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Group Reports Hunger Strike at Immigrant Detention Center

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT News
Karnes Detention Center after it was renovated in 2014.

More than 40 mothers held in the Karnes Detention Center started a hunger strike Tuesday to protest for their release, according to the San Antonio legal aid organization RAICES. The center detains immigrant families who cross the border illegally.

RAICES says it recorded a phone call with a detainee, which it posted to YouTube. In it, a woman speaking in Spanish confirms the strike and reports that more women are joining up.

Below is an English translation:

“We know they are not letting the media in [to the facility]. But we challenge the media to fly over the facility in a helicopter. You will see us on strike – it is a true hunger strike. ICE is lying, they are saying we are not striking. But more mothers are joining in on the hunger strike, because they are watching on the news that some people believe us and are offering their support. More mothers are losing their fear, they are joining in on the strike.”

Detainees have reported to RAICES that ICE officials placed three mothers with their children in isolation in an unlit room for up to a day. Officials also threatened to separate the women from their children and to add notes to their immigration files to hurt their court cases. Officials have restricted phone calls and visits as well, according to RAICES spokesperson Mohammad Abdollahi.

“We’ve also had reports from other lawyers that said that for the last week they’ve been having a lot of trouble hearing from their clients, that a lot of phone calls haven’t been coming out,” says Abdollahi.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) did not confirm or deny the strike in response to a request for comment, but said it “respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference, and all detainees, including those in family residential facilities such as Karnes, are permitted to do so.”

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