Force-feeding in detention centres: US Democratic lawmakers seek probe

Washington:  Three Indian-origin Democratic lawmakers have joined hands with over 40 others to demand an investigation into reports of force-feeding of immigrant detainees, including Indians, on a hunger strike by the US authorities at detention centres.

At least 13 immigrant detainees, including Indians, were force-fed through nasal tubes, against their will, by the the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials after they went on a hunger strike to protest conditions at a processing centre in Texas early this month.

Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici and Veronica Escobar led 47 of their colleagues in calling on the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General to probe the on-site conditions of ICE detention facilities following recent reports of detainees being punished for protesting their treatment and force-fed while engaging in a hunger strike, a statement by the lawmakers said on Tuesday.

The lawmakers, in a letter to John V Kelly, Acting Director, Office of Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security, also demanded an explanation of the legal process and policy considerations pertaining to the involuntary tube-feeding of ICE detainees.

The letter was signed by 49 Democratic lawmakers, including Indian-origin Tulsi Gabbard, Ron Khanna and Pramila Jayapal.

"We implore you to exercise your oversight responsibilities to make improving conditions at immigration detention facilities a top priority for ICE and ensure the humane treatment of detainees in federal custody," Oregon Democratic Representative Bonamici and Texas Democratic Rep Veronica Escobar said in the letter.

"According to detainees and advocates, the purpose of the hunger strikes in El Paso and elsewhere is to call attention to mistreatment and abuse in immigration detention," the lawmakers said.

"Yet, rather than addressing those complaints, ICE is force-feeding detainees and reportedly taking other punitive measures, including solitary confinement.

"Some detainees allege that detention officers ridicule them and threaten them with deportation, despite their future immigration status being dependent on due process. If accurate, these complaints reveal unequivocal abuses of power that violate the rights of detainees," they said.

The Geneva-based United National human rights office had also said that the US could be violating the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

"These complaints reveal unequivocal abuses of power that violate the rights of detainees," the lawmakers said.

Detained immigrants have sporadically staged hunger strikes around the country for years, protesting conditions they face while seeking asylum.

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