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Miami-Area ICE Detainee on Hunger Strike

Miami-Area ICE Detainee on Hunger Strike
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
At least one Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainee in the "Miami field area" — which includes Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands — is on a hunger strike to protest detainment, ICE officials have confirmed to New Times. The exact location is unclear. The ICE spokespeople declined to say where the person is located or how he or she wound up in custody.

The agency disclosed the news this week to the Associated Press. In all, the AP confirmed 15 ICE detainees are on hunger strikes nationwide, including 11 at a facility in El Paso, Texas. ICE said nine of the 11 detainees missed nine consecutive meals, which triggers "hunger-strike protocols." The AP reported that, as of January 30, ICE was force-feeding six of the detainees via feeding tubes. Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, who represents El Paso, visited the facility yesterday and called the force-feeding "deeply alarming" and "unacceptable."

That technique, of course, became infamous earlier this decade after reporters confirmed the U.S. government was force-feeding Guantánamo Bay prisoners. The inmates had gone on hunger strike to protest their indefinite — and all but certainly illegal — imprisonment inside the U.S. naval base in Cuba.

After that news broke, rapper Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) agreed to be force-fed on-camera in the same fashion. Fake prison guards shacked him to a chair and strapped down his head. They then shoved a plastic tube through his right nostril, down his throat, and into his stomach. Bey began gagging and sputtering. He then broke down in tears:

New Times asked whether the agency plans to initiate force-feeding procedures of the detainee in the Miami area, but ICE spokespeople declined to comment.

ICE Miami spokesperson Nestor Yglesias replied to a New Times email saying he is in Atlanta monitoring the Super Bowl because the game is slated to be held in Miami in 2020. ICE regularly conducts human-trafficking raids at football's biggest game and makes a habit of busting people who sell counterfeit merchandise — critics call this a "propaganda blitz" to make the deportation agency look good.

ICE's spokesperson in El Paso, Leticia Zamarripa, provided the following info to New Times: "Besides the 11 in El Paso, there are four other detainees on a hunger strike at ICE detention centers nationwide: one each in the Miami, Phoenix, San Diego, and San Francisco areas of responsibility (AORs)."

This is not the first time ICE detainees in the Miami area have gone on hunger strike. In 2012, a detainee at the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach, a compound for low-level detainees that's privately run by the politically powerful Boca Raton firm GEO Group, refused to eat as a form of protest. In response, federal lawmakers demanded the U.S. government investigate conditions at the facility.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.