TACOMA, Wash. (AP) – Immigrant-rights activists rallied outside the Northwest Detention Center on Saturday, while at least 750 detainees protested their treatment and called for an end to deportations with a hunger strike.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement department said on Saturday morning that 750 detainees had refused to eat and said they were on a hunger strike.
Activist Maru Mora Villalpando said the hunger strike started Friday as a protest of deportations as well as center conditions. She said the hunger strikers, who she believes number more than 1,000, are seeking better food and treatment as well as better pay for center jobs.
"We are concerned for their welfare, and we support their brave stand against inhumane treatment. We are gravely concerned about retaliation, particularly against the hunger-strike leaders," Villalpando said.
The center currently houses nearly 1,300 people being investigated for possible deportation.
ICE spokesman Andrew Munoz said the agency respects the right of detainees.
"ICE fully respects the rights of all people to express their opinion without interference," Munoz said. "While we continue to work with Congress to enact common-sense immigration reform, ICE remains committed to sensible, effective immigration enforcement."
The detainees are under continuous observation by center staff and medical personnel.
ICE detention standards state that a detainee who has not eaten for 72 hours is considered to be on a hunger strike.