Hunger Strikes Highlight Major Issues

Credit: D-Keine

(Español) In the last week of March, the River Correctional Center in Ferriday, Louisiana has seen an uptick in hunger strikes from detainees. While Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)  officials have only officially recognized 24 hunger strikers, immigration activists put the number as high as 150 who joined the demonstration. While the demonstration only lasted about a week, it was the sixth such hunger strike in detention centers nationwide since January of 2019. The number of strikes in this year alone is unprecedented, according to Maru Mora Villalpando, an immigrant rights activist based in Washington state. The central concern among the demonstrators remains the injustice they having to be detained during their asylum process, which can last years at a time. Once entering detention, asylum-seekers have two methods of being released: bond or parole. A bond can be granted by either ICE or an immigration judge. In order for a judge to grant a bond, a specific request must be made for a bond hearing. At the hearing, the judge will hear the case and decide whether the detainee is eligible for a bond based on different criteria, such as their likelihood to abscond and not appear to future hearings. ICE can also set a bond under similar conditions, but they are only agency who is able to grant a parole. The parole can be a much simpler process which only requires the asylum-seekers establish their identity, flight risk, and danger to the community. In the past, parole and bonds in most jurisdictions in the countries were the norm. Since the Trump administration has taken over in 2017, the percentage of paroles and bonds granted has drastically dropped, with some paroles going from approximately 90% to less than 10% in some jurisdictions. The issue has grown more dire for detainees seeking release with attorney general William Barr’s recent order keeping immigration judges from granting certain asylum-seekers bonds.