ICE Force-feeding Immigrant Detainees on Hunger Strike With Nasal Tubes: Report

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have been force-feeding detained immigrants through plastic nasal tubes during a hunger strike that has gone on for a month inside a Texas detention facility, an Associated Press report has revealed.

Detainees who spoke to the AP said that at least 30 people from India and Cuba have been refusing food, with some becoming weak to stand up or speak.

They said they stopped eating to protest verbal abuse and threats of deportation they received from guards. The detainees also complained about the lockup times they faced while awaiting legal proceedings on their immigration cases.

In a statement, ICE said it was aware of only 11 detainees at the El Paso Processing Center having refused food, with some refusing to eat for more than 30 days.

ICE spokesperson Leticia Zamarripa told the AP that in mid-January, two weeks after detainees started the hunger strike, a federal judge authorized force-feeding of at least six of the detainees at the El Paso Processing Center.

Zamarripa said at least four detainees have been on hunger strikes in facilities in Miami, San Diego, Phoenix and San Francisco, though they do not appear to have been subjected to force-feeding.

Amrit Singh, a relative of two detainees from the Indian state of Punjab, told the AP that men being force-fed through nasal tubes have been suffering regular nosebleeds and are vomiting several times a day.

"They are not well. Their bodies are really weak, they can't talk, and they have been hospitalized, back and forth," Singh said. "They want to know why they are still in the jail and want to get their rights and wake up the government immigration system."

Zamarripa did not comment on the allegations of abuse from detainees, only saying that the El Paso Processing Center would be following the federal standards for care.

Under ICE guidelines, a detainees' refusal to eat is deemed a hunger strike once they have refused nine consecutive meals. Rules on when force-feeding can be undertaken vary by district, as federal courts have not conclusively decided whether a judge's order must be obtained before ICE can force-feed someone in the agency's custody.

In recent years, numerous hunger strikes at ICE facilities have been reported, with detainees at a facility in Tacoma, Washington, making headlines for repeated hunger strikes over poor conditions and alleged abusive treatment from ICE workers.

Last year, a Russian national facing deportation back to his home country died after trying to take his life at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington.

Mergensana Amar, 40, had been briefly placed on suicide watch after his jailers found a handmade rope under his bed. But shortly after being removed from suicide watch, Amar tried to kill himself in his cell, where workers found him unresponsive on November 15. He was rushed to hospital but was removed from life support later that month.

Cell room doors at the Caroline Detention Facility in Bowling Green, Virginia, on August 13, 2018. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has reportedly been force-feeding detainees participating in a recent hunger strike in a Texas detention facility. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty