Private Prison Officials Allowed to Force-Feed Immigrant Hunger Strikers

Officials at a privately run immigration jail in Tacoma, Washington, have apparently obtained permission from a federal court to force-feed prisoners staging sustained hunger strikes, according to documents filed in federal court.

Civil rights groups filed a lawsuit last week asking a federal district court in Tacoma to issue a temporary restraining order preventing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from threatening hunger strikers at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) with force-feeding, solitary confinement and segregation. A federal judge canceled a hearing on the case this week and referred the lawsuit to a lower court.

Despite the legal setback, civil rights lawyers obtained a legal document filed by ICE stating that the federal district court in Tacoma and others have granted six orders allowing “involuntary” medical monitoring, hydration and feeding of hunger strikers at NWDC, according to NWDC Resistance, an activist group supporting hunger strikers at the immigration jail.

“Is NWDC the new Guantánamo?” asked Maru Mora Villalpando, an organizer with the group and a longtime US resident who believes ICE unsuccessfully targeted her for deportation due to her activism around immigration.

NWDC has seen waves of hunger strikes this year, beginning in February, when 120 prisoners staged a hunger strike to protest conditions at the facility. Within weeks, civil rights lawyers filed a lawsuit accusing an NWDC guard of severely beating a Mexican immigrant that jail officials incorrectly identified as a leader of the strike.

Over the summer, at least 60 prisoners went on strike to protest family separations at the border and conditions in immigration jails. Hunger strikes continued in solidarity with the national prison strike that ended earlier this month. However, supporters and civil rights lawyers say the number of strikers has dwindled to four because people detained at…

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