About 20 people gathered in front of an immigrant detention center in Aurora to protest conditions there that they say have led several inmates to launch a hunger strike.
Jennifer Piper, program director for the American Friends Service Committee, said 17 immigrants who came to the United States seeking refugee status — 13 from Bangladesh, four from Pakistan — went on a hunger strike Nov. 30 to protest their pending deportation as well as what they say are harsh conditions in immigration lock-up.
“We hope that our presence here today, that our phone calls, our support and our solidarity will protect the rights of people who are detained in this facility right now,” Piper said during Tuesday’s rally.
All of the Aurora inmates who went on strike have been held at the facility near East 30th Avenue and Peoria Street for at least a year, she said.
As of Tuesday, Piper said she believed there were between four and 10 inmates at the facility, which is operated by the privately held GEO Group, who were still striking.
But a an official for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, speaking on background about the case, said federal authorities believe there was just one inmate at GEO in Aurora who was refusing food as of Tuesday.
Piper said contact with the inmates has been difficult. The Friends Committee has spoken to just one of them, and the others are in solitary confinement in different sections of the facility so they have minimal contact with each other, she said.
A spokesman for GEO referred all questions about the case to ICE.
Carl Rusnok, a spokesman for ICE at the agency’s regional office in Dallas, said in a statement that the agency takes the issue seriously.
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) takes very seriously the health, safety and welfare of those in our care, and we continue to monitor the situation at the Aurora Contract Detention Facility. ICE also uses outside, private medical/mental health care service providers as needed. Individuals at ICE facilities have access to meals served three times daily at the cafeteria, snacks provided by the facility, and/or food purchased from the commissary,” the statement said.
Piper said the Aurora strikers are part of a larger group that launched hunger strikes at other immigration facilities around the country.