Detainees’ Hunger Strike Picks Up Steam in Washington State

TACOMA, Wash. (CN) – Immigrants held at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, have vowed to continue a hunger strike started on Monday to protest living conditions and low pay for inmate workers.

Detainees planned a three-day hunger strike starting April 10, but said they were continuing as more than 750 inmates in the 1,500-capacity privately run detention center joined in by Thursday, according to immigrant rights activists.

Strikers demand more expedited hearings, better food, improved access to medical care, lowering of commissary prices and an increase in the $1 daily wage they receive for labor performed in the facility.

The center is operated by for-profit GEO Group.

“Personnel from ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) Enforcement and Removal Operations and The GEO Group continue to visit the housing units affected by the ongoing protest to discuss the detainees’ concerns,” Virginia Kice, regional spokeswoman for ICE, said in a statement.

NWDC Resistance, an immigrant-rights group formed to support detainees, provides updates about the hunger strike and has organized a solidarity encampment at the center.

“People are risking their health and their lives to bring to light the abuses of ICE and GEO Group. For the government to continue to expand GEO Group’s capacity to cage immigrants at this time only highlights the need for the hunger striker’s protest,” NWDC spokeswoman Maru Mora Villalpando said in a statement.

According to ICE, inmates must refuse food for 72 hours or nine meals in a row before triggering a hunger-strike protocol.

Under the protocol, inmates can be referred to the medical department for monitoring and possible treatment and will be counseled about the related medical risks.


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