Seattle Times: "Guest: What’s behind the hunger strike at Northwest Detention Center"

by Joseph McKeown


Dan Berger, who teaches ethnic studies at the University of Washington Bothell, and Angélica Cházaro, an immigrant-rights attorney, examine the hunger strike at the Northwest Detention Center involving more than 700 people:

In a public statement, the hunger strikers demanded an end to deportations and the separation of families. They also demanded better food, medical care and wages for work inside the facility (they currently receive just $1 a day for their labor), and an end to exorbitant commissary prices. Detainees pay $8.95 for a bottle of shampoo and $1 for a single plastic plate.

The hunger strike, which has spread to a Texas center, began on March 7 and as of yesterday reportedly has two participants left. It has resulted in a planned visit by US Rep. Adam Smith, who said in a statement he was "very concerned with the reported hunger strike" and is continuing to push for "answers and closely monitor the situation," though detainees released recently said "nothing had changed."

Department of Homeland Security spokesman Andrew Munoz said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) "respected the right of detainees to register their opinions about their treatment." He went on:

'While we continue to work with Congress to enact commonsense immigration reform, ICE remains committed to sensible, effective immigration enforcement that focuses on its priorities, including convicted criminals and those apprehended at the border while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States[.]'

The hunger strike comes at a time when President Obama has ordered a review of deportation policies.

The Northwest Detention Center as well as the facility in Texas are run by the GEO Group, who claim to be the "world's leading provider of correctional and detention management and community reentry services" and whose "political-action committee has given more than $100,000 to state, local and federal candidates so far in the 2014 cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics."

No information on the hunger strike is on the GEO Group website as far as we can tell, but they did have a quarterly cash dividend of $0.57 per share.

UPDATE: Hunger strike reportedly resumed at the Northwest Detention Center.