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"Obama Is Trying to Vanish Us": Immigrants Fight Record Deportations with Protests, Hunger Strikes

As the number of immigrants deported under Obama approaches two million, undocumented immigrants are increasing their direct actions.
 
 
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As the number of deportations under President Obama approaches two million people and immigration reform lags under Republican obstruction, undocumented immigrants are fighting back through acts of civil disobedience. Hundreds have gathered at the U.S.-Mexico border this week to support a group of undocumented youths and families seeking re-entry into the United States. Much further north, in Tacoma, Washington, a hunger strike at the Northwest Detention Center that started with as many as 750 participants has entered its sixth day. The privately owned facility used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement is owned by the GEO Group. The hunger strikers say they are protesting record deportations and prison conditions that pay them as little as $1 a day. We are joined from Seattle by Maru Mora Villalpando, an undocumented immigrant and activist with the group Latino Advocacy.

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: As the number of immigrants deported under President Obama approaches two million, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus plans to vote today on a resolution asking the president to stem the tide. This comes after several senators called last week for executive action by Obama to slow, quote, "needless" deportations. Also last week, Janet Murguía, the head of the National Council of La Raza, joined other Latino advocacy groups in calling President Obama the "deporter-in-chief."

Far from Capitol Hill, undocumented immigrants have increased pressure on Obama through acts civil disobedience. On Monday, hundreds gathered at the U.S.-Mexico border to support a group of youths seeking re-entry into the United States. It was the third action in two years in which people deported from Mexico tried to return to the United States without legal documents. Another action is planned today as part of the #BringThemHome campaign.

AMY GOODMAN: Much further north, in Tacoma, Washington, a hunger strike at the Northwest Detention Center, that started with as many as 750 people, has reportedly entered its sixth day, though it’s unclear how many people are still refusing to eat. The privately owned facility used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement is owned by the GEO Group. Democracy Now! obtained recordings of some of the detained immigrants who participated in the strike and explained their concerns.

HUNGER-STRIKING IMMIGRANT 1: [translated] So that they give us better food, so that they give us lower prices on what they sell here in the commissary, and so that they stop the deportations, I’m hoping we can get some support from all the people who are listening, because—don’t believe what you hear—life in here is not very easy. They have us here working for one dollar a day. We work for four hours, five hours sometimes, for just one dollar.

HUNGER-STRIKING IMMIGRANT 2: Our main goal was to bring to light the situation with the immigration reform, which is just being talked about, but there’s really no changes happening. So we felt like, you know, we have to do our part to speak up and say something. I mean, at the end of the day, yes, we are immigrants, but what bonds us more is that we are all human beings. We have families. We have loved ones. And as humans, we do make mistakes, but at the same time, it is also in our human nature to learn from those mistakes. And all we ask is just an opportunity to fight for our lives, which is here, since we’ve invested so much time into this great country.

AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this week, immigration authorities said some of those on hunger strike were under medical evaluation. The detainees told Democracy Now! they had faced threats of force-feeding.

HUNGER-STRIKING IMMIGRANT 2: We received threats from the guards saying that they, after 72 hours, we—would be taking our commissary privileges away, that they would—that we were going to go see medical and get tubes down our throats and force-fed. And I’m not an animal, like, I can say that, all of us that are here. It’s a cruel way to just grab somebody and put them down and put a tube down their throat. Like, we’re here to fight our immigration case and to get back to our families. We’re not here to be tortured and threatened by these officers.

 
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