As a hunger strike by immigrants detained at the Tacoma, Wash., Northwest Detention Center run by the private-prison corporation GEO Group entered its second week, hundreds of friends, neighbors, and co-workers rallied outside the center to support their demands.
The unprecedented protest began March 7, when 1,200 detainees being held for deportation began a hunger strike and work stoppage. They are protesting the ongoing deportations overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and inhumane conditions at the center, which is owned and operated by GEO Group.
On Fridays, the people facing imminent deportation are separated and processed for deportation, weekly events that contribute to the nearly 2 million deported during the Obama administration. The hunger strikers join a nationwide movement of resistance against unprecedented levels of detention and deportation.
Hunger strike demands
Apart from calling attention to the unrelenting deportations, the hunger strikers demands include:
- Improved food quality
- Improved treatment (including medical treatment)
- Increased pay for work in the facility (the current pay is $1/day)
- An end to exorbitant commissary prices
- Fundamental fairness and justice
On March 11, 200 people, including family members of the strikers, rallied outside the facility and chanted within earshot of the detainees in solidarity with their effort; urging the corporation and ICE to negotiate to meet their simple demands. Thousands have signed a petition nationwide supporting the hunger strikers.
AFSC staffer Pedro Sosa joined the rally and reports that the hunger strike continues, despite threats of force feeding, and the community also continues to show support, with young people using drums, pots, and pans at night to make sure those inside hear their collective voices.
“GEO, Corrections Corp. of America, and other detention facilities run by for-profit companies should be shut down. It’s inhumane to make profits on the suffering of our families,” Pedro says.
For-profit companies providing immigrant detention services to the federal government—including the two largest providers, Geo Group and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)—are lobbying heavily to ensure their interest in growing profit margins by increasing the number of immigrant detentions.
Support the strikers and their families
Pedro reports that the strikers and their families welcome community support, not only in person outside the detention center, but also organizing actions in other communities, collecting donations for legal representation, teach-ins, and other activities.