The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jolinda Stephens, 614-915-4079

Maru Mora Villalpando, (206) 251-6658

Third Hunger Strike Begins at the Tacoma Detention Center

At least 200 people stopped eating on Fri. Oct. 31st, and more people will join today

Tacoma, WA

Immigrant detainees are putting their bodies on the line for the third time this year, to call attention to the inhumane treatment in the GEO Group detention center. Geo Group, a corporate giant that profits off the unnecessary suffering of those it imprisons for the convenience of ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, while their civil immigration status is investigated. Advocates are concerned that hunger strikers will suffer retaliation similar to the retaliation inflicted during previous hunger strikes. Hunger strikers were placed in solitary confinement for up to 30 days and threatened with force-feeding. Last spring hunger strikers received promises from ICE officials that have never been implemented.

Geo Group has been allowed to supplement their lavish compensation of more than $100 per day per person with a cluster of self-reinforcing schemes to profit even more from the people placed in their "care." Those schemes include:

  • Unwholesome meals with insufficient nutrients
  • High commissary prices for food and other items
  • Using the labor of detainees paid at the rate of $1 per day to prepare the meals, do the cleaning and laundry
  • Charge fees to families to provide money to the detainees

Geo provides inadequate nourishment which creates a demand for commissary food at inflated prices, which induces detainees to work for essentially no pay and then profits from families' contributions to those commissary accounts.

Cipriano Rios, one of the hunger strike leaders, provided supporters with the following information this weekend.

As of today regardless of the difficulties we detainees face in communicating with each other, we began another volunteer peaceful hunger strike starting October 31st to November 2nd. Utilizing radio, visits from relatives and other ways, more detainees have joined the strike. Just today 35 more people joined, making a total of close to 200 detainees in hunger strike. We are certain that if it wasn't for all the communication restrictions we face, more detainees would have joined, reaching more than two thirds of the total population. Our action is in the name of justice, hunger for freedom; therefore the hunger of the body, for most of us, is not above the claim for justice. Not one more! Stop families destruction!

- Colectiva de Detenidos NWDC

In honor of Dia de los Muertos, supporters of the detainees are holding a four-day encampment outside the GEO Group detention center, mourning family members who have passed, and all those who have died due to the aggressive immigration system over the years. They also honored and mourned the loss to their families and communities of all those deported and locked away in the NWDC. Thus far, some 150 supporters have come from all over Washington to join the festivities which have included a procession of the souls, music performances, an installation of a cramped solitary confinement cell, and altars. Opening ceremonies included a blessing by the Rev. William Bichsel, S.J., affectionately known to many Pacific Northwesterners as Father Bix for his active opposition to nuclear weapons and the School of the Americas which has earned him about 50 arrests and approximately three years in prison.

The Northwest Detention Center Resistance also participated in the Tacoma Art Museum's Dia de los Muertos with an altar to the great injustices at the Northwest Detention Center. The Northwest Detention Center Resistance has had a constant presence outside the immigration prison since March in support of the incredible organizing and hunger strikes that have taken place inside.