Target: United States President Barack Obama
Goal: Show support for hundreds of detained immigrants on hunger strike to demand humane conditions and an end to unjust deportations
“Immigration reform” means a lot of different things to different people. For a group of at least 850 hunger striking immigrants detained in Washington and Texas, reform includes an end to deportations and an end to the abusive conditions they have endured while in state custody. In addition to refusing food the detainees have engaged in a work stoppage as peaceful protest to bring attention to their plight.
Some fault private prison corporations like GEO Group, which runs the facilities in Tacoma, Washington and Conroe, Texas where hunger strikes began and which lobbied for a bill which essentially guarantees full beds at their facilities. According to Common Dreams, three men suspected of leading the strike in Conroe have been placed in solitary confinement without blankets or toilet paper and unable to communicate with their families. Participants in the Tacoma strike have been threatened with force feeding, and detainees at both facilities have faced ongoing harassment from guards.
A hand-written letter from Tacoma hunger strikers calls on President Obama to “order a total stop to the unjust deportations that are separating families, destroying homes, and bringing uncertainty, insecurity and unhappy futures to our children, our loved ones.” Demand that the President keep his campaign promise and institute comprehensive immigration reforms including those called for by the striking detainees.
Dear President Obama,
Americans of all nationalities, political parties and faiths have called on you to enact comprehensive immigration reform. Many saw your campaign promises as offering hope that the prejudice and injustice suffered by immigrant families might finally come to an end. What we have seen instead, however, is roughly two million deportations under your watch—more than any other administration.
At the heart of this we have the private, for-profit prison industry which now operates half of all immigration detention beds according to Cristina Parker of Grassroots Leadership. Corporations like GEO Group lobby for bed guarantees, raking in millions in tax dollars while imprisoning people in conditions that have inspired numerous hunger strikes. In Conroe, Texas and Tacoma, Washington more than 850 immigrants have called for a work stoppage and have refused food to protest conditions, and to call for an end to rising deportations.
I write to you in support of these immigrants and their families, often separated for months while cases await review. These detentions carry a high human cost as well as a financial one, and they do nothing to solve the “immigration issue.” I must insist that you address the demands of these striking detainees and use your presidential authority to end once and for all the deportation and incarceration of immigrants when their only crime is a lack of documentation.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Gerald L. Nino via U.S. Customs and Border Protection