By Lorraine Gabbert. San Jose Spotlight. Bay City News.
Tears fell from the eyes of the mother of a detained immigrant who has been on a hunger strike for 14 days.
Eighty-four detained immigrants, including four from Santa Clara County, continue their hunger strike to protest abhorrent treatment at the Mesa Verde Immigration and Customs Enforcement Processing Center in Bakersfield and the Golden State Annex in McFarland. Nearly two dozen advocates supporting the detainees protested outside the San Jose district office of Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren on Friday.
The hunger strike comes on the heels of a 10-month labor strike by the detainees who are paid $1 a day to work at the facility. The strikers want better living conditions and fair wages, the release of detainees and the closure of detention centers.
In September, Lofgren and other lawmakers sent a letter to ICE after receiving a complaint of disturbing conditions and abusive behavior toward detainees at the Mesa Verde Detention Center and Golden State Annex, requesting an investigation.
Lofgren said he called for the closure of the for-profit prison companies used by ICE because they have a history of detainee abuse. They also charge exorbitant fees, he said.
"We ask that these people be reviewed and, at a minimum, that their security and humane treatment adhere to the requirements outlined by the Department of Homeland Security itself," Lofgren told San José Spotlight.
Jesús Ruíz, coordinator of the rapid response network of Pangea Legal Services, said that the detainees on strike are physically and emotionally destroyed. As they struggled to improve their living conditions, he said they suffered reprisals by being prevented from leaving their cells and lashed with cold air.
Many have been detained for more than a year because they are undocumented, Ruiz said.
"Those people who are detained are human beings," Ruiz stressed to San Jose Spotlight. “We are here to shed light on what is happening inside. What ICE wants is that nobody finds out about the mistreatment and that nobody finds out about the injustices and the hunger strike. We want to give voice to that pain and that struggle."
Gabriel Manrique, a LUNA community organizer, said forcing detained immigrants to work for a dollar a day is slavery.
"We are here in solidarity," Manrique explained. "We are here to put pressure on Zoe Lofgren, but also on the federal government for immigration reform and freedom for our brothers inside."
Non-profit leaders from Amigos de Guadalupe joined the fight to demand the closure of the detention centers.
“There is a lot of injustice in the detention centers,” said Misrayn Mendoza, a community navigator for Amigos de Guadalupe. “It is not a detention center, it is a concentration camp. People told us that they feed them rotten food, bread and water."
Cecilia, who declined to give her last name, broke down in tears as protesters listened to the call of a detainee at the Golden State Annex. She is the mother of one of the detainees.
"We deserve to be at home with our loved ones... not here, being attacked, abused, deprived of medical needs," the detainee said by phone. "It's just not right what they're doing."
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