More Than 500 Immigrant Detainees Begin Hunger Strike in Washington State

Sarah Berlin

At least 550 immigrant detainees at Washington State's Northwest Detention Center have been refusing to eat since Friday. As they call for better food and working conditions, the hunger strikers are also demanding that President Obama sign an executive order to end deportations. GEO Group, a  private correctonal services company, currently operates the facility and has come under fire for its exploitative practices.    Al Jazeera reports: [Maru Mora Villalpando, founder of Latino Advocacy], accused GEO Group of exploiting detainees at the facility by paying them $1 a day for performing services that include working in the kitchen and janitorial work.   'It's just ironic that the government is detaining people for working without a social security number; meanwhile, they allow this company to exploit their labor,' said Villalpando. The action at Northwest Detention Center is part of a nationwide campaign against deportation that has grown in the wake of Congress' failure to enact immigration reform.  Coordinated actions by immigration advocates and detainees signify a new front in the battle to halt deportations after a bipartisan immigration reform bill stalled in the Republican-controlled House last July.   Activists have shifted their focus from Congress to President Barack Obama, demanding that he issue an executive order to end deportations until the immigration system is overhauled for the around 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.   A national campaign dubbed 'Not One More Deportation,' organized by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, is sponsoring events around the country to halt the deportations.  More hunger strikes and protests are planned for April 5, a national day of action against deportation called "All Out in the Streets."

Sarah Berlin is an intern at In These Times.
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