Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned US Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Friday for force-feeding detained migrants.
According to a report released on Thursday by the Associated Press, detained men in the El Paso Processing Center have been participating in a hunger strike since early January. ICE officials said that 11 men are striking, but AP reports the number may be closer to 30. In order for ICE to consider detainees to be a hunger strikers, they must miss nine consecutive meals. In mid-January a federal judge authorized ICE to force-feed six of the protesters. An ICE official told AP that it is “exceedingly rare” for a judge to authorize force-feeding. The detained men have been protesting the alleged “rampant verbal abuse and threats of deportation from guards” and long detentions while awaiting a hearing. Most of the hunger strikers are from India or Cuba.
According to HRW, “Force-feeding – which involves pushing a feeding tube down a patient’s nose – can be very painful and is inherently cruel, inhuman, and degrading.” The organization continued, “Medical ethics and human rights norms generally prohibit the force feeding of detainees who are competent and capable of rational judgment as to the consequences of refusing food.” HRW urged ICE to immediately stop force-feeding protesters. The organization also called on Congress to cut funding for immigration enforcement “until [the system] undergoes deep, systemic reforms.”