Mothers start hunger strike at Texas immigrant detention center, want their children released

Dozens of mothers went on a hunger strike this week at the immigrant detention center in Karnes City, Texas, to demand that they and their children be released.

“We have decided to unite and launch a hunger strike to show our desperation,” they said Friday in a message written in Spanish and signed by 78 women, all of whom are being held at the center.

The Karnes City facility, located some 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the city of San Antonio, Texas, is one of four detention centers in the United States for families, all operated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

The others are located in Dilley, Texas; Artesia, New Mexico, and Leesport, Pennsylvania, which if filled to capacity can hold a total of some 4,000 undocumented immigrants.

Most of the women in detention came from Central America and crossed the border during the last fiscal year, when an enormous wave of undocumented immigrants led the U.S. government to reopen these facilities as a way of discouraging new arrivals.

“You must know that this is just the beginning. We won’t stop until we achieve our goal. This strike will continue until every one of us is freed,” the women, who after crossing the border asked for asylum in the United States because of the violence in their own countries, said in the letter.

They also said in the note that living conditions in the center “are not good” for their children, who “aren’t eating well and are losing weight every day and whose health is deteriorating.”

“During this hunger strike, no mother will work in the detention center, nor will we send our children to the school or use any service of this place,” they said.

Karnes Detention Center, which was opened in August 2014 and is managed by the privately owned GEO Group, has been notorious for several scandals, including several complaints of sexual abuse of female detainees by the guards.

The Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, of which ICE is a division, opened an investigation following the complaints but concluded that no proof could be found to justify them.

For its part, ICE denied finding any evidence of a hunger strike at the Karnes family immigration facility.

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Mothers start hunger strike at Texas immigrant detention center, want their children released
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