Karnes protest sign

Migrant mothers & kids held in solitary confinement as retaliation for hunger strike

The hunger strike by 78 mothers detained at the Karnes immigration detention center that we covered last week ended on Saturday — but not before detention officials locked up a few families, including young children, in solitary confinement. Think Progress reports:

Detention officers allegedly locked migrant mothers and children in a dark room, took away internet access, and threatened to take their children away from them after some went on a hunger strike to protest conditions at a Texas immigration detention center, according to lawyers and advocates. In a five-day strike that ended Saturday, about 78 women went on a hunger and work strike or acted in solidarity to demand better food and medical care, as well as their release from the Karnes Detention Center.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers took away internet access and email privileges, threatened mothers with deportation, or told them that they could lose custody of their children, three individuals advocating on behalf of two separate detainees told ThinkProgress. Three mothers, and their children between the ages of two and 11, were also placed in the “medical infirmary” on the first day of the hunger strike, advocates said. Mohammad Abdollahi, the advocacy director at the immigration rights group Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), explained that the infirmary reportedly acted as a solitary confinement cell for the three families.

Meanwhile, ICE, in a denial that kind of boggles the mind considering that multiple independent reports coming out about what’s happening in the facility, has claimed that the hunger strike didn’t happened, that they never detained in isolation as punishment, and that they “fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference.” Despite the fact that ICE would like to pretend there’s nothing to see here, civil rights officials from the Department of Homeland Security are going to meet with the women about their allegations.

Hopefully the actions of these women will wake the public up to the disgraceful abuses happening in our immigration detention centers. It’s past time to end them.

Header image credit: Fox News

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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