In response to Donald Trump’s vitriolic anti-immigrant spew, many politicians have condemned his rhetoric as “un-American,” arguing that his bigotry flouts a supposed national tradition of welcoming refugees. Trump’s bombast, however, merely amplifies an existing constitutional crisis in the immigration system, where detained migrants are already experiencing a version of Trump’s America.
Across the country, asylum seekers have been locked up indefinitely in legal purgatory, denied a fair legal review, and isolated from their communities. They’re now rising up in a tide of civil disobedience that has rippled across seven detention facilities nationwide. According to the main coordinating groups, Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) and #NotOneMore Deportation, the campaign, launched on the eve of Thanksgiving Day and dubbed #Freedomgiving, has galvanized detainees from Latin America, South Asia, and West Africa, some of whom have spent months in custody. Starting from an initial 110 strikers, the action expanded to 150 detainees within days. As of Thursday, DRUM reports, “39 are continuing the strike at Krome (Florida), South Texas, and Aurora [Colorado] facilities at last count.” Many have reportedly resumed eating under pressure from authorities; others have gotten assurances that their pending release on parole would be honored. DRUM claims Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has subjected detainees to inhumane treatment and retaliation, including restricting access to communications, failing to provide adequate medical care, forced feeding, and placing several detainees temporarily in solitary confinement.
Shohel Khalashi, a detainee at the Otay Mesa facility in California, who claimed his parole had been unjustly revoked, suffered stomach pains after three days of refusing food and was sent to a medical facility to undergo heart surgery. Later, in an anxious call to DRUM, he said in Bangla, “They have locked me in separate room. I still did not eat yet. Maybe I will die. I have no words to explain my condition. ICE came today and I told them to release me or I will die here.”