Immigrants in Detention Centers Go on Hunger Strikes Against Inhumane Conditions

June 15, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


Immigrants in two detention centers went on hunger strikes recently.

Eloy Detention Center, Arizona


Posted by Puente Human Rights Movement on Saturday, June 13, 2015

Above: Protest in support of hunger strikers. Video: Puente Human Rights Movement


Saturday morning, June 13, more than 200 immigrants being held at Eloy Detention Center, 50 miles outside Phoenix, Arizona, sat down in the recreation yard and declared a hunger strike. They demanded investigations into recent deaths of detainees at the Eloy facility; an end to brutal and inhumane conditions; and proper medical treatment. The wife of one of the immigrants on strike said her husband “has to fear for his life because of the way guards are treating people detained in Eloy.”

Thirty-one year old José de Jesús Deniz-Sahagun was found dead in his cell on May 20. According to ICE, there were no signs of injury. But in a letter made public by Puente Movement, an immigrant advocacy group in Phoenix, another detained man wrote: “I witnessed how they beat a man who had his hands up and begged for his right to see his lawyer. ... [I]n response the immigrant was met with aggression and excessive use of force leaving him dead at the hands of the CCA guards.”1 Another detainee wrote that the man was “brutally beaten” and placed in solitary confinement for days before his death. Immigrant detainees with mental disorders also wrote that they were not being given the proper medicine.

A hundred protesters joined them outside the detention center all day in 100-degree heat, holding signs showing their solidarity with the strikers. Deniz-Sahagun was the fourth detainee to die in ICE custody in the U.S. this year. In 2013, two detainees committed suicide while being held at Eloy Detention Center.

Karnes Detention Center, Texas

At the beginning of April, 78 immigrant women with children being held at Karnes Detention Center in Texas began a hunger strike. They demanded to be released along with their children while they pursued their asylum claims. There are hundreds of Central American women being held with their children at Karnes, part of the 68,000 families who crossed the border without documents beginning last June. Along with an estimated 68,000 unaccompanied children, they were fleeing the chaos and violence that U.S. imperialism has created in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

In response, the authorities placed at least three of the women and their children in isolation rooms, according to a lawsuit filed three weeks later. They were held in “an isolation room with a bed, a toilet, a sink from which you have to cup your hands to drink water, and lights off until meal time,” according to the director of RAICES, a legal group representing many of the women in Karnes. A mother with an 11-year-old son said she was humiliated because she had to use the toilet in front of him. Other women were told by guards that if they took part in the hunger strike their children would be taken away from them. (For more on this hunger strike, see “80 Women at Texas Immigration Detention Center Start Hunger Strike.”)

The immigrants are being held without bond, or on bonds up to $10,000. The Obama administration has chosen to imprison women and children from Central America indefinitely in order to “send a message” to the people in these countries, suffering from “made-in-the-USA” misery, not to try to escape. Protesters had converged on Karnes City last October after it was learned that women at the detention center had been sexually abused by the staff.

Demonstrations Spreading Nationwide

In early March of this year, in response to a lawsuit by the ACLU and the University of Texas Immigration Clinic, a federal judge ruled that the Obama administration could no longer detain women and children as a tactic to deter migration from Central America. In spite of the ruling, families, including small children, continue to be held in these family detention camps. This includes many who have passed their “credible fear” interviews, making it likely a judge will find they can remain in the U.S.

Demonstrations are now spreading nationwide demanding that the Obama administration release the women and children being held in the detention centers. Protests were held in five major cities on March 24. In their press release announcing a rally in Austin, Texas, demanding release of women and children from two private Texas detention centers, Grassroots Leadership wrote: “Family detention centers were almost non-existent in the U.S. until last summer, and now there are two new, massive detention camps for families with the capacity to hold 2,900 individuals. ... [T]he sister of a detained mother who has been locked up in Karnes for almost 9 months with her 10 year old son, said, ‘My sister has been incarcerated for 9 months, what did she do to deserve this? She was escaping a terrible violence and now she is living another nightmare at Karnes with her son.’”2

Bob Avakian, "Why do people come here from all over the world?"


1. Corrections Corporation of America, CCA, is a private company that owns and manages prisons and detention centers around the country. [back]

2. “Nationwide Protests Demand the Obama Administration Release Women and Children held in Detention Camps,” Grassroots Leadership, March 22, 2015 [back]


Volunteers Needed... for and Revolution

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.



"The film brings you up close inside Cornel West's and Bob Avakian's dialogue: the passion, the audacity, the science, the morality, the revolutionary substance. Two courageous voices modeling a morality that refuses to accept injustice – pouring heart and soul into standing together challenging all of us to fight for a world worthy of humanity."

Andy Zee,
co-director of the film


BA Speaks

"No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that."

BAsics 1:13

Do you know anyone else—any person or organization—that has managed to bring forth an actual PLAN for a radically different society, in all its dimensions, and a CONSTITUTION to codify all this? — A different world IS possible — Check out and order online the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).