"Going without food for a prolonged period of time could put their life in danger and if that point is reached ICE may be forced to obtain a court order to force feed an individual," ICE says it told the detainees, in a statement e-mailed to me.
Prying this information out of ICE was like pulling teeth. "Immigrants on hunger strike are being pulled out for individual questioning by detention center officials," says Sandy Restrepo, an attorney who met with hunger strike leaders this morning, "and threatened with forced feeding if they continue their protest. Asylum seekers are being threatened with denial of their cases.”
Today, ICE spokesperson Andrew Muñoz has been evasive of my questions about alleged retaliation against the detainees. Were detainees threatened with force-feeding? "Detainees were advised of the health consequences of remaining on a hunger strike," Muñoz responded. He hasn't responded to the charge that some are being threatened with denial of their asylum requests.
Over the weekend, the Associated Press reported that parts of the detention center were placed on lockdown, which supporters of the hunger-strikers said was an example of retaliation and intimidation. I had to ask three times—finally saying, "Can't you strive for transparency and answer the question directly, instead of trying to make me parse background statements? Was the reason for the lockdown the hunger strike?"—before Muñoz admitted there was a connection between the hunger strike and the lockdown with a terse, "Yes." He said the lockdown was a "safety precaution," but did not explain how the hunger strike posed a safety threat.
"We support their demands, which are straightforward: Better food, better treatment, better pay, lower commissary and fairness," Rich Stolz, the director of the immigrants rights group One America, tells me. "We'll also be watching closely out of concern that further retaliatory measures—for example isolation, mistreatment, expedited deportation—could be taken against the hunger strikers for making these demands.”