Detained Undocumented Mothers Launch Hunger Strike, Vow to Leave ‘Alive or Dead’
We’re complying with Judge [Dolly] Gee’s original order … what we’ve been doing is ensuring the average length of stay at these facilities is 20 days or less. And we’re meeting that standard.In an open letter to Johnson, the imprisoned women say they have been held “from 270 days to 365 days” and that they “have decided to go on an indefinite hunger strike until we obtain our immediate freedom.” Almiron’s retort about Johnson: “To him, these women don’t exist.” Conditions inside Berks are appalling. There is no janitorial staff to keep what is supposed to be a family-friendly facility clean. The imprisoned women are expected to clean their own prison for $1 a day. Reports surfaced of one 5-year-old being diagnosed with a dangerous bacterial disease called shigellosis that went untreated for weeks. Earlier this year, two mothers submitted a petition to the state calling for the site’s closure, citing “gross negligence and misconduct.” Recently a prison guard at Berks was convicted of raping a 19-year-old Honduran woman in view of a 7-year-old girl. The guard will probably serve less prison time than his victim’s term at Berks. Children being held at Berks are suffering from depression. In their open letter, the mothers say, “On many occasions our children have thought about suicide because of the confinement and desperation that is caused by being here.” Additionally, “the teenagers say being here, life makes no sense, that they would like to break the window to jump out and end this nightmare.” Almiron, who has met some of the children, said, “they are clearly bringing trauma, and if anything we should be supplying them with massive support.” She added, “but we’re re-traumatizing these children.” Most of the families in detention have fled horrific violence and insecurity in their home countries in Central America. Instead of being treated like refugees, they have found themselves caught in the dragnet of an administration that paints itself as a liberal alternative to harsh anti-immigrant conservatives. “What’s happening here is so inhumane and in violation of their human rights,” Almiron said, “I think the U.N. should be involved at this point.” WAIT, BEFORE YOU GO…
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