80 Women at Texas Immigration Detention Center Start Hunger Strike

"We deserve to be treated with some dignity"

April 6, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


On March 31, 80 women at the Karnes immigration detention center in south Texas began a hunger strike. A letter the women sent to prison authorities the day before read, in part, “We have come to this country, with our children, seeking refugee status and we are being treated like delinquents. We are not delinquents nor do we pose any threat to this country.

“During this Hunger Strike, no mother will work in the center of detention or send our children to school. We will not use any of the services provided by this place until we have been heard and our freedom has been approved.…

“You should know that this is only the beginning and we will not stop until we achieve our objectives. This strike will continue until every one of us is freed.

See a clip from BA's talk REVOLUTION: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, on why people are forced to leave their homes to come to the U.S.

“The conditions in which our children find themselves are not good. Our children are not eating well and every day they are losing weight. Their health is deteriorating. We know that any mother would do what we are doing for their children.

“We deserve to be treated with some dignity and that our rights to the immigration process be respected.

“There are some mothers that lost their appeal for Asylum and were forced to sign deportation papers. We believe that this is unjust because they have come to this country asking for Asylum because they are in danger in their country. And now they are being deported back to the place where they could even lose their life.”

A History of Abuse

Most of the women and their children imprisoned in Karnes were arrested trying to enter the U.S. last summer when tens of thousands of people fled their Central American homelands to escape the devastation wracked on those countries by U.S. imperialist domination, and the horrific violence that plagues them. Some have been in Karnes for as long as 10 months now.

For months women imprisoned in Karnes who sought asylum were routinely denied, but in February a federal judge ordered that bonds be issued. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials set much higher bonds for women with children than it did for men or single women. A San Antonio TV station reported that “Bonds were routinely set at $1,500 to $3,500 for single men and women. Women with children got bonds from $15,000 to $20,000 if they got bonds at all. Unlike bonds in criminal cases, these bonds must be paid up front and in full.”

Karnes and other immigrant prisons in Texas are notorious for their brutality and inhumane conditions. Male prisoners at the Willacy detention center rebelled and burned many of their tent barracks to the ground in February. ("Immigrant Prisoners in Texas Rise Up Against Horrific Conditions")

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) filed a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse of women prisoners and denial of crucial medical care to children at the Karnes prison. A paralegal who reported of the inhumane conditions in the prison in February has been denied access to the prison by ICE and by GEO, the private corporation that runs Karnes.

Putting Children in Isolation

Prison and government officials deny that there is a problem at Karnes. An ICE statement in response to the Karnes hunger strike said that “family residential centers (sic) are an effective and humane alternative for maintaining family unity as families go through immigration proceedings or await return to their home countries.” An ICE official made the outrageous and ominous announcement that it is investigating whether “a member of a nonprofit encouraged detainees to stop eating out of protest.”

Initial reports indicated that the strike was begun for Semana Santa (Holy Week) and would continue through this week. But it seems that some strikers may want to persevere longer. Prison officials continue to lash out with savage cruelty at the courageous women who went on strike. According to a report from the San Antonio organization RAICES, “Three women were held in isolation with their children in the detention center's clinic.”

The U.S. and its system of capitalism-imperialism have tormented, slaughtered, and viciously exploited the people of Central America for decades. Going back to the 1980s, they have inflicted endless repression, deportations, and police and immigration police brutality upon people who made it past a heavily militarized border and into this country. THIS MUST END!

Support the courageous woman at Karnes!

STOP the Demonization, Criminalization, and Deportations of Immigrants and the Militarization of the Border!

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