Immigrant detainees in Tacoma begin another hunger strike | KNKX

Immigrant detainees in Tacoma begin another hunger strike

Oct 18, 2019

More than 200 detainees held in Tacoma by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement started a hunger strike Friday morning, activists say. 

Detainees at the Northwest ICE Processing Center are demanding better quality food, better treatment by guards, and the eventual shutdown of the facility, according to the group La Resistencia, which opposes the federal government's practice of detaining immigrants who are facing deportation. 

The ICE processing center, formerly called the Northwest Detention Center, holds up to 1,575 people on Tacoma's tideflats while the go through deportation proceedings. The facility is run by a private company, the GEO Group, under a contract with ICE.

GEO Group representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

This is the 19th hunger strike by detainees in Tacoma in the past five years, according to La Resistencia. The group's members keep in touch with people held in the facility.

Past hunger strikes often have been over the quality and quantity of food served at the facility, the quality and availability of medical care, and other concerns.

The current hunger strike is expected to last eight days, activists said. They're planning protests throughout the weekend to show solidarity with detainees on hunger strike. 

An ICE official last month pushed back against claims of poor treatment within the facility during a tour for members of the media.

"This is clean," said Nathalie Asher, the ICE  field office director for the Seattle area. "We have professionals that run the facility. The needs are met for the individuals while they're in our custody."

A 40-year-old detainee, Mergensana Amar, died by suicide last year after participating in a hunger strike for several weeks. His was the second death in the 15-year history of the Tacoma facility.

Investigations into Amar's death continue