On Wednesday, at least 27 women at the T Don Hutto immigration detention center in Texas began a hunger strike, The Guardian reports. The women are protesting conditions at the so-called “residential center.”
A civil rights group, Grassroots Leadership, published letters expressing outrage over inedible food, harsh treatment, and fears over the consequences of deportation from 16 of the women at the detention center 35 miles east of Austin.
“They leave us in here while fighting the case and at the end they tell us that our case has been denied after keeping us locked up for a long time and they send us back. Also, the food they give us here is very bad, gives us stomach problems, and is almost always the same. All human beings have rights and opportunities in this country and we believe that we have a right to bail,” Patricia, from El Salvador, wrote.
“There are grave injustices being committed, detentions spanning 8 months, 10 months, a year, a year and a half, just to end with them telling us that we have no rights and we will be deported with disdainful words and gestures to make us feel worthless,” wrote Magdrola, from Guatemala.
Another, Elda, from Guatemala, said that she has been detained since 22 December last year and that she will be deported because her case has just been denied. She said her two school-age daughters are US citizens who are depressed because they are not with their mother.
“They need me, they are very little,” she wrote.
The action began when the women refused dinner on Wednesday night, Texans United for Families told Fusion. A spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Adelina Pruneda, said in an email on Wednesday that administrators were not aware of a strike.
“That’s what they always say,” activist Cristina Parker said. “It doesn’t surprise me that ICE would say that.”
On Thursday, ICE still maintained that it was not aware of a strike. “ICE takes the health, safety, and welfare of those in our care very seriously and we continue to monitor the situation,” a spokeswoman told The Guardian. “Currently, no one at the T Don Hutto Detention Center was identified as being on a hunger strike or refusing to eat.”
Hutto, a former state prison, is run by a private company, the Corrections Corporation of America. In 2009, it was converted to a women-only facility from a family detention center after settling a lawsuit brought by the ACLU over conditions there for children. A year before, The New Yorker’s Margot Talbot reported that half the detainees held there were children.