By OLIVIA MINGUELA, age 11
In March, 2014, 130 people out of 1,300 immigration detainees at the U.S. Deportations and Detention Center, a Washington State Immigration Facility went on a hunger strike to protest immigration laws and their living conditions. A hunger strike is a nonviolent form of resistance, in which participants refuse food, or drink liquids only, in order to put pressure on the government to change a law or a policy.
The detainees on strike wanted to change two policies: the first, called the “bed mandate,” requires U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain 34,000 undocumented immigrants daily, which leads to cramped facilities; the second is the mandatory detention process, which requires suspected immigration violators to be held captive until their investigation ends. The detainees hoped the strike would create a reform on immigration laws among lawmakers in United States.
Andrew Munoz, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said U.S. ICE respects the right of detainees to express their opinions, but that the law must be obeyed. By law, detainees can be force-fed, if the hunger strike is prolonged. However, that practice is considered unethical by both the American and World Medical Associations: “Where a prisoner refuses nourishment and is considered by the physician as capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgment concerning the consequences of such a voluntary refusal of nourishment, he or she shall not be fed artificially.”
“You can only get pushed so far,” Paulino Ruiz, one of the detainees, explains in a phone interview with TIME from inside the facility. “More people have been deported since Obama has been in office than anyone else in history.”