Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are force-feeding at least six detained migrants on a hunger strike to protest mistreatment, an ICE spokesperson confirmed to VICE News Thursday.
The federal officials at an El Paso, Texas, jail are using nasal tubes to force-feed the protesters, according to the Associated Press, which broke the story. ICE told VICE News officials are force-feeding them under court order.
About 30 inmates from Cuba and India have been refusing food to protest verbal abuse from guards, threats of deportation, and lengthy detainments with no sign of due process, they told the AP. Eleven have been starving themselves for about a month, according to ICE, and some are reportedly so weak they cannot stand up.
"The ICE Health Services Corps (IHSC) is medically monitoring the detainees’ health and regularly updating ICE of their medical status. Efforts are being taken to protect the detainees’ health and privacy," an ICE spokesperson told VICE News. The hunger strikes are not isolated to Texas, either: At least four more detainees, in Miami, Phoenix, San Diego, and San Francisco, are refusing food, according to ICE.
A relative of two men being held by ICE in El Paso said that his two nephews are experiencing frequent nosebleeds and vomiting throughout the day.
“They are not well. Their bodies are really weak, they can’t talk and they have been hospitalized, back and forth,” Amrit Singh told the AP. “They want to know why they are still in the jail and want to get their rights and wake up the government immigration system.”
Human rights groups have repeatedly condemned ICE’s conduct and methods of enforcement. Under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, ICE and other border enforcement officials have separated children from their parents if they cross the border illegally. For years, ICE also ran a fake university to catch undocumented foreign students who wanted to stay in the country.
Editor's note Jan. 31,12:32 p.m. ET: This post has been updated to reflect that ICE corrected its statement regarding the number of migrants being force-fed.
Cover image: In this Nov. 16, 2018, photo, the shoelaces of an immigrant who entered the United States illegally is removed before boarding a deportation flight to El Salvador by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)