On October 14, 2015, fifty-four South Asian detainees stopped eating as a statement against their detentions after having applied for asylum in the United States. The hunger strike set into motion other hunger strikes across the country including in Aurora where thirteen people joined on November 30th.
Friday was International Migrants Day. On Friday the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) held a press conference to honor all migrants and to demand the US fulfill obligations to recognize and uphold human rights for all. First we hear from Gabriela Flora, and then Jennifer Piper, both with the AFSC in Denver. We also hear the voice of one detainee from inside detention. According to the AFSC, he crossed fifteen countries to reach the US. He was not named for his protection. If he is deported and returned to his country, he fears he will be killed for exposing his individual human rights case. We have voiced over his testimony because of the poor quality of the phone line:
The AFSC has just released a position paper on the detention of migrants in the US titled The Role of For-Profit Prison Corporations in Shaping U.S. Immigrant Detention & Deportation Policies. The paper discusses the connection between immigration policy and mass incarceration and the investments that these corporations make to influence legislation through campaign contributions and lobbying. The Congressionally-mandated bed quota imposed on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is especially challenged in the paper but also by other organizations who oversee the deprivation of human rights in this country. Ninety-percent of ICE detention centers are for-profit facilities according to the organization Grassroots Leadership and Detention Watch Network who puts the cost to taxpayers at $2 billion a year.
The paper names current legislators who have received campaign contributions from the for-profit prison corporations GEO and the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Senator John McCain of Arizona, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, and topping the list for the amount of money accepted is Senator Lamar Alexander also of Tennessee who accepted $71,450 from the CCA according to a September 2015 report from Influence Explorer.
AFSC presented the cases of seventeen asylum seekers from Southeast Asia who all have been held in detention for over a year, and some more than two years. Today, Human Rights Day, the group introduced to reporters the campaigns #EndtheQuota and #starvingforfreedom to call attention to policymakers the need to uphold human rights, and to take a closer look at the human rights violations that are documented to take place in US immigration prisons.