Immigration authorities are force-feeding and hydrating six detainees in Texas, after 11 migrants in federal custody declared a hunger strike.
“Nine of the 11 detainees missed their ninth consecutive meal, triggering hunger strike protocols, in late December and early January,” said Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson Dani Bennett in a statement.
Two others began their hunger strike on January 30, according to ICE.
“Non-consensual” hydration and feeding for six detainees was authorized by a federal judge in the Western District of Texas, “where applicable.”
Ruby Kaur, a Michigan-based lawyer, who is representing two detainees participating in the hunger strike, told CNN that the strike includes some Indians from the state of Punjab and has been ongoing for almost a month.
Her clients claimed asylum at the southern US border between August and October of last year and were placed into ICE detention. They were originally located in Otero, New Mexico, and were moved to El Paso in late December, said Kaur.
“It’s just the discrimination. They observe it, they see it. That’s what sparked that,” she said. The two detainees are seeking asylum because of political persecution in Punjab, according to Kaur.
She said they’ve been forcibly fed through nasal tubes and intravenously, adding that she’s been told ICE officers are also threatening to deport them.
“They’re already physically going through a lot, psychologically the fear of if they go back what’s going to happen,” Kaur said. There are no interpreters for them, according to her.
ICE said that its health services corps are medically monitoring the detainees’ health and regularly updating the agency of their medical status.
“Efforts are being taken to protect the detainees’ health and privacy,” Bennett said.
Amrit Singh, who is the uncle of two of the detainees participating in the hunger strike, said the forced feeding is beginning to hurt them.
His nephews, who are around 21 and 22, have been denied bond and are appealing, according to Singh. One of his nephews is a client of Kaur’s.
“They’re inserting the needles, the fresh needle, every time they put on the glucose on, the drip on. Now, it’s beginning to hurt them, they’re changing the needle that they insert them,” he said through Ruby who translated. It’s happening around five to six times a day, he said.
The force-feeding was first reported by The Associated Press.
In addition to the 11 people on a hunger strike in the El Paso region, four other detainees at facilities around the country are also on a hunger strike – one each in Miami, Phoenix, San Diego, and San Francisco, according to ICE.