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Hunger strike ends at immigration detention center in Tacoma

May 20, 2022 Updated Fri., May 20, 2022 at 5:47 p.m.

By Paige Cornwell Seattle Times

A hunger strike among Northwest ICE Processing Center detainees that began a week ago has ended, according to an advocacy organization connected to protesters at the Tacoma facility.

According to the group La Resistencia, detainees were provided clean clothes — but only in the unit where the strike began — and improved food portions. The group said more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were sent to the detention center to handle cases, which was one of the protesters’ demands.

The strikers also asked for better cleaning of the facility and units, more nutritious food, better access to medical services and jobs that pay a minimum wage.

ICE declined to comment Friday, but said earlier this week that it “fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference.”

Nine people took part in the hunger strike at the fenced facility, which is among the largest immigration detention centers in the U.S., and where people are held as they go through immigration-status proceedings.

The detainees communicated with La Resistencia, a Washington organization led by undocumented people that advocates for the closing of the Northwest detention center, said in a news release.

“To the extent of La Resistencia’s knowledge, all hunger strikers have ceased their political demonstration, though detainees are still alert to see ICE’s promises fulfilled and to guarantee that strikers are returned to the detention center’s general population,” La Resistencia said in a news release.

Per ICE’s detention standards, any detainee who refuses food for 72 hours may be referred for medical evaluation, and may be isolated “when medically advisable” for monitoring. La Resistencia said several protesters were placed in solitary confinement and medical isolation.

The GEO Group, the for-profit corporation that operates the detention center in partnership with ICE, referred questions to ICE. Earlier this week, a spokesperson said ensuring the health and safety of detainees and employees “has always been our No. 1 priority.”

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