Liberty Link: What Sparked the NW Detention Center Hunger Strike?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The ongoing hunger strike at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma has been a remarkable protest, with 750 detainees refusing to eat on its first day and immigrant rights activists rallying community support outside the facility. Veteran reporter Nina Shapiro provides an excellent overview of the issues that sparked it in the Seattle Weekly.

“The Origins and Aims of the Northwest Detention Center Hunger Strike” starts by profiling one of the immigrants who began the strike three weeks ago. Then it details the conditions that gave rise to the protest, among them inadequate food and $1.00-a-day wages for work done by the detainees. Jorge Baron, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, points out a critical fact that’s often been overlooked: Immigration violations are a civil, not a criminal, matter. So, people are being detained not to punish them for criminal misdeeds but to ensure that they make court dates for deportation proceedings.

And underlying the strike is frustration over the high level of family-shattering deportations under the Obama administration and continuing frustration with Congress’ failure to pass a bill for comprehensive reform of federal immigration policies. As activist leader Maru Mora-Villalpando of the group Latino Advocacy, puts it, “We realized Congress was playing with us. … “If he (Obama) is not going to stop the deportations, we have to stop them.”

ACLU-WA attorneys have been meeting regularly with hunger strikers, and the ACLU is prepared to oppose in court any effort by detention center authorities to force-feed them. If you want to know more, check out the article at