Detainees on Hunger Strikes Being Force Fed

February 28, 2019

Philadelphia immigration lawyers help immigrant detainees.Dozens of immigrant detainees in five different detention centers have been on hunger strikes, with some not eating for 30 days or more. The centers are in Arizona, California, Texas, and Florida.

In the El Paso Processing Center, federal officials have force-fed six of them via plastic tubes through their noses. These detainees are from Cuba and India.

After not eating for so long, many of these detainees are very weak, unable to talk or stand up. In January, a federal judge ordered that these six men be force-fed.

They had started the strike in response to alleged deportation threats and verbal abuse from facility guards. The judge did not directly comment on the abuse.

How Force Feeding Works

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a person is categorized as being on a hunger strike after refusing to eat nine meals in a row. The order to force-feed varies according to the court and the district where the strike takes place, if the courts get involved at all.

Force-feeding can be used as a last resort when a person’s safety and health are at risk from willfully not eating for long periods of time. It is also done for patients with digestive disorders.

Usually, a tube is wound around a hunger striker’s finger to more easily bend it, with some lubricant on the top. It is then pushed into the patient’s nose, which can hurt. The tubes may also cause nausea and throwing up, as well as bleeding. Other complications include discomfort and infection.

More Reports of Force-Feeding Detainees

These are not the first reports about immigration detention center hunger strikes. ICE did not provide data regarding how often detainees are force-fed.

Freedom for Immigrants, a nonprofit advocacy group, reported that almost 1,400 individuals in detention centers have been on hunger strikes at different times since May of 2015. The Director said that these immigrants stop eating to let the world know how poorly ICE treats detainees. Stories about solitary confinement, psychological torture, and other cases of abuse by guards have also been circulated.

Other hunger strikes have taken place in Tacoma, Washington, with at least six reports of court-ordered force-feeding. Back in 2002, detainees at Guantanamo Bay staged hunger strikes and were force-fed, leading to outcries from around the world.

Medical Ethics

Refusing to eat and drink can have dire consequences on the human body. It can cause permanent damage to the nervous system and other bodily functions. Some of the striking detainees have been repeatedly hospitalized.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has said that as long as a patient can decide for himself, they have the right to refuse or accept medical interventions. The World Medical Association Declaration of Tokyo concurs, stated that if a doctor feels that the person refusing food is still rational, they should not be force-fed.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at the Law Offices of MC Law Group, LLC Help Immigrant Detainees

Immigrant detainee abuse is a serious concern. The Philadelphia immigration lawyers at the Law Offices of MC Law Group, LLC understand how traumatic this is for immigrant families, and will fight to protect your rights. Call us at 215-496-0690 or complete an online form. Our office is in Philadelphia, and we represent clients in Pennsylvania, the tri-state area, New Jersey, and nationally.