Immigration detainees striking for better conditions, more pay, no deportation

By Curt Cramer

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It was confirmed today by a federal spokesperson that 150 immigration detainees are on hunger strike in Washington state’s privately operated Northwest Detention Center. The number has decreased over the weekend, when officials said about 330 detainees refused to eat Sunday lunch, while 750 wouldn’t eat Saturday.

The hunger strike has now entered it’s fourth day since starting Friday.


The inmates say they are striking for better treatment, food, an end to deportations, and more pay than they are currently given for the servicing and maintenance of the facility they reside in, which is $1 a day. Many of these inmates have also stopped work as well.

Attorney Sandy Restrepo, representing several of the strikers, told the Associated Press the wife of a detainee talked briefly with her husband on Sunday, who claimed he and others were confined to one cell without bathroom breaks and could not move around.

Reuters reports the official average stay for detainees is four months, but many wind up staying longer. Most of the given detainees are from Mexico.

In a statement from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), once detainees have refused food for 72 hours, they are considered on hunger strike and must be monitored medically. Seattle-based ICE spokesman Andrew Munoz stated however, that “ICE fully respects the rights of all people to express their opinion without interference”.

Protests outside the facility by Seattle-based Latino Advocacy group have begun as well. A month ago the same group blocked buses and vans leaving the facility carrying inmates for deportation.

The center houses around 1,300 people currently under investigation for possible deportation.

-Curt Cramer (@CurtisRemarc)