13 Detainees Begin Hunger Strike At Tacoma Detention Center

File photo. The Northwest Detention Center, run by the private GEO Group, is located in Tacoma. CREDIT: KOMO via AP
The Northwest Detention Center, run by the private GEO Group, is located in Tacoma. CREDIT: KOMO-TV via AP

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UPDATE, as of May 16:

On Sunday, GEO guards at the Northwest Detention Center placed four people, who are on hunger strike, into solitary confinement, according to La Resistencia, an organization fighting for the closing of the facility and an end to all detentions and deportations. 

La Rsistencia says a GEO Group official stated that the solitary confinement was a direct consequence of the protesters’ statements to the media and their relationship with their organization. NWPB has been unable to verify these claims. 

As of today nine detainees are on hunger strike. The strike began last Friday, with demonstrators calling for better food, medical care and the reinstatement of visitation at the facility. 

The strike comes as a report released by University of Washington researchers documents numerous allegations of sexual abuse at the facility.

The GEO Group referred NWPB to ICE.

ICE responded Monday afternoon with the following:

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference. ICE does not retaliate in any way against hunger strikers. ICE explains the negative health effects of not eating to our detainees. For their health and safety, ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) personnel carefully monitors and documents the food and water intake of those detainees identified as being on a hunger strike.  IHSC field personnel must follow the hunger strike procedures outlined in the applicable ICE Performance-Based National Detention Standards.”

Hunger strike procedures can be viewed here.

Thirteen people at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma are on a hunger strike. 

A representative from La Resistencia, an organization fighting for the closing of the facility and an end to all detentions and deportations, says the hunger strike is meant to address conditions in the center.  

“People have been very uneasy about the conditions. And obviously it is getting worse and worse.”

That’s Maru Mora-Villapando, who has been in contact with the group striking.

A list of 10 demands was presented in a press release Friday. Some of the demands include clean clothing, better cleaning, safer COVID practices, and lights to be turned off at night. 

Access to medical services is also on the list. The group also wants visitations to be reinstated, which advocacy groups have been calling on for months. 

According to Mora-Villapando, after nine meals are skipped ICE will recognize the hunger strike and speak to those demonstrating. 

At the time of this report’s filing, GEO Group referred NWPB to ICE. ICE has yet to return our call.