cabrera, director de comunicaciones de la organización. “Las deportaciones deben cesar y el presidente tiene más que una o dos herramientas a su disposición para poder lograrlo”, agregó.
Leer: Menéndez pide freno a las deportaciones. En la nota de prensa emitida por la Casa Blanca al término de una reunión a puertas cerradas entre el presidente y tres legisladores demócratas del Caucus Hispano, detalla que Obama “ha pedido al Secretario de Seguridad Nacional Jeh Johnson que le presente un inventario de nuestras prácticas actuales para ver cómo podemos realizar la aplicación de la ley de una forma más humana dentro de los límites de la ley”. Cabrera dijo que “no existe razón alguna que pueda calificar como ‘más humana’ la deportación de miles y miles de inmigrantes diariamente. El proceso está quebrantado, es cruel y es inadmisible en una democracia como Estados Unidos”.
“Tendremos que esperar más detalles de la orden del Presidente para poder evaluar su impacto. Mientras tanto, el lunes, Día de San Patricio, estaremos denunciando que la cifra de 2 millones de deportados bajo esta Administración ya ha sido rebasada”, dijo el activista
El grupo Dream Action Coalition indicó en un comunicado que “en el tema de las deportaciones, las acciones hablan más que las notas de prensa. Esperamos que las palabras del presidente sean genuinas y conduzcan a un cambio en la dirección correcta”. “El Presidente debe mostrar su liderazgo en la ausencia de la falta de acción por parte del Congreso con el tema de la reforma migratoria. Esperamos que este sea el momento”, manifestó.
“No es suficiente”
“No es suficiente”, dijo Juan José Gutiérrez, presidente del Movimiento latino USA de Los Angeles. “Necesitamos acción, que le extienda protección legal a los indocumentados en contra de los arrestos, encarcelación y la deportación”.
Gutiérrez encabezará un grupo de activistas que viajará al Vaticano para reunirse con el Papa Francisco el 26 de marzo, en vísperas de la visita de Obama. El grupo le entregará al pontífice cientos de cartas escritas por niños inmigrantes y le pedirá que interceda para parar las deportaciones.
“La separación de familias es una crisis que amerita que se le atienda lo antes posible”, dijo el activista. “El hecho que el presidente haya ordenado que se revise la política de deportaciones indica que su administración es sensible al creciente coro de voces que se a venido alzando para pedir que paren las deportaciones indiscriminadas”.
“Lo único que me convencerá que el Presidente está con nosotros es que se reduzcan drásticamente las deportaciones y que se le extienda un tipo de Acción Diferida a los millones de trabajadores indocumentados”, señaló.
En Miami hubo reacciones más duras al mensaje enviado por la Casa Blanca. “No creo que haya nada que revisar, no creemos en su palabra señor presidente”, dijo Carlos Pereira, director ejecutivo del Centro de Orientación del Inmigrante (CODI). “Lo mismo nos dijo antes, que quería que los jueces de inmigración tuvieran mejor discreción en los casos de nuestra gente, pero realmente nunca tuvieran consideración. Para nadie”.
“No necesitamos revisión de nada, necesitamos acciones más reales y en pro de la comunidad inmigrante. Con una simple revisión no vamos solucionar nada”, concluyó.
©Univision.com