Migrants being held in a Louisiana detention center are continuing a hunger strike in protest while they await their asylum claims to be processed.
The strike protesting their detention began last week with about 150 people, immigrant advocates told The Associated Press, while U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement report that only 24 people have continuously refused to eat meals.
Immigrants at River Correctional Center in Ferriday, a privately-run prison which ICE began to contract with this year, have complained about the lack of attention to their cases and that they are being denied bond.
About 500 people are held at the facility which is about 100 miles north of Baton Rouge, according to ICE spokesman Bryan Cox. The agency is temporarily contracting with the center in an effort to deal with the spike in migrants illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
Those on the hunger strike contend that they have limited access to ICE staff and that they have been unable to secure their release as their asylum cases make their way through immigration court.
An organizer with the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice told the AP, “It’s a charade of due process.”
“Their perception is that this will not be a real justice or a real court process,” Rachel Taber, who met with the migrants this week, added.
Statistics showing how many people have, in fact, been granted bond in the court where the detainees appear, were not readily available, according to the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the Department of Justice office tasked with overseeing immigration courts.
A hunger strike is defined by ICE as someone rejecting nine consecutive meals. The agency explained that it does not interfere with an individual’s choice to exercise his or her rights and voice their opinions.
“ICE does not retaliate in any way against hunger strikers,” Cox said, but noted that the federal agency does explain to those choosing to go on a hunger strike what the negative health effects of not eating could be while it closely monitors their health.
A hunger strike in El Paso, Texas earlier this year ended when ICE agents were allowed, by court order, to force-feed nine detainees from India via nasal tubes. That force-feeding was stopped in early February.
News of the Louisiana hunger strike comes as President Donald Trump threatened on Friday to shut down the border if Mexico did not immediately stop the flow of illegal immigration into the United States.
Trump announces: ‘I will be CLOSING the border’ next week if Mexico doesn’t halt the flow immediately https://t.co/UpvbpgAEuL
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) March 29, 2019
The president blamed Democrats for giving us “the weakest immigration laws anywhere in the World,” tweeting out that he “will be CLOSING… the Border, or large sections of the Border, next week.”
Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador responded to Trump’s threat, telling reporters on Thursday, “We respect President Trump’s position, and we are going to help.”
Trump’s renewed threat to shut down the southern border came amid reports that immigration enforcement has reached a crisis level. U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan announced that the “breaking point” has arrived at the border during a press conference on Wednesday.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported that March was on track to become “the highest month” for border apprehensions in over a decade.
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