A county jail is holding ICE detainees in bad conditionsPhoto: Maritza Zuluaga / AL DIA
A county jail is holding ICE detainees in bad conditions. Photo: Maritza Zuluaga / AL DIA

ICE Detainees hunger strike at center in Bergen County, New Jersey

The protest is to shed light on the unlivable conditions at the county jail, where the detainees are being housed.


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A constant narrative throughout the presidency of Donald Trump details ICE raids on immigrant communities across the country and poor living conditions of those detained in centers along the U.S.-Mexico border and elsewhere. The allegations have been nothing short of horrifying, but, at the end of 2020, more is coming to light about what people are subjected to at ICE detention centers. 

At the Bergen County Jail, in Hackensack, New Jersey nine of the 200 ICE detainees have taken to a hunger strike, with Dec. 1 marking their 19th day. 

The detainees are undertaking the protest to shed light on the poor health and safety standards in the jail, and Covid-19 has only exacerbated the problems.

In response, a group of demonstrators are now standing outside of the jail everyday in support of the detainees on the hunger strike. 

Gabriela Puche, one of the members for the New York/New Jersey Coalition for the Abolition of ICE spoke to AL DIA about the demonstrations, and the experience of being outside the jail everyday to support those inside.

Puche shared the first detainee to go on a hunger strike was over two months ago, and was released almost three weeks ago. She added that the conditions the people are facing are abysmal. 

“They’ve been denied water, they’re drinking out of the toilets. They have no heat, there’s a rat infestation, there’s mold. They’re dealing with the health repercussions of COVID,” she said.  

Puche also said some of the detainees have been hospitalized over the course of the last few weeks, but have been immediately brought back once they recovered. 

Bergen County received a multi-million dollar contract to hold undocumented immigrants while they waited for their court hearings. 

In order for a detainee under ICE custody to be considered in a hunger strike status, that person must refuse nine consecutive meals given by the detention center. This includes buying food from the commissary, according to the official ICE website.

As Americans, COVID-19 or not, prepare for another holiday season alongside their families, ICE detainees like those in Bergen County do not have the same fortune. They are starving themselves to get out of horrible conditions all because they don’t have paperwork that gives them a ‘status.’


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