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BROWNSVILLE, TX - JUNE 12: 88 adult males are held in a cell with a maximum capacity of 41, some signaling prolonged detention at U.S. Border Patrol Fort Brown Station on June 12, 2019 in Brownsville, Texas. (Photo by Office of Inspector General/Department of Homeland Security via Getty Images)
BROWNSVILLE, TX - JUNE 12: 88 adult males are held in a cell with a maximum capacity of 41, some signaling prolonged detention at U.S. Border Patrol Fort Brown Station on June 12, 2019 in Brownsville, Texas. (Photo by Office of Inspector General…

The terrible conditions in detention centers drive immigrants to the brink of suicide

Two asylum seekers from Cuba tried to take their own lives as a last resort due to the serious conditions and violations to which they are subjected inside…

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The Otero County Processing Center (OCPC) has been the scene of despair for dozens of asylum seekers who have resorted to drastic measures to deal with the conditions in which they are detained.

According to a statement by the Freedom for Immigrants organization, this week two Cuban asylum seekers "slit their wrists and at least 19 others are planning on doing so in an act of mass resistance."

Apparently, “the conditions and rights violations at OCPC have become so untenable that many view this drastic step as their only option to bring about change,” the text continues.

Desperation is the product of the Trump government’s new measures to prevent access to due process for asylum applications and the indefinite confinement of hundreds of immigrants in processing centers.

Immigrant rights advocacy groups such as Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention (AVID) have denounced for more than a year “the real tragedy” that exists within these centers.

Unjustified retaliation strategies such as isolation and lack of drinking water are among the many violations of human rights registered and reported by this type of organization.

“Congress should inquire into why prolonged detention and arbitrary parole denials continue, despite federal rulings mandating that ICE release asylum seekers on humanitarian grounds and grant individualized parole hearings,” said Sarah Gardiner, Director of Policy at Freedom for Immigrants. 

The suicide attempt of these refugees is only the preamble of a developing crisis in centers such as the OCPC, where a mass hunger strike is expected in the next few days.

“Taking one's life in protest is an act of resistance we've seen enacted around the world when human rights are abused with full impunity and people cannot count on the government, the law, or justice in any state,” said Sofia Casini, Southern Regional Coordinator of Freedom for Immigrants. “That is what we're seeing today. It's deplorable — and terrifying — that our system is so broken men feel they must take their own lives in protest to see justice and change.”

Just this week, Buzzfeed reported the death of Roylan Hernández-Díaz, a 43-year-old Cuban asylum seeker who took his own life at the Richwood Correctional Center in Louisiana, an Immigration and Customs detention center, after spending months under custody.

As the media explained, ICE arrested Hernández Díaz at a port of entry in El Paso in May, where he explained his fear of going back to his native island. A month later, officials from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services determined “he had passed a ‘credible fear’ screening.”

However, he was never released.

Figures from the government’s agency show more than 9,000 cases of immigrants who have passed similar evaluations so their cases can go to an immigration court, but the release rate remains virtually non-existent.

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