Eloy Detention Center Hunger Strike: Tucson Teen Demands to Speak to Her Father

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Hunger strike supporters gathered outside the Eloy Detention Center this weekend. - COURTESY OF PUENTE VISION/PUENTE MOVEMENT
  • Courtesy of Puente Vision/Puente Movement
  • Hunger strike supporters gathered outside the Eloy Detention Center this weekend.

Tucson teen Ana Cobos Lugo says she called the Eloy Detention Center Monday to check up on her dad Felipe—who's been recovering from a serious surgery for the past few months—and was hung up on.

She and her family were unable to visit him over the weekend because, since Saturday morning, about 200 detainees announced they started a hunger strike to protest the facility's inhumane and abusive conditions. In retaliation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials prohibited any visits and communication to the outside world. When Ana called in, she asked whether the same rules would apply for this weekend, or if her father would get to call home soon. She didn't get an answer.

"We haven't heard from him since Friday," the 17-year-old says. Her younger siblings and mom drove up to Eloy Sunday for a rally in support of the hunger strike. "I will keep calling until I speak with my father."

COURTESY OF PUENTE VISION/PUENTE MOVEMENT
  • Courtesy of Puente Vision/Puente Movement
Since December, Ana and her family have pleaded ICE to release Felipe from detention because of his health. He suffers from a progressive skin infection, and underwent surgery in March. He was still semi-unconscious from the anesthesia when he was transported back to the detention center, and Ana says he rarely gets his pain medication. Prior to the surgery, he didn't get much medical attention, causing his wound to get badly infected. (Felipe's been in the country for close to two decades. He and his wife moved here with Ana when she was only a few months old. Ana's three younger siblings are U.S. citizens.)

Felipe's experience doesn't stand alone.

Inadequate medical and mental health care are at the forefront of the hunger strike, which was triggered by the mysterious death at Eloy of José de Jesús Deniz-Sahagún, a detainee from Mexico. ICE issued a statement that day saying Deniz-Sahagún was found dead in his cell, allegedly with no apparent injuries. However, according to a write up by the Huffington Post, some detainees allege guards beat him and locked him up in solitary confinement before his death. There are also claims that a second detainee died, but ICE hasn't confirmed. 

On Saturday, the Phoenix-based immigration advocacy group Puente Movement said the detainees sat down in the recreation yard and declared the strike. ICE officials did not let them back into the facility for at least six hours, in 100-plus-degree weather and without water. 

According to Puente, among the detainees' demands are:
1. Independent investigation into the two recent deaths in Eloy, both of which happened under mysterious circumstances after guard abuse, as well as an investigation into the ongoing problem of excessive use of force and deaths inside Eloy
2. Improved conditions, including adequate medical and mental health care
3. Access to legal resources and court hearings when requested
4. An end to the exploitation of detainees' work
5. No more criminalization, detention, and deportations
Advocates also ask that Acting Phoenix ICE Field Director Albert Carter" meet with the hunger strikers immediately, end all retaliatory actions, and immediately reinstate family visits and phone calls." 

“While ICE’s official policy is to not acknowledge a hunger strike in its facilities until detainees have refused food for three days or more, people inside are risking their lives to fight against ongoing abuses and violence and call for end to all detention," said a statement by Francisca Porchas of the Puente Movement. "Albert Carter needs to meet with strikers immediately and begin negotiations in good faith. He must hold CCA accountable for the demands of the strikers and for ongoing retaliation against them and their families for wanting to be treated like human beings.”

Those involved are calling on Vanita Gupta, the U.S. assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, to visit the detention center and immediately launch an investigation into the recent deaths and the ongoing abuse. 

The Arizona Republic reported Sunday that ICE ensures no detainee has refused to eat. 

A petition in support of the hunger strikers is going around here. 

Hunger strikers were left outside for six hours without water or medical attention. - COURTESY OF PUENTE VISION/PUENTE MOVEMENT
  • Courtesy of Puente Vision/Puente Movement
  • Hunger strikers were left outside for six hours without water or medical attention.

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