TACOMA, Wash. -- Immigration detainees at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma have the right to starve themselves, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
That’s why the civil rights advocacy group is stepping in to represent at least three detainees at the federal detention facility who have been on a hunger strike since last Friday.
“We’re really happy that now the people on the inside will have some relief knowing that they are protected from force feeding,” said Maru Mora Villalpando of Latino Advocacy.
The ACLU says it will provide legal representation for the hunger strikers in case the government goes to court to get an order to force feed the three men.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement ( ICE) would not talk publicly about the matter, but a source says all of the men ate a small amount of food as of Friday morning.
Villapando denies that, but says the men drank milk or tea.
The source says it would take at least another week of starvation before the men could become lethally ill, which would prompt the feds to get a court order for force feeding.
Several hundred detainees stopped eating last Friday, saying they wanted better food, a hike in the $1 a day wage they are paid, better medical treatment and due process on their immigration cases.
By Monday the number of detainees on hunger strike fell to 130. Now, only the three men have continued all week.
Villalpando identified the leader as 37-year-old Ruben Mendoza Pascual, who has been locked up for six months.
“The fact that the only power they have is their bodies, that tells you that they are risking their health because the conditions inside are terrible,” said Villapando.