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|5/31: Under the Shadow of Trump, Dismantling Obama’s Deportation Machine (2)
Released 12 June 2017  By Sarah Lazare – In These Times
Under the Shadow of Trump, Dismantling Obama’s Deportation Machine
Communities are fighting back against an immigrant prison in rural Georgia.
Sarah Lazare – In These Times
May 31, 2017
(....from Part One)
As recently as this month, a federal judge ruled that Stewart can force-feed Vitaly Novikov, a 61-year-old detained Ukrainian man, who had been waging a hunger strike. The forced feeding of people incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay was condemned as torture by the United Nations’ human rights office in 2013.
Also this month, Stewart was named as one of the facilities in an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit seeking information about abuse and retaliation targeting hunger strikers in ICE facilities, including forced feeding and solitary confinement. “ICE has refused to turn over documents related to hunger strikes,” Carl Takei, an attorney with the ACLU’s National Prison Project, said in a press statement about the suit, adding: “We want to know just how widespread the abuse is.”
Fighting to save lives
Despite support from the outside, some people do not survive their ordeals. Jean Jimenez-Joseph, the 27-year-old Panamanian national who committed suicide at Stewart, died after nearly three weeks of solitary confinement. El Refugio, an organization close to Stewart that supports separated families, reports that, the day before Jimenez-Joseph took his life, a volunteer tried to visit him but was “turned away because of the conditions of his segregation (solitary confinement).”
Bryan Cox, a spokesman for ICE, confirmed to In These Times that Jimenez-Joseph was in “disciplinary segregation” for 19 days preceding his death, adding that his “treatment was in full accordance with agency’s detention policy.” He said he did not know how many people at Stewart are subjected to prolonged solitary confinement.
Investigations are underway in the recent deaths in ICE custody in Georgia, Cox claimed. CoreCivic and the warden’s office at Stewart did not immediately return requests for comment.
However, studies suggest that ICE cannot be trusted to investigate itself. A 2016 report released by the ACLU, Detention Watch Network and the National Immigrant Justice Center found that ICE’s violation of its own medical care standards contributed to at least eight in-custody deaths between 2010 and 2012. Instead of instating policies that could review deaths in the future, ICE failed to properly inspect such deaths and its own violations, the report found.
Meanwhile, those targeted by multiple systems of oppression pay the greatest price.
“We know that black immigrants are more likely to be in prison and detained by immigration because of this,” said Thompson. “We see it with people of color experiencing mass incarceration and criminalization on a grand scale. We definitely want to uplift and call for there to be some sort of change or reform in how our system is. Incarcerating more people is not the solution.”
Thompson’s assertions are confirmed by a recent report, which notes that black people in the United State are far more likely to be arrested and imprisoned, meaning they are also more likely to be targeted by immigration enforcement.
Thanks to long-term organizing led by communities on the front lines of such oppression, movement infrastructure for resistance already exists. Throughout the Obama years, community organizations and family members mobilized outside immigrant detention centers across the country, staging vigils, protests and public pressure campaigns to support those on the inside. In December, protesters shut down an intersection in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to demand the closure of the Berks County Family Detention Center and call attention to mothers forced to spend the holidays incarcerated with their children.
Such direct support efforts take place in cities and rural areas alongside a revitalized push to expand sanctuary nationwide, to include safety from police as well as ICE, and to mobilize communities to participate in direct defense against deportations.
“We do visitation, we amplify their stories with press statements, and we base our demands on what people inside detention centers are asking,” Azadeh Shahshahani, legal and advocacy director at Project South, told In These Times. “The only way you can really address the issue at a fundamental level is to shut [immigrant detention centers] down. We definitely feel that we’re part of larger movements to end mass incarceration and the targeting of black and brown people.”
This article is part of the Resister’s Digest series, aimed at amplifying the stories of front-line communities organizing in the era of Trump.
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