Following a lawsuit filed by the ACLU in 2018 that alleged that ICE and Homeland Security were issuing blanket denials of parole, 150 individuals took part in a hunger strike at a Louisiana ICE correctional center.
The hunger strike took place at the River Correctional Center in Ferriday, according to NPR, and participants were individuals who were seeking asylum but were being detained by ICE. This hunger strike was the sixth to take place at the center in the first quarter of 2019 and is closely tied to the ACLU’s lawsuit of 2018.
Individuals seeking asylum have only two methods of getting out of detention: either make their bond or achieve parole. The latter has decreased in approval under President Donald Trump, who argues that asylum-seeking individuals must be detained or kept out of the country.
The hunger-strike situation came to a boiling point at the end of March when ICE officials began force-feeding participants.
ACLU of Louisiana Legal Director Katie Schwartzmann
“These hunger strikes in Louisiana’s detention centers highlight the true humanitarian crisis underway in our country,” Katie Schwartzmann, legal director of the ACLU of Louisiana, told Louisiana Record.
Under Trump, bond denials increased to 52 percent in 2018, a 9 percent increase from 2016, while Louisiana’s immigration courts’ bond denials sit at a rate of 61 percent. As far as the ACLU is concerned, ICE has been violating its own policy, as was set in the 2009 Parole Directive.
The directive states that asylum seekers would be allowed to be released on parole if they are indeed suffering from a fear that is credible and are not placing their community or the U.S. at risk. Nevertheless, ICE continues to detain individuals who meet this criteria.
“This administration’s mean-spirited and illegal disregard of the long-standing ICE directive in favor of allowing humanitarian parole to asylum seekers has a devastating impact on real people,” Schwartzmann said.