South Asians Protest Conditions At Immigrant Detention Facility

By Mónica Ortiz Uribe
October 21, 2015
Mónica Ortiz Uribe
Jahed Ahmed (left), Nassir Uddin (center) and Jeker Ali Mohammad (right) are refugees from Bangladesh who were recently released from an immigrant detention facility in El Paso.

Refugees fleeing political persecution in South Asia are reporting hostile conditions and prolonged incarceration at a federal detention facility in El Paso. The detainees are protesting with hunger strikes.

One of the detainees, Nassir Uddin, 29, was a student activist opposing the ruling government party in his native Bangladesh. He says three of his fellow organizers were murdered, and his family went into hiding after receiving government threats.

"They beat my brother and broke our furniture," he said.

Uddin traveled across 11 countries for nearly two years to reach the United States. He requested asylum at an international bridge across the border from Juárez, Mexico.

He was detained in El Paso for 11 months before being released on Friday. He's currently appealing a deportation order and must check in with an immigration court next month.

Uddin was one of roughly 50 South Asian detainees who refused to eat as a means of protesting prolonged detention. One was hospitalized for dehydration.

"It's inhumane," he said. "[Detained] one year almost, eleven months."

Uddin says he witnessed a detainee being beaten by a detention officer. Advocacy groups who spoke with other immigrants at the facility report the detains have poor access to interpretation services and are being forced to sign documents they don't understand.

A spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said the agency takes the welfare of its detainees seriously.

On Tuesday, ICE arranged a visit between detainees and an official from the Bangladesh Embassy.