Judge OKs force-feeding of Alabama detainee on hunger strike

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A federal judge has authorized officials to force-feed a detainee on a hunger strike to protest conditions and lengthy detentions at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Alabama.

Chief U.S District Judge Karon O. Bowdre last week authorized the force-feeding, if needed, for a detainee who is reported in deteriorating health because of dehydration, according to court records.

ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said a judge also authorized the feeding of another strike participant, but he said no detainees have been forcibly fed. He said the two detainees volunteered to take fluids and glucose.

More than 100 detainees at several ICE facilities nationwide began the strike on Nov. 25. A total of 39 people in ICE custody are continuing to participate.

About 15 detainees remain on hunger strike at Etowah. More than 40 began the hunger strike.

The New York-based Desis Rising Up and Moving organization said all of the strikers are people who came to the United States seeking asylum but have been held in detention for up to 23 months. They are demanding improved conditions and an end to indefinite detention.

"Its outrageous ICE would rather spend money and get court orders to force feed asylum seekers rather than release them to their communities," Fahd Ahmed, executive director of DRUM said.

Ahmed said the strike participants have faced retaliation, including sleep deprivation, with officers and staff waking them systematically to ask if they are hungry.

ICE issued a statement saying that the agency does not retaliate in any way against strike participants. The agency said that it does monitor the food and water intake of hunger strikers for the sake of their health.