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Making noise to support immigrant hunger strikers in Washington state

A "Not 1 More Deportation" sign hangs outside the Northwest Detention Center
Detained immigrants on hunger strike are protesting ongoing deportations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and inhumane conditions at the for-profit detention center. Photo: AFSC/Pedro Sosa
No Human Being is Illegal banner held up by dozens at rally in Tacoma, Wash.
Two hundred ralliers chanted within earshot of the detainees in solidarity with their effort on Tuesday, March 11. Photo: AFSC/Pedro Sosa
Five women around signs calling for end to deportation
The community outside continues to show support to make sure those inside hear their collective voices around the clock. Photo: AFSC/Pedro Sosa

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.

  • To join actions in Portland, Ore., contact Pedro Sosa.
  • To gather a group to join the Tacoma actions, contact Carino.
  • To organize an action in your community, contact Latino Advocacy.