This is alarming. Hassall Moses, who came here as a child from Micronesia and served in the Army at Fort Lewis from 2006-2008, says he's been placed in solitary confinement at Tacoma's Northwest Detention Center because he typed up a letter calling for a work stoppage at the facility. That's according to immigrants rights activists and lawyers who've been coordinating with detainees engaged in a hunger strike—now into its third week—against conditions at the privately-run facility.
In a recorded interview with a lawyer who's been supporting the strikers (she's asked to remain anonymous so that she can continue to access detainees inside), Moses says:
I believe that the first hunger strike…opened up a lot of people’s eyes outside what’s going inside here. Right now pods F2 and F3 and F4 are on hunger strike... I believe that’s good but at the same time, we’re hurting ourselves. I believe a no-work strike can be a good example. Basically, this facility is run by the detainees. If we everybody stopped working, we could negotiate the pay raise because right now everyone’s working for a dollar. We could talk about the quality of the food, the living conditions, and put into practice having detainees who come in with petty offenses be eligible to be released on their own personal recognizance or conditional parole or humanitarian parole to be with their families and to be working so they can afford their own attorneys. Because right now if you don’t have your own attorney...like myself, I’m doing this by myself. I’m doing this for my kids.
Moses explains that he's being charged by prison authorities with "misusing machinery." The lawyer with whom he spoke tells me that Moses emigrated to the US as a child from the Federated States of Micronesia, which has an unusual immigration agreement with the United States. He was not given a green card despite his Army service, but he didn't think of himself an illegal immigrant. His mother, daughter, and stepfather are all US citizens. Moses served time in 2012 in Pierce County Jail for a misdemeanor charge but was arrested six months later by immigration agents who showed up at his home one day. For twenty-one months since then, he's been at the Northwest Detention Center, the lawyer says.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has previously denied retaliating against hunger strikers (the agency says it advised, rather than threatened, detainees with the prospect of force-feeding). An ICE spokesman has not responded to requests for comment today.
Rep. Adam Smith and President Obama, the reforms you have promised cannot come fast enough.