ICE Stops Force-Feeding Asylum Seekers on Hunger Strike

EL PASO, Texas (CN) – Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials on Thursday stopped force-feeding men on a hunger strike to protest their detention and poor standards at an El Paso processing center amid condemnation by the United Nations and human rights groups.

In mid-January, ICE began force-feeding the group of about a dozen immigrants seeking asylum in the United States through plastic nasal tubes after the men refused consecutive meals in late December. But the method came under intense scrutiny in recent days, with the United Nations human rights office last week calling the force-feeding of hunger strikers a violation of the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

U.S. District Judge David Guaderrama had approved the method for some detainees, but on Wednesday ordered the government to stop feeding two Indian immigrants against their will after a hearing in El Paso. The following day all force-feeding at the El Paso center ceased.

“No hunger strikers housed in El Paso are currently being fed pursuant to court orders at this time,” ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa said in a statement. “Medical staff at the facility continue to closely monitor the health and vital signs of all the hunger strikers to insure they continue to receive proper medical care.”

The Refugee Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), of San Antonio, said the group’s hunger strike is the result of the constant fear and uncertainty asylum seekers regularly face about their future. The majority of the remaining hunger strikers are mostly Indian and Cuban detainees.

Planned protests in support of the hunger strikers were set to take place Friday in El Paso.

“Individuals should not have to put their bodies and lives on the line to draw attention to their indefinite detention,” said Suman Raghunathan, executive director of the nonprofit organization South Asians Americans Leading Together.

“Our nation’s immigration system should provide protection from violence and persecution, yet current practices create an increasingly punitive asylum process, which only extends the violence and persecution asylum seekers are fleeing,” she said.

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