Death is not the way their freedom should be gained.

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printed from Avid in the Chihuahuan Desert

2 Indian asylum seekers were deported, one on his 63rd day of hunger strike; 2 men remain on hunger strike, 68 days

Last Monday morning, at 3AM, two of the asylum seekers held in El Paso were taken by ICE for removal. One man had ended his hunger strike after complications from the insertion of his feeding tube caused him to stop breathing. He had slowly been recovering, but was very sick from a throat infection, made worse by the attempt to force-feed. The second man was on his 63rd day without eating. The previous Thursday his feeding tube had been removed, and he deteriorated as he continued his hunger strike. He weighed 100 pounds and could no longer walk. Incredulously, both of these men were medically cleared for deportation.

ICE is increasingly deporting people who are not medically fit to travel, who face loss of critical medical treatment, or who are battling major illnesses. Their deportation practices have been problematic for years, and now only seem to be worse.

Two men, still fighting their asylum cases, remain on hunger strike at El Paso. Despite requests to ICE for release, ICE continues to deny them freedom. While deportation officers provide no reason why they deny release, it is hard to imagine that they are viewed as flight risks. One man continues to weigh 95 pounds, and has not been able to walk for several weeks. Both must use wheelchairs to move around. They are in constant tremendous pain, and unable to sleep. After more than two weeks being force-fed, facility nurses removed their feeding tubes. They are now being subjected again to forced hydration by IV. ICE officials in El Paso choose to continue these men’s nightmare existence, continuing to detain them while these asylum seekers fight for protection from the same country now torturing them.

The unnecessary detention by ICE of those who pose no threat to our safety, and who have ties to the community is unjustifiable. Yet ICE seems intent on ensuring that immigrants are incarcerated under any circumstances, held in punitive conditions, and deprived of the constitutional freedoms that our nation espouses. While ICE claims that they ensure immigrants “reside in safe, secure and humane environments and under appropriate conditions of confinement”, the reality is the opposite.

We engaged congressional representatives from around the country who have come to the El Paso area to view firsthand what is happening here. Several members of congress and their staffers met the asylum seekers who remain on hunger strike. They saw the force-feeding tubes inserted into their emaciated bodies. They observed the conditions of the detention facilities first hand. They spoke with advocates who conveyed to them in gruesome detail the horrors that ICE is engaged in here, and elsewhere. We urge Congress to hold ICE accountable for routine violations of its own policies, of congressionally mandated reporting, and of chronic civil and human rights violations.

ICE must release these men to their sponsors on humanitarian grounds before these asylum seekers die. Death is not the way their freedom should be gained.