Immigrant hunger strikes focus on for-profit prison abuses

Women at T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas began another hunger strike at the end of October. Mostly women seeking refugee status, many have been detained for prolonged periods of time in the private, for-profit center run by Corrections Corporation of America. The hunger strike began with 27 women and has grown since then. From Democracy Now:

“While exact figures are unknown, advocates say the hunger strike grew this week substantially, possibly into the hundreds. Hutto is run by the country’s largest private prison firm, Corrections Corporation of America. The hunger strike is the latest by immigrant detainees around the country. Three other immigration jails have seen hunger strikes in the last three weeks: the Adelanto Detention Facility in California, the LaSalle Detention Center in Louisiana and the El Paso Processing Center in Texas.”

The women say they have faced threats and retaliation for demanding their rights. Some have been transferred out to other private detention centers.

One week of immigration news: because it’s important. And because it’s important, during this Give to the Max week, please consider donations to the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota and the Advocates for Human Rights, two organizations doing good and important work. Monday: Immigrant hunger strikes; Tuesday: Dogs before children; Wednesday: Deportation numbers and the latest ruling on the president’s plan; Thursday: Broken immigration courts; Friday: Changing face of immigration, nationally and in Minnesota.

The earlier strike at LaSalle Detention Center in Louisiana began with 14 Southeast Asian asylum seekers.

Advocates and attorneys told the Los Angeles Times that more than 300 men in the Adelanto, California detention center are on strike, too, protesting treatment by the private, for-profit prison run by the Geo Group. ICE says the number of hunger strikers is much lower. The Adelanto prison recently expanded to 650 beds, despite persistent criticism of its poor medical care.

Some 54 South Asian detainees staged a one-week hunger strike at the El Paso ICE Processing Center in October, according to NBC News. Most were from Bangladesh.

Back in August, U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee ordered the release of immigrant children and their parents from immigrant prisons. The deadline for compliance with that order was October 23. But, to avoid complying with the rule, the state of Texas simply licensed the immigration prisons as childcare centers, according to Texas ACLU director Terri Burke in the Huffington Post:

“However, recently the DFPS issued emergency rule 748.7, which specifically exempts these private prisons — referred to with a certain Orwellian flair as “family residential centers”– from having to comply with the minimum standards it requires of everyone else.

“In other words, with the stroke of a pen the DFPS can officially turn prisons into licensed child care facilities, though they do not meet the standards to which every other such facility is required to adhere.”

Bad as they may be, the private, for-profit prisons continue to operate, and there’s no incentive for the federal government to send fewer prisoners. Government contracts guarantee a minimum number of prisoners in each facility, and the government has to pay for the minimum number of beds, whether or not they are filled. According to the Dallas Morning News:

“The guaranteed-minimum quotas are found in the series of contracts with state and local governments and for-profit private prison contractors that manage facilities for ICE. Even detention facilities owned and operated by ICE have guaranteed minimums in contracts, with private companies providing security, food and other services, according to the report.

“These local quotas exist in addition to the so-called ‘bed mandate,’ which requires that the Department of Homeland Security maintain at least 34,000 beds available for the detention of immigrants. “

For a personal view, read the story of Ana and Katherine’s escape from El Salvador to 14 months in a CCA prison in Texas.

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7 Comments

Filed under immigration, prisons

7 responses to “Immigrant hunger strikes focus on for-profit prison abuses

  1. Pingback: Open hearts for refugee dogs, but not for children | News Day

  2. Pingback: Deportation numbers and the latest ruling on the president’s plan | News Day

  3. Pingback: Overworked and underfunded immigration court system can’t do the job | News Day

  4. Pingback: Changing face of immigration, nationally and in Minnesota | News Day

  5. Pingback: Let’s jail the children and call it child care | News Day

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  7. Pingback: Let’s jail the children and call it child care – The Advocates Post

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