An incredible display of solidarity and bravery is currently taking place at an immigration detainment center near San Antonio, Texas. According to Express News, a group of over 20 undocumented immigrants being held in a detention center in Karnes County, Texas, are refusing to eat until they are granted justice. The women were detained at different points during the incredible immigration surge that took place in 2014, and many of them are said to have been in custody for periods of almost a year at this point. While it remains to be seen whether or not there will be a change in their situation based on this action, this group of women has already attracted the attention of numerous news outlets and advocacy groups.
It seems that the strike extends beyond hunger, as the women are also refusing to do their assigned workloads each day until they are offered fair treatment. In a letter written in Spanish and released to news outlet ColorLines, the signatures of 78 different women appear beneath the strike pledge. Nonetheless, it has been reported by several other news agencies that it can only be confirmed that 25 are currently taking part in the action. In an interview with The Houston Chronicle, a woman named Kenia who is currently being held at the center (and opted to have her last name omitted) spoke on the matter.
“We will keep refusing food until our demands for release are recognized. We will fight until we are granted our liberty. We’re tired of the treatment we’re receiving here,” said Kenia. “Our children are all losing weight because they’ve lost their appetites. It’s like we’re living in a jail.”
Reaction by Karnes
The detainment center in Karnes County is run by a private entity known as Geo Group, Inc, according to The Houston Chronicle. While emailed questions to that company from multiple media outlets were not immediately answered, a statement was issued by the Geo Group indicating that it provides the best treatment possible to all undocumented immigrants being held there. The Chronicle printed that statement in a recent article.
“The Karnes County Residential Center provides high quality care in a safe, clean and family friendly environment, and on site U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel provide direct oversight to ensure compliance with ICE’s family residential standards. Our company has consistently, strongly denied allegations to the contrary,” the statement read.
While the full impact of the hunger and work strike remains to be realized, it could be something of a wake up call for many keeping a close eye on the detainment centers holding undocumented immigrants across the U.S. Over the past months, allegations of mistreatment and improper living conditions have rained down from many advocacy groups as well as the individuals being detained. Meanwhile, how candidates choose to stand on these issues will certainly be a point of leverage in the upcoming presidential election.