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Hunger Strikes At ICE Detention Centers Spread As Parole, Bond Are Denied

There have been at least six hunger strikes at detention centers in the first three months of 2019 alone. One of the detainees' demands was to be released while their cases were adjudicated.

In the last week of March, dozens of asylum-seekers held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the River Correctional Center in Ferriday, La., initiated a hunger strike. Activists said 150 people joined the demonstration, while ICE put the number at 24.

It was a short-lived demonstration, ending on March 30, according to ICE. But it was at least the sixth hunger strike at a detention center in the first three months of 2019 alone.

"We have never seen so many hunger strikes in so many different places in less than three, four months," said Maru Mora Villalpando, an immigrants rights activist based in Washington state. "And the ones we have been able to engage with have been led by asylum-seekers."

For several of the hunger strikes, the detainees' central demand was to be released while their cases were adjudicated, a process that can take years. That was the first demand of the River Correctional strike, as well as the 77-day hunger strike that occurred at the El Paso Processing Center. That demonstration made national headlines when ICE agents began force-feeding detainees. A judge eventually ordered the agents to stop.

Asylum-seekers have two ways to escape detention while their cases are still. And parole — a who are found to have a credible fear of persecution in their home countries — has nearly disappeared altogether, immigration advocates and attorneys say.

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