Hunger Strike Hits Karnes County Illegal Immigrant Detention Center

Frustration is boiling over inside the Karnes Detention Center, south of San Antonio, where fathers have begun a hunger strike, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports.

About 500 migrant fathers who were separated from their kids at the border and then reunited before the deadline have gone months without any word of when they would be able to plead their case before a judge, according to the immigrant-rights group RAICES.  

Spokeswoman Jennifer Falcon fears many will never get a chance to plead their case.

"They were tricked into signing deportation agreements with their kids as pawns," she tells WOAI news.  "We're seeing this a lot."

She says that's a violation of both their civil rights and international law.

Olivio, a migrant from Guatemala, was caught sneaking across the border in Texas on May 13. He told RAICES he was not told how long he would be separated from his son.

"We are incarcerated in here and there [is] not much we can do, so now we are all planning to gather in the patio and wait to see what happens," he told RAICES, according to an audio recording given to WOAI reporter Michael Board.

A second migrant, only identified by RAICES as Jorge, said they are fearful for their future.

"ICE is constantly telling us lies. When they brought me here [to Karnes], they told me I was meeting with an official for asylum, but I have not met with anyone,” Jorge told RAICES in a statement that was given to the media.

A spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcment says, so far, they have not seen a hunger strike, but if one starts, the complaints will be taken seriously.

"In general, ICE fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference. ICE does not retaliate in any way against hunger strikers. ICE explains the negative health effects of not eating to our detainees. For their health and safety, ICE closely monitors the food and water intake of those detainees identified as being on a hunger strike," Leticia Zamarripa says. 

In cases where the health of an ICE detainee may be in jeopardy as determined by health-care professionals, ICE may keep these individuals under observation in the facility medical department where they can be closely monitored. Staffing for detainees includes registered nurses and licensed practical nurses, licensed mental health providers, mid-level providers that include a physician’s assistant and nurse practitioner, a physician, dental care, and access to 24-hour emergency care. 

ICE spends more than $250 million annually on the spectrum of healthcare services provided to detainees.


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