Hunger strike at detention facility highlights continued mistreatment of detainees

There is a lot to dislike about the United States' immigration policies and how they're enforced. Now comes word that some people are being imprisoned almost indefinitely despite a policy that they must either be deported or set free.

The Huffington Post reports that two inmates at a for-profit detention facility in rural Georgia who are in the country illegally have gone on a hunger strike to protest their continued incarceration.

Attorney Helen Parsonage told HuffPost that she is representing one of the hunger strikers, a stateless Palestinian who has a final deportation order. But for six months, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been unable to get travel documents to his birth country — or an alternative country.

"All he wants is to either be let out or sent home," she told HuffPost. "He's in his 20s and misses his mother. He wants to go home. If you're going to deport him, do it. If you can't deport him, which I think is the case, then let him go on an ankle bracelet."

ICE is required to review a detainee's case after 180 days of detention while awaiting deportation, and those unlikely to be sent home soon and do not have an infectious disease or present a flight, violence or terrorism danger must be released.

But those in the country illegally who have final deportation orders don't have much of a voice and are often unable to ensure that their few remaining rights are protected. And for-profit prison companies have little reason to make it easy to be released.

"There are a number of detainees at Stewart Detention Center that are being held, despite the fact that they have a final deportation order — no contest, no nothing," Parsonage told HuffPost.

ICE declined to identify the inmates, the website said, but issued a statement confirming that two were refusing food.

"ICE takes very seriously the health, safety, and welfare of those in our care and we continue to monitor the situation," the statement said. "ICE's Stewart Detention Center is staffed with medical and mental health care providers who monitor, diagnose and treat residents at the facility."

This is not the first protest at Stewart Detention Center: In September, a disturbance broke out when detainees protested policies that have inmates locked up for 23 hours at a time, meals that consist largely of potatoes served three times daily, and punishments, including solitary confinement, that are meted out for simply asking questions, HuffPost reported.

That incident was forcibly suppressed using nonlethal weapons, HuffPost said, and resulted in a lockdown, a ban on visitors for several days and solitary confinement for several detainees.

Corrections Corporation of America, the contractor that runs the detention center, "is a corporation that has become militarized," Georgia Detention Watch's Anton Flores told HuffPost. "Even in the units where no acts of resistance took place there were consequences."

Remember, links, tips and accounts of the response to any crisis anywhere in the world are always welcome at dstockman@ncronline.org.

[Dan Stockman is national correspondent for Global Sisters Report. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.]

Celebrating Award-Winning Content: GSR recently earned seven awards for editorial excellence from the Associated Church Press.