ICE, immigrant rights advocates dispute hunger strike at Adelanto facility

There’s a dispute over whether there is or isn’t a hunger strike in California’s largest immigrant detention center.

Immigrant rights advocates said a strike began last Thursday with some 150 detainees at the Adelanto Detention Facility, with demands for better treatment, including adequate medical care and better food. It was unclear how many detainees were still engaging in a hunger strike by Wednesday, March 20, but it had not ended for all, according to Lizbeth Abeln, immigrant detention coordinator for the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice, an immigrant-rights organization.

But Lori Haley, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Laguna Niguel, said: “There was no hunger strike.”

Detainees would have to miss nine consecutive meals and not be seen eating food within 72 hours for a hunger strike to officially be initiated, Haley said. Detainees might also skip eating at the cafeteria but then purchase meals from the commissary, which also would not constitute a hunger strike, she continued.

RELATED: Immigrant detainees stage hunger strike at Adelanto facility

Abeln disagreed, said striking detainees went without food for more than 72 hours, and some are continuing.

San Fernando Valley resident Elizabeth Marufo said she visited with her brother on Tuesday and asked him to resume eating because she’s concerned for his health. Because he’s a diabetic, her brother was moved Tuesday to another room described as a medical unit.

“All we want for him is to not be involved in all of that so that he can come home,” Marufo said Wednesday.

There have been several hunger strikes in recent years at the Adelanto facility in San Bernardino County, which has been the subject of several scathing reports from state and federal investigators, who found nooses made out of bedsheets, inadquate medical care, several attempted suicides and one suicide by hanging.

Immigrant detainees at similar sites across the country have engaged in hunger strikes to call attention to what they described as harsh conditions. In the past four years, some 1,400 people have gone on hunger strikes in 18 facilities across the country, according to Freedom for Immigrants, a California-based organization that advocates for immigrants in detention and has more than 4,500 volunteers visiting detainees in 23 states.

In one detention center in El Paso, Texas, immigration officials earlier this year were force-feeding nine men, under court order, who refused to eat. One of the hunger strikers described to the Associated Press beign dragged from his cell three times a day, strapped to a bed and had liquid food given to him through a nasal tube. The force-feeding was widely condemned and stopped.

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