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Mothers Suspend Hunger Strike at Berks Detention Center, Citing Intimidation

HeadlineAug 24, 2016

In Pennsylvania, immigrant mothers have suspended their hunger strike at the Berks County Residential Center, citing intimidation by ICE officials. The women launched the hunger strike on August 8 to protest Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson’s claims that the average time in family detention is only 20 days. By the end of this month, at least three families will have spent a full year in custody at the Berks facility. On Tuesday, the women suspended the strike, saying ICE officials threatened them by saying that if their health weakens, their children could be taken away. On Monday, Democracy Now! spoke with one of the hunger strikers inside Berks.

Berks hunger striker: “The head of ICE for this center, Mr. Thomas Decker, came. He came only to threaten us, to tell us that if we were a danger for this facility, for the other women who are not on strike, then he was going to be obligated to take action, such that they would send us to Texas, simply that they would send us to an adult prison, and that if we continue this way, if we continue refusing to eat, then, simply, there would arrive a point at which we would debilitate, and then he was going to be obligated to call the government so they would take away our children. I think this is a threat quite direct and quite strong. I think that it’s not fair, because we are only asserting our rights.”

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