In response to the news that a hunger strike by hundreds of detained immigrants is happening right now at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma, Washington, we received the following letter to the editor from Helen Mountjoy-Venning, who lives in Washington state. Here is her letter:
Four hundred people have joined the hunger strike in the NWDC in Tacoma that started Monday. What are they demanding? Edible food, access to medical care, expedited immigration hearings, and pay of more than $1 per day of labor. These demands are not only utterly reasonable, it is horrifying that they are not already standard practice and that people detained in the NWDC have to take such extreme measures to demand basic rights and necessities.
This is not the first time the NWDC has drawn attention for it’s questionable practices. Last fall, we heard about the detention of a man who was adopted from Korea as a toddler and lived in the US his entire life, simply because his adoptive parents didn’t fill out the proper forms. He was torn away from his wife and kids and locked up in the NWDC to be deported to a country he knew nothing about.
It seems clear that our current system of detaining undocumented people is a gross violation of human rights. And yet the Trump administration is asking for billions of additional tax dollars to implement mass detentions and deportations of undocumented people. What about America being “the land of the free,” “the land of opportunity?” Are these values we care about at all as a nation or are they just intended as cute catch phrases? Sen. Patty Murray, Sen. Maria Cantwell, and Rep. Dave Reichert should reject this unreasonable request. But this is a bear minimum. These injustices have been going on for much longer than the current administration, and simply preventing them from getting worse doesn’t make them better. There should be an immediate investigation into the shady practices of the NWDC, and for long term solutions to this crises we must work towards comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for undocumented Americans.