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Detained immigrant fathers and their children are staging hunger strikes at a detention facility in Texas, demanding that authorities expedite their cases and decide whether they will be released into the U.S. or deported.
According to BuzzFeed News, 500 fathers and their sons, detained at the Karnes Detention Center, in Karnes City, Texas, have agreed to the strike. Fathers are taking part in a hunger strike, refusing to eat, while their sons have agreed to protest by refusing to take part in school activities conducted at the center.
Texas organization Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) told BuzzFeed News in a statement that the fathers were previously separated from their children after crossing into the U.S. under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy to prosecute all people coming to the country “unauthorized.” However, now that these fathers and sons are reunited, they’re waiting for weeks in the detention center, with no end to their immigration case in sight.
One father said in a statement to the publication that he and his son have been held at the facility for 10 days with no news about his case. He said other fathers have been there for up to 20 days, and know nothing as well. Another father said that his 6-year-old son cries every day, and doesn’t want to eat. He only wants to know why they’re being kept at the detention facility.
“Either I will be deported or be granted an opportunity to stay in this country,” the father said. “We are decent people who only come for a better life, people who travel to this country in search to help our loved ones back home. Help us.”
While RAICES stated the family’s intentions, it could not confirm that the strike had begun. RAICES also told the publication that its attorneys believe many fathers were coerced into a deportation order in order to fast-track reunification, but want to pursue potential asylum claims now that they’re reunited.
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Meanwhile, Families Belong Together has launched a nationwide rolling hunger strike in solidarity with immigrant mothers who fasted last month at Port Isabel Service Processing Center in Texas after they weren’t allowed to call their children.
Through the rolling strike in solidarity, community members will fast for three days at a time in each participating city.
“We demand that every migrant family separated by this administration be reunited and released from incarceration. We demand that the families receive support and justice for the trauma inflicted by our government,” the organization’s Hungry4Justice Facebook page reads.
At the kickoff #Hungry4Justice hunger strike, activists in Oakland aren’t feeding their stomachs, but they’re feeding their SOULS— Families Belong Together (@familiesbelong) July 30, 2018
Learn more about this NATIONAL action coming to a city near you & get involved! https://t.co/dqCwuoRMmi#FamiliesBelongTogether pic.twitter.com/fMYKvk4WBO
Our national rolling hunger strike starts on July 30, 2018!Dates to be announced:Baltimore, MDBerkeley,...Posted by Hungry4Justice - Families Belong Together & Free on Wednesday, August 1, 2018
The Hungry4Justice strike itself, launched July 30, is taking place through 11 cities across California, Oregon, New York, Illinois, and Washington, including Washington, D.C. While the D.C. strike ends August 31, another eight cities have since joined. The strike states that it won’t stop until its demand—to reunify and release all families from detention—are met.
As of last month’s deadline, more than 1,000 children of the original 2,500 separated had yet to be reunited with their families. As of Tuesday, an estimated 550 children had yet to be reunited.
H/T BuzzFeed News
Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.