Migrant Fathers And Sons Launch Strike To Protest Detention Conditions

“Everyone has agreed that we will stop eating. We're doing so because we don't know what will happen to us. We need to know if we'll be deported or allowed to remain in this country. We are asking the government to free us. We are not criminals.”


More than 500 migrant fathers and sons, who are being held in a Texas detention center after being separated from each other for weeks, have planned a strike as their “last resort” to protest the unfair conditions at the facility.

The fathers will reportedly refuse food and orders of the immigration officials, while the kids intend to boycott their schoolwork at the ICE-operated Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes County, Texas.

The demonstrators participating in the process want the U.S. authorities to expedite their cases due to unjust conditions they are facing at the center.

The nonprofit Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) shared information regarding the strikes with the media, including audio of interviews with affected fathers.

"The strike is born out of frustration from fathers and children who can no longer bear the trauma that comes with being separated, then reunited, and now being detained for long periods of time in unjust conditions where they are continuously being 'treated like animals,'" the Texas-based advocacy group stated.

The detained families told RAICES how they were being manipulated into accepting deportation orders and denied the chance to talk to asylum officers. As a result, they wanted officials to speed up their immigration cases so that they could pursue their asylum claims in courts.

One affected father, Olivio, a Guatemalan migrant detained at the border in early May, said he was told he would only be separated from his son for a few days, but they have been apart for two months.

“We are planning a hunger strike tomorrow at this detention center because we don’t know anything,” Olivio said. “We are incarcerated in here and there not much we can do so now we are all planning to gather in the patio and wait to see what happens.”

As per the international law, if a non-U.S. citizen is under the threat of being persecuted at their home country, they have a right to claim asylum in the states. But the Trump administration, due to deliberate misinformation, made migrant parents who were separated from their children give up their claims in hopes it would help them reunite with their kids faster.

Though RAICES said the group hadn’t received any list of detainees or their immigration status, the court documents revealed Karnes was being used to temporarily hold families facing impending deportation.

“There are approximately 500 families here, and everyone is desperate to get out here,” said another father, Jorge, a Honduran man who was forcibly separated from his son for more than two months.

“ICE is constantly telling us lies. When they brought me here [to Karnes], they told me I was meeting with an official for asylum, but I have not met with anyone,” Jorge told RAICES.

Some of the fathers chose to stay anonymous while talking to the advocacy group.

“Everyone has agreed that we will stop eating. We're doing so because we don't know what will happen to us. We need to know if we'll be deported or allowed to remain in this country. We are asking the government to free us. We are not criminals,” said one detained father.

“My son says to me he hasn't done anything to be incarcerated here. He says, ‘Daddy, I'm not a criminal.’ We want to get out. He cries every day. He doesn't want to eat. He's only 6 years old,” said another unidentified father according to an archive of recordings of detainees.

Manoj Govindaiah, RAICES’ director of family detention services, said in a statement the current situation was one of the worst he has witnessed in 12 years of practicing law.

“The trauma caused by their separations has forced these fathers into untenable positions of fear, anger and despair. That these families feel the need to strike shows how tired they are of the games the administration continues to play with vulnerable communities,” he added.

Just recently, in what could be the first reported case of child death under the custody of ICE, a migrant child in a Texas detention center reportedly died due to improper care after contracting a disease from one of the other young detainees.

Moreover, the conditions for immigrants in other states such as California weren’t any better according to the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Banner Image Credits: REUTERS/Loren Elliott

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