A group of women detained in Texas’ T Don Hutto immigration detention center began an indefinite hunger strike last week in protest of poor conditions in the facility.
The strike began officially last Wednesday, when 27 women housed in the Taylor, Texas facility refused dinner. Administrators at the facility didn’t notice the strike until a few days later.
The women are unanimously demanding immediate release. They have no other demands.
18 of the 27 participating women penned letters describing their experiences of incarceration in Hutto and explaining their participation in the strike.
Magdrola, a Guatemalan woman participating in the strike, wrote, “There are grave injustices being committed, detentions spanning eight 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.”
Another woman participating in the strike, America, does not have enough money to pay her bail, and notes that prices for food at commissary have been raised during her time at Hutto.
The majority of the participating women are victims of state and/or domestic violence in their home countries. Many of these have already passed through an interview process for asylum in the U.S. that acknowledges that each has escaped “credible fear” or “reasonable fear” in their home countries.
Although there has been no retaliation from Hutto officials to date, similar protests from detainees have elicited severe retaliation from ICE detention centers. Striking inmates have been moved to more severe detention centers, denied communications to their families or legal counsel, or had their access to water limited. Women and children engaged in a 5-day hunger strike at Karnes County Residential Center were reportedly locked in a dark room.
The detention center the women are housed in, Hutto, is operated by private prison company Corrections Corporation of American (CCA). The facility, a former state prison, was converted in 2009 from a family detention center to a women-only facility in response to lawsuits filed by the ACLU over unsuitable conditions for the children detained there.