Over 30 Detainees Refuse Meals, Demanding Lower Bonds and Medical Care
Victorville, CA- After several weeks of intermittent hunger strikes at the Adelanto Detention Center, the largest hunger strike yet began on the evening of July 4, when dozens of detainees launched a 72-hour hunger strike to protest high bonds, inadequate medical care, and political asylum. While previous hunger strikes by the #Adelanto9 primarily involved Salvadoran asylum-seekers, the current strike has spread to detainees from various nationalities, including a contingent of detained Haitians. In a handwritten letter delivered to supporters, the hunger strikers argue that bonds set as high as $50,000 are impossible to pay for refugees who “have had to cross 3 and in some cases 9 different national borders” and who “have been the victims of theft by different criminal groups that stole the little money we were able to bring with us.” Hunger strikers assert that the policy of setting impossibly high bonds exists in order to “break our spirit so that we give up our rights to due process.”
Other allegations of due process violations, constitutional violations, and abuse plague Adelanto Detention Center, which has been rocked by a series of four different hunger strikes in different wings of the prison since June 12th, when 9 detainees were “beaten, tortured, denied access to medical care, placed in segregation, and denied their right to private attorney-client communications” by private prison guards in retaliation for their peaceful protest. Subsequently, Immigration And Customs Enforcement (ICE) blocked the phone number of Nicole Ramos, the detainees’ legal counsel, and prominent journalists from Univision, in an attempt to cover up increasingly public allegations of abuse and torture by private prison guards and to prevent the public from hearing about the abuse occurring in California’s largest immigration detention center. The ACLU of Southern California sent a letter to ICE over the weekend, expressing “serious concerns” regarding a “troubling pattern of retaliation against the detainees for exercising their constitutional right to free speech under the First Amendment.”
Also on July 4, after ICE publicly accused the detainees of lying about their mistreatment, the remaining original hunger strikers (now called #Adelanto8 after one was deported), sent the following message to ICE officials: “Due the facts you have been giving to media, Ms. Virginia Kice, ICE’s spokeperson, we invite you to call a press conference in which you show your proof that shows we are lying, we hope you show the real videos and for us to be present at such conference to show our proof. If you deny this invitation to hold a press conference, we would take for a fact that the one lying is you. Sincerely #Adelanto8.” Although the area where guards attacked detainees on June 12th is under video surveillance, so far prison officials have refused requests by civil rights groups, attorneys, and the detainees to release video of the attack. Activists around the country continue to call for the immediate release of the detainees at Adelanto, an end to retaliation against the hunger strikers, and punishment of the guards involved.
Audio recordings of the detainees and additional materials, including the handwritten letter announcing the July 4 strike, the full 6-page Office of Civil Rights complaint detailing the torture experienced by the detainees, and the ACLU letter detailing constitutional violations by Adelanto prison officials, are available upon request.
Adelanto Detention Center is an immigration detention center in Victorville, CA, run by the private prison corporation The GEO Group, Inc. The #Adelanto9 began their hunger strike on Monday June 12, demanding political asylum and better detention conditions. They are part of a caravan of refugees that traveled through Mexico, organizing other refugees along the migrant trails and train lines during Holy Week, culminating in a mass convergence in Tijuana, Mexico on May 7th of this year to seek asylum in the United States.
A transcript of the handwritten letter announcing the 4th of July strike follows:
This letter is to inform you that on July 5th we will be beginning a 3-day hunger strike. The reasons that have brought us to organize this strike are as follows:
“We believe that bonds are being set too high.” We are not demanding this on a whim, but rather asking that you understand our unique needs. Many of us have come fleeing from our countries due to different problems. We have had to cross 3 and in some cases 9 different national borders. We have been the victims of theft by different criminal groups that stole the little money we were able to bring with us. We need reasonable bond levels that allow us to leave prison and continue our legal cases outside. We believe that a reasonable bond might be between $1500 and $7500 and in many cases we should be able to be released on parole without any bond at all. We feel that we are being criminalized unfairly. Bond has been set at $15,000, $20,000, $35,000, even $50,000, in order to break our spirit so that we give up our rights to due process, or even worse to get us to accept voluntary deportation.
Among other important needs we have are:
Tools that allow us to translate our documents to English so that our evidence is considered valid.
More efficient medical care. At times we make our medical needs known by means of a kite [note to staff] and they don’t give them the attention they deserve.
Lowering the bonds (currently $15,000, $20,000, $35,000, and $50,000) at least down to between $1500 and $7500.
More consideration of our asylum cases. We are aware of cases where our Haitian brothers were deported and when they arrived in their country they were murdered. Some end up deported because they can’t pay the high bonds and others for not having enough evidence to present. But it is impossible for us to collect the necessary evidence for a successful case from behind bars.