Hunger strike suspended at Tacoma ICE facility, but objections remain
Advocates for people detained at the Northwest ICE Processing Center in Tacoma say dozens of detainees have ended a hunger strike — for now.
The group La Resistencia says 85 people began refusing food last week to protest what they describe as deteriorating conditions, including sporadic food service and limited access to medical care.
Officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, confirmed to KUOW last week that chemical agents were used against detainees after a disruption.
The detainees' advocates say ICE officials have promised to improve conditions, but if their demands are not met by Tuesday, Feb. 7, the detainees plan to restart their hunger strike.
According to La Resistencia, one hunger striker, Jose Hernandez, has continued to refuse to eat as a form of protest.
"I won't stop until I see results," Hernandez told the advocacy group. "This isn’t just about me, it is about everyone."
The group's demands include:
- Humane treatment to all.
- Resolve medical issues including dental.
- Food service be on time, serve warm food and provide utensils.
- Provide proper clothing, shoe wear, linens, and clean laundry. Change mattresses and chairs. There are not enough.
- Lower telecommunications price. Provide service that works: No more dropped calls, counted as used, not credited.
- End unnecessary detention incarceration, overdue or ignored processes.
- End the excessive punishment, administrative segregation for minor and augmented justifications.
- Grievance process must change. Grievances are ignored, oscillated tactics are used, misleading and authored responses such as “unfounded.”
- Recreational area must be fixed. There are pot holes, black mold, which make us prone to injuries. T.V. is on low volume and turned off early.
- Access to the barbershop . We demand haircuts more than once a month.
- Clean water to shower.
- Allow stress relievers through arts and crafts such as art, origami, color pencils, etc.
- Shorten count time. Right now the count time takes from an hour to an hour and half.
- Access to toiletries in units such as razors, paper towels, soap, etc.
- Clean air supply.
According to La Resistencia, at least nine detainees from a unit involved in the hunger strike are being held in solitary confinement.
One of the protesters who was in the unit that was tear gassed told the advocacy group that detainees are desperate to get the word out about conditions in the facility, which is formerly known as the Northwest Detention Center.
"They treat us badly, they don’t clean, and the other day they pepper sprayed a bunch of us, including sick people," the detainee told La Resistencia. "They don’t care about us and it isn’t right. What they’re saying in the news are lies. Nobody was resisting them, we are just trying to be peaceful.”
After the initial publishing of this report on Feb. 6, 2023, ICE sent KUOW the following statement:
"Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) is committed to ensuring that all those in its custody reside in safe, secure, and humane environments under appropriate conditions of confinement, and like all ICE detention facilities, the Northwest ICE Processing Center (NWIPC) adheres to ICE detention standards to meet these needs.
During a routine inspection the morning of Feb. 1 in the housing unit where high security, including aggravated felons, detainees are held, contraband was discovered that posed a risk to the safety of noncitizens, staff, and facility. Upon discovery of the contraband razor blades, the noncitizens involved refused to follow orders and became non-compliant. After careful consideration, ERO authorized non-lethal use of force following applicable guidelines to ensure the safety of all people in the facility including noncitizens and staff.
Once the incident was resolved, all detainees were evaluated by on-site medical staff and cleared with no injuries. Medical staff confirmed there were no detainees with suicidal ideation."
La Resistencia is asking that concerned people contact ICE Seattle Field Director Drew Bostock either by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org; CommunityRelations.Seattle@ice.dhs.gov; Seattle.Outreach@ice.dhs.gov or calling him at 253-779-6000 or 206-835-0650.