There are many immigration detention facilities throughout the nation, including some in Kentucky. If you are an immigrant or have friends or relatives who are, you may be aware that many detention centers are falling short of acceptable safety and health conditions. In fact, news headlines often include stories of filth, negligence, abuse, and illnesses and injuries immigrants have suffered at the hands of immigration agents.
A Russian man in another state who is currently detained decided to go on a hunger strike to protest the ill treatment he and his fellow inmates have suffered. He has not eaten for nearly 30 days and is not alone in his actions; as many as 60 immigrants have joined in solidarity to participate in the strike to raise awareness that they deserve better medical care. Attorneys have taken action to protect the man’s First Amendment rights, and such support is available for anyone facing similar problems.
Here’s what’s happening
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers have threatened to force-feed the man who has not taken food for almost a month. Legal representatives advocating on the man’s behalf petitioned the court for a temporary restraining order against ICE officers. The attorneys say that punishing hunger strikers by force-feeding or by placing them in solitary confinement, etc., violates their rights to make decisions about their own medical care to exercise free speech.
ICE officials disagree
In response to the request for a temporary restraining order, ICE spokesmen stated that there have been numerous past occasions when they obtained permission from the court to induce involuntary hydration, medical monitoring and feeding. One official says there are at least six court orders under seal pertaining to such matters.
The issue that prompted the hunger strike
A fire broke out about a mile away from the detention center where the Russian man and his fellow inmates reside. Local authorities issued warnings that the fire involved lithium batteries and that people should remain indoors because breathing in the smoke could be dangerous to human health. The problem is that no one warned the detainees. One advocate said the grave lack of concern for immigrants’ well-being is a main factor in the Russian man’s and his fellow inmates’ decision to abstain from food as a form of protest.
Whether you are a Kentucky immigrant who is currently living in a detention center or a family member or friend concerned about a loved one’s well-being, remember that the First Amendment protects people’s rights to exercise free speech. An experienced immigration law attorney can provide strong support to anyone who believes his or her rights are at risk.