U.S.

ICE Blasted Over 'Inhuman' Force-feeding as Detainee Describes Tubes Rammed Down Nose, Throat

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency is facing backlash over its decision to force-feed detained immigrants who started a hunger strike over alleged mistreatment.  

On Sunday, ICE confirmed to the Associated Press that there were now nine men, up from six last week, being force-fed under court order at a detention facility in El Paso, Texas.

One detainee—identified only by his last name, Singh, out of concerns for his safety—described to AP being dragged from his cell three times a day and strapped to a bed before being force-fed liquid through tubes pushed through his nose. 

“They tie us on the force-feeding bed, and then they put a lot of liquid into the tubes, and the pressure is immense so we end up vomiting it out,” said Singh, 22. “We can’t talk properly and we can’t breathe properly. The pipe is not an easy process, but they try to push it down our noses and throats.”

Speaking through an interpreter, Singh told AP that he launched his hunger strike more than a month ago over unfair treatment of him and other detainees from Punjab, including being denied bond, while detainees from other countries were allowed to leave. 

Responding to reports of ICE force-feeding detainees, Democratic Representative Veronica Escobar of El Paso described the situation as "unacceptable." "El Paso and our country are better than this," she said. 

"Like many, I was deeply alarmed by this report indicating that @ICEgov is force-feeding immigrants who are on hunger strike at the El Paso Processing Center," Escobar tweeted last Thursday. 

The Democrat, who visited the detention center shortly afterward and met with detainees being force-fed, said she would be "closely monitoring" the situation and vowed that as a new member of the House Committee on the Judiciary she would "implement policies that provide increased oversight and accountability to ensure detainees are treated with dignity and respect."

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch also branded force-feeding as a "cruel, inhuman and degrading" practice in a dispatch published Friday, noting that "medical ethics and human rights norms generally prohibit the force-feeding of detainees who are competent and capable of rational judgment as to the consequences of refusing food." 

"Hunger striking is a desperate expressive act. In immigration detention, it can be a response to the irrationality of prolonged and needless detention," the dispatch said, before calling on ICE to "immediately stop the cruel, inhuman, and degrading process of force-feeding any detainees who have made a rational decision to stop eating as a form of protest."

Human Rights Watch also called on Congressional representatives, "especially those now tasked with making a deal to keep the government open," to "take note of the abysmal conditions in immigration detention by slashing, not increasing, funding for the abusive U.S. immigration enforcement system unless and until it undergoes deep, systemic reforms."

ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this article. 

GettyImages-450371331 An immigrant detainee looks out from his "segregation cell" at the Adelanto Detention Facility in Adelanto, California, on November 15, 2013. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has been force-feeding detainees on a hunger strike at a facility in El Paso, Texas. John Moore/Getty

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