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Judge's Order to Force-Feed Ten Hunger-Strikers at Krome Sparks Immigration Protest

For the past month, ten men from Bangladesh have been on hunger strike inside the Krome Service Processing Center over what they say is inhumane treatment of detainees inside the massive Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility. Last week, a federal judge ordered the strike stopped by force-feeding the detainees. 

That decision sparked a march yesterday by activists who say the order is a "Guantánamo-style" move. 

“[ICE] is treating these people like they’ve been charged with something like terrorism, and they’re forcing them to do something with their bodies that’s against their will,” activist Elizabeth Taveras says. “We’re demanding the end to the criminalization of people’s bodies. We’re demanding the release of the detainees.” 

The detainees, who came to America seeking political asylum, aren't the first to raise concerns about the treatment of detainees inside Krome. A New Times investigation last year revealed widespread allegations of similar abuse. After a year of living through Krome’s notoriously abusive conditions, the men's hunger strike began on the eve of Thanksgiving as a part of “Freedom Giving,” a national movement to bring awareness to the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers living in indefinite detention.

The Bangladeshi men were on day 21 of their hunger strike last Monday when U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga ordered Krome doctors to begin force-feeding them through nasal-gastric tubes. 

“We came here to escape violence and danger in our country. But it seems like this place is like Guantánamo. ICE would rather force-feed hunger-strikers than listen to our basic demands for freedom,” Mahmudul Hasan, one of the "Krome 10," says.

Those demands were amplified yesterday afternoon when various South Florida activist groups, including the Florida Immigrant Coalition and Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees, marched in solidarity with the Krome 10.

For many of the protesters, the issue goes beyond the Krome Service Processing Center's Everglades-lined road. As the activists chanted, Clara Cerrato, volunteer at Friends of Broward Detainees, stepped aside to answer a rare phone call from her husband, Carlos Cerrato, a detainee at Broward Detention Center.

"When I was living in Honduras, we were witnesses to a murder by MS13. They went after our family, so Carlos left the country," Clara Cerrato says. "And today I just found out there was an attempt on my father-in-law's life as well."

Carlos Cerrato has been waiting for a trial or deportation since November 15 even though his "credible fear hearing" was supposed to have taken place within ten days of detainment. 

"ICE isn't answering any of Carlos' questions. When he talked to his deportation officer, he told him he didn’t know anything, maybe two more months," Clara says. "I expect things like this to happen in Central America, Mexico, but not here."
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Alexandra Martinez is an arts and culture writer based in Miami. She graduated from Columbia University in 2014 with a bachelor's in film studies. Find her at alexandra-martinez.net.