Immigrant advocates protest outside the Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas

Immigrant women in family detention center begin hunger strike & demand their release

As the pressure mounts on the Obama administration to close family immigrant detention centers once and for all, dozens of women at a detention center in Texas are begining a hunger strike and calling on the federal government to release them. 

ThinkProgress reports:

Detained women seeking asylum or other forms of humanitarian relief began an indefinite hunger strike at an immigration detention center in Texas on Wednesday night, sending hand-written letters to the federal government calling for their release.

At least 27 immigrant women refused dinner on Wednesday at the T. Don Hutto detention center, which is run by the private prison company Corrections Corporation of America. The majority of the women came to the U.S. after fleeing violence and poverty in Central America, and many have already passed their “credible fear” or “reasonable fear” interviews — a preliminary step in the asylum application process.

The Hutto detention center originally opened in 2006 as a family detention center, but families are no longer sent there thanks to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)’s landmark settlement seeking to improve the conditions for children and their mothers. The detention center remains an all-women facility, however.

Thanks to the work of advocates, as well as the hunger strikes by women at the Karnes detention center this past spring, the unjust conditions faced by mothers and children in our family detention system have been brought into the national spotlight. This summer, a federal judge ruled that holding children in these centers is illegal and the administration said it would begin releasing them.

And yet, a week after the deadline the judge gave for closing the centers, families are still not free. Enough. As an organizer working with the advocacy group Texans United For Families told ThinkProgress, “Eighteen different women have written us letters explaining their reason and intent to strike and they’ve been very clear that they have one demand only and that’s release.”

Header image credit: Christina Parker/ThinkProgress

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,, 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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