With Force-Feedings Ordered, ACLU Calls for End to Disparate Policies for People Seeking Asylum and Mistreatment of Hunger-Striking Detainees in Florida ICE Facility

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With Force-Feedings Ordered, ACLU Calls for End to Disparate Policies for People Seeking Asylum and Mistreatment of Hunger-Striking Detainees in Florida ICE Facility

MIAMI, FL - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida is calling on the Department of Homeland Security to end inconsistent application of detention policies for asylum-seekers that has led to at least 11 individuals in South Florida Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities to resort to a hunger strike. Earlier today, a judge issued an order to force-feed 3 of the hunger strikers.

A complaint filed by the ACLU of Florida with the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) says that the detainees at the Krome Service Processing Center in Miami-Dade County have been on hunger strike for weeks protesting their ongoing detention, their treatment, and concerns about not receiving a fundamentally fair hearing.  The hunger strikers began their detention at the Broward Transitional Center (BTC) in Pompano Beach.

Many of the hunger strikers, who are Muslims from Pakistan, qualify for parole or bond because they are asylum-seekers who have been found to have a credible fear of reprisal if they were to be returned to their country of origin, but ICE refuses to release them in violation of its own policy directive.

“When a person flees to our country seeking asylum from persecution and has established that their fear of persecution is credible, they should not have to be locked up while they make their case for asylum – but that isn’t what happens if they have the bad luck to arrive at Broward Transitional Center,” stated ACLU of Florida Staff Attorney Shalini Agarwal. “We are very concerned that not only are policies regarding the treatment of asylum-seekers not being uniformly applied, but that ICE’s retaliation against these men for protesting their conditions is making matters worse.”

The complaint filed with CRCL says that the detainees engaged in the hunger strike have been retaliated against by ICE officials for engaging in the hunger strike. They have been transferred from immigration detention facilities to Monroe County Jail, to worse conditions in the general population with individuals convicted of serious crimes. ICE detention officers have explicitly stated that the transfers were meant to punish the men for going on hunger strike. Because of the multiple transfers between BTC, Monroe County Jail, and Krome within a short period of time, the hunger strikers have been effectively denied access to their attorneys, interpreters, friends or family. Many of them have also been placed in solitary confinement-like conditions where they have limited or no access to phones or other means of communication.

At least four of the men were subject to a court order authorizing restraints, forced blood draws, and urinary catheterization, three days before their attorneys were made aware of the judge’s order. Three of them have since received a separate  order to put a nasogastric tube into their noses or intravenous line to force them to eat.

Last month, a group of Sikh asylum-seekers from India at Krome also went on hunger strike to protest their treatment and ICE’s inconsistent application of asylum rules. The complaint filed with CRCL argues that while those men were eventually released with appropriate bonds and GPS ankle monitors, the current group being kept in detention suggests disparate treatment based on nationality and religion.

A copy of the complaint filed with CRCL is available here: https://aclufl.org/resources/dhs-complaint-ice-krome-asylum-seekers/

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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