ONN: EL PASO, Texas (Febraury 15, 2019) — The U.S. government has suddenly stopped force-feeding a group of men on a hunger strike inside an El Paso immigration detention center, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.
The dramatic reversal came Thursday as public pressure was mounting on ICE to halt the practice, which involves feeding detainees through nasal tubes against their will. Last week, the United Nations human rights office said the force-feeding of Indian hunger strikers at the facility could violate the U.N. Convention Against Torture.
Earlier this week, a U.S. district judge said the government had to stop force-feeding two of the detained Indian immigrants, but warned that if their health started to decline he would consider ordering force-feeding again, their attorney said. On Thursday, all force-feeding at the detention center near the El Paso airport had stopped, according to ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa.
“This is a win for us,” said Louis Lopez, who is representing Malkeet Singh and Jasvir Singh, two detainees who are Punjabi Sikhs in their early 20s. “They have a First Amendment right to protest.”
Detained immigrants have sporadically staged hunger strikes around the country for years, protesting conditions they face while seeking asylum. ICE said Thursday there were a total of 12 detainees refusing food, nine from India, three from Cuba. Force-feeding, which began under court order earlier this year, had not previously been reported, and advocates involved said they weren’t aware it had happened before.