Report: ICE Detainees On Hunger Strikes Subject To Force-Feeding

By Alisa Reznick/AZPM
Published: Monday, June 28, 2021 - 8:40am
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A new report by Physicians for Human Rights and the ACLU alleges hunger strikers in Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities were subject to involuntary medical procedures including force-feeding. The report uses more than 10,000 pages of emails, court filings and other records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

The report shows more than 1,300 immigrants detained in ICE facilities nationwide — including in Arizona — went on hunger strike from 2013 to 2017.

Co-author Joanna Naples-Mitchell says ICE responded with solitary confinement and other measures.

"Force-feeding is the one that’s gotten the most attention, and it certainly one of the most egregious," Naples-Mitchell said. "And that’s force-feeding by a tube that is forced down the nose and down into the esophagus and into the stomach. It can cause a lot of damage, potentially life threatening damage.

ICE policy dictates involuntary feeding is only allowed under court order. But the report alleges the agency failed to use other, less-invasive options before taking that step.

Researchers spoke with immigrants in detention over the last year, and found hunger strikes were on the rise during the pandemic. Nilson Barahona went on strike last April while detained at the Irwin Detention Center in Georgia.

"Basically we found out that there were people already in detention who had the coronavirus," he said.

Barahona says he was sent to solitary confinement as a result of his strike.

An ICE spokesperson refuted the use of any retaliatory measures and said strikers are placed under close medical observation and educated on hunger strike risks.

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