SAN ANTONIO (CN) — Hundreds of fathers are on a hunger strike and their sons are staging their own action at the Karnes Immigration Detention Center in Texas, “as a last resort to implore U.S. officials to expedite their cases,” the San Antonio-based Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services announced by Twitter Thursday afternoon.
“The fathers have notified RAICES that they will situate themselves in the three patio areas at the detention center stating that all detained fathers will refuse to eat and obey orders given to them,” according to the legal group, known as RAICES. “Sons that are currently detained in Karnes will be joining the strike by refusing to participate in any school activities for the day.”
RAICES has been sharing audio of telephone interviews with detainees accompanied with English translations on Twitter. In several transcripts, detained fathers say they were coerced into signing documents, including deportation papers, with no translators to explain what they were signing.
“I was lied to. The officer lied to me,” said one Karnes detainee in a video tweeted by RAICES communications director Jennifer Falcon. “I was told I had to sign a document to initiate the legal process. I was lied to because another officer came to me and told me I had just signed the document granting the separation between my son and I.”
A father identified as Olivio in another relates a similar story.
“I was detained on May 13. I was told that once being deported to Guatemala I would be reunited with my son at the airport. I signed the documents with the presence of an ICE officer to be reunited with my son,” he said. “I don’t understand English and the entire document was in English and apparently the document was stating my deportation order.”
In these and other audio clips, the detainees discuss organizing a hunger strike “because we don’t know anything,” Olivio said. “We are incarcerated in here and there is not much we can do. Now we are all planning to gather in the patio and wait to see what happens.”
Another father identified as Jorge, who says he was detained on May 9, also discusses the strike.
“When they reunited us all, they told us that we’re going to be released, supposedly, that we’re either going to be deported or released here. There is no resolution for us, and we want an end to our problem here. We are all sad,” Jorge said. “They feed us, but we don’t feel OK being detained. There are children crying and saying they want to leave this place. We are organizing a strike so that they can solve this problem, because ICE is constantly telling us lies.”
RAICES attorneys on Thursday filed mandamus and habeas petitions on behalf of four indigenous Guatemalan fathers, not including Olivio quoted above, who say they came to the United States to flee persecution. The four, still detained at Karnes, say they were told they’d be released on a year of parole, but two had their parole papers taken from them by ICE agents and were offered no explanation.
Their complaint in San Antonio Federal Court cites violations of the Fifth Amendment and international law.