Hundreds of Immigrants on Hunger Strike at Northwest Detention Center

April 13, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


As of Wednesday night, 750 immigrant detainees being held in the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma, Washington have joined in a hunger strike that began Monday, April 10. Among the detainees’ demands are expedited hearings; an end to “inedible” food; better medical care; and an increase in the amount they are paid for working inside the prison from the $1 a day they receive now. This is not the first strike by detainees at NWDC. In 2014 1,200 immigrants went on a hunger strike, some who continued their strike for weeks, in order to draw attention to the same conditions.

NWDC is the largest detention center on the West Coast, with a capacity of 1,575 detainees. It is run by a private prison corporation—GEO Group Inc., which operates prisons and detention centers around the country. Last year Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) held more than 350,000 immigrants in civil detention facilities.

NWDC Resistance, a support group that was formed out of the hunger strikes of 2014, has rallied supporters outside the detention center from the start, camping out each night to draw attention to and build support for the prisoners’ strike and to their demands. According to their press release, “Detention conditions were already terrible under Obama, and from what we’re hearing, they’ve gotten even worse since Trump’s election. We know from past hunger strikes that ICE and GEO are quick to retaliate, and we want the hunger strikers to know that they are not alone.”

They’ve called for a rally at noon on Thursday, which will mark 72 hours since the start of the hunger strike—the point at which ICE and GEO have to acknowledge that there is a hunger strike taking place. They are expecting to receive a call from the prisoners at that point, telling their supporters whether they plan to continue the strike.

Maru Mora-Villalpando, spokesperson for the support group told the Seattle Weekly she is doubtful that appealing to the Trump administration will yield very much. She recently returned from an Inter-American Commission on Human Rights hearing in Washington, D.C., and for the first time in two decades of such meetings, she said, the United States did not show up. “For us, it was just another sign that we’re dealing with a fascist regime that doesn’t care about human rights.” But that makes what the prisoners are doing even more important.



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