700 Immigrants On Hunger Strike at For-Profit Prison to Protest Conditions & $1/Day Wages


AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Washington state,
where hundreds of undocumented immigrants are on hunger strike to protest the conditions
and extremely low wages at the for-profit immigrant prison, the Northwest Detention
Center in Tacoma. On Thursday morning, activists say women imprisoned
within the prison joined the strike, which now includes more than 700 immigrants, or
about half the population of the for-profit prison. Hunger strikers are demanding better food,
hygiene, medical care within the prison, which is owned by the major private prison corporation
GEO Group. Organizers say prisoners have also launched
work stoppages to protest the fact they’re paid only a dollar a day to cook, to clean,
to do laundry necessary to keep the prison running. GEO Group is facing a class-action lawsuit
arguing the company violates federal anti-slavery laws at its Aurora, Colorado, prison, where
it also pays only a dollar a day. This is an audio recording of hunger striker
Johnathan Rodriguez Guzman. Listen closely. JOHNATHAN RODRIGUEZ GUZMAN: My name is Johnathan
Rodriguez Guzman. And I’m just letting the people to know
that I’m doing a hunger strike, just not for me, but for everybody out there and the
future. AMY GOODMAN: The strike began on Monday at
noon with more than 100 prisoners refusing to eat lunch. Since then, activists have been supporting
the hunger strikers with an ongoing 24-hour encampment outside the Tacoma jail. The strikes come as Attorney General Jeff
Sessions traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona, this week, where he met
with U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and vowed a major crackdown, calling immigration,
quote, “an attack on our national security.” Immigration advocates say the Trump administration’s
crackdown against immigration and immigrants living within the United States has led to
more immigrants being imprisoned at jails, including at the Northwest Detention Center
in Tacoma. On Thursday, The New York Times reported,
in its scramble to find new places to house immigrants arrested in ICE raids, the Trump
administration is trying to curtail protections for immigrants being held in county jails,
including doing away with a requirement that immigrants have access to translation services. For more, we’re joined by two guests. Maru Mora Villalpando is an activist and undocumented
immigrant with the group Northwest Detention Center Resistance and the group Mijente. And Alexis Erickson is the partner of hunger
striker Cristian Lopez. Cristian was part of the hunger strike in
the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, before he was transferred to a jail in New
Mexico, where he’s continuing the strike. He’s facing deportation to Mexico. We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let us begin right now with Maru Mora Villalpando. Tell us exactly what you understand is happening
in Tacoma. MARU MORA VILLALPANDO: Well, we have now hundreds
of people deciding to stop eating since Monday at noon. We had word from people in detention over
the weekend that they were getting ready to do this hunger strike. We began with a few numbers. I mean, if you think about the maximum capacity
there, 1,575, and we know that it’s over capacity, so when we heard that about a hundred
people, and maybe more than that, were getting ready to strike, we were there, ensuring that
we will support that. And throughout the week, we saw numbers increasing
and increasing, more and more people start joining. Yesterday morning, we heard from the women’s
section saying that they were ready to also join the strike. And we heard from one of the areas that [inaudible]
contact from the beginning, that they were being threatened with being transferred to
a county jail in Oregon, and therefore they decided to stop. But other parts continue joining. And so, now we believe we have about 700 people,
maybe more than that. It’s difficult sometimes to get communications
from the inside. Even in one part, people decided to add a
work stoppage, acknowledging that they are the backbone of the detention center. They also called for a boycott of the commissary
and the telephones, as well. AMY GOODMAN: Alexis Erickson, tell us about
Cristian, Cristian Lopez, your partner, who is on hunger strike and has been transferred
now from the GEO prison to New Mexico. ALEXIS ERICKSON: Well, he was transferred
about three days ago. On his way over there, he was treated wrong. He asked one guard, that was a ICE guard that
was on the bus with him, if he speaks Spanish. They were just very rude to him, because he
was asking for another guy that spoke Spanish only. When they got there, they said that they lost
a lot of people’s property, which was not true. He ended up getting his property a couple
of hours later, but he had to fight just to get his bags. They’ve just all been treated very wrong. And they said that there is a couple people
where he is that are still doing the hunger strike. AMY GOODMAN: Have you seen changes in the
prison? How long has Cristian Lopez been held there? And have you seen changes since the Trump
administration took over? ALEXIS ERICKSON: He was put in Oregon in February. He did his 20 days he had to do. He was still stuck for another month before
he even got switched to Tacoma. When he got switched to Tacoma, he got off
the bus the first time, and they put him right back on. He ended up going back to Oregon again, because
they just said, “Your court date’s revoked.” So he had to come back again. He came back for his court date on April 6th. And he finally got deported two days ago. And he was treated really bad in the Tacoma
facility. AMY GOODMAN: You have how many children together? Are they American citizens? ALEXIS ERICKSON: Three, yes. AMY GOODMAN: How old are they? ALEXIS ERICKSON: I have a 7-year-old. I have a 2-year-old and an 8-month-old. AMY GOODMAN: Maru Mora Villalpando, can you
talk about the fact that this is a for-profit prison and what difference you think this
makes? They’re being sued under slavery—anti-slavery
laws in Aurora, in a jail there. What about in Tacoma? MARU MORA VILLALPANDO: Yeah, we know this
is one of the largest detention centers in the West Coast and the nation. They make a lot of money out of encaging our
families in there—$165, I believe, per day per person. And the jobs that people are getting paid
to do inside for a dollar a day is not everything that they do inside. We have reports that people are asked to paint
the walls or wash the floors in exchange for having a piece of chicken or a piece of candy,
and sometimes not even that. They’re just promised that, and that doesn’t
happen. We also have seen a lot of reports that the
food is always bad, but sometimes it’s not only that, it’s the fact that the portions
are getting smaller. And when people complain about that, GEO guards
say, “Well, there’s just too many of you. What do you want us to do?” AMY GOODMAN: We have to leave it there, but
we’re going to continue the conversation after the show and post it at democracynow.org. We’re speaking with Maru Mora Villalpando
with Northwest Detention Center Resistance and the group Mijente, and Alexis Erickson,
whose partner is hunger striker Cristian Lopez. As a result, he was sent to a New Mexico jail
from Tacoma.

36 thoughts on “700 Immigrants On Hunger Strike at For-Profit Prison to Protest Conditions & $1/Day Wages

  • KEEP YOUR HUNGER STRIKES! YOU DUMB PEOPLE. DON'T COMMIT THE CRIME.

    DONT MARRY ILLEGALS, it costs US not Mexico, to support your Mexican-Men fetish.

    YES, we're going to make YOUR JAIL PERFECT FOR YOU CRIMINALS.

  • They have food in Mexico. The Country of which you're a citizen of.
    You could have gone through the "Legal process of IMMIGRATION".
    You had a choice. You chose to invade the Sovereignty and invade established borders of the
    United States of America without authorization.
    You're not an immigrant.
    You're not United States citizens, you're only owed a one way trip back.

  • You can judge a nation by how it treats the least advantaged. America's prisons impose slavery, provide little food (of shitty quality), have horrid living conditions, etc.. Look in the mirror, America. Do you like what you see?

  • The attitudes held by too many of my fellow Americans (and their ignorance about the immense, nigh-insurmountable challenges posed by legal immigrantion) is sickening, literally nauseating. Maybe someday, if we're lucky, those commenters who blame the victims for the crimes of our government will get to experience a similar level of mistreatment through one of the US government's many other deplorable arms of injustice. Maybe then they will evolve a molecule of compassion and human decency. Then again, perhaps they are too far below basic human decency to ever reach it. Still, it can't hurt to hope, can it?

    And, in case anyone is wondering, no, I don't personally know anyone who is here illegally. Yes, I have every reason to dislike illegal immigrants (my father was killed by a drunk illegal immigrant who jumped the border to avoid facing charges). Nevertheless, I am a human being, not a low-life scumbag who enjoys seeing others suffer (usually because they rationalize that "others" deserve to suffer or are somehow ALL evil). People come here seeking a better life. They work (if not, they can't live because they can't get social "safety net" services without being a citizen). They pay taxes (because it's deducted from their paychecks and they can't even file for a return because they aren't citizens). They can't vote, and they are often exploited in the workplace. Still, it's better than the living pit of doom we've made their country into with our utterly moronic "war on drugs" (which would be better named the "Make the DEA, street gangs, and drug cartels rich" war) and our "need" to sell weapons to those cartels so they can murder Mexican citizens by the thousands each year. WE (us, the US) made these problems with OUR idiocy. They are paying the price. They come here to escape, and we turn them into slaves and blame them for running away from the garbage we're dumping in their country. Yeah, like I said, too many of my fellow Americans are total scumbags who can't get their heads out of their own behinds.

  • Yet another example of unrestricted greedy capitalist bastards exploiting the powerless to increase their own power and bank accounts.
    Quicker the bankers wall St and the corrupt politicians are in jail or hanging from a noose the better.

  • If the whole prison went on hunger strike they would no longer make a profit and would eventually close down. I praise you and pray for all of you in this so-called "detention" center. It is a slave block. Resist!

  • Is the United States even worthy of being called a "civilized" "developed" "first-world" nation anymore?

  • Amy thank you so much for covering this blight in Tacoma. I moved here from NJ to be part of the progressive tide building on the west coast. While Washington is great in so many ways, things like the NWDC and toxic industry are hanging on for life. We need to be the ones to stomp out barbaric practices of our forefathers – poisoning the land and criminalizing the native people.

  • Oh WOW. For-profit prisoneering is quite the business! Basically cover maintenance costs by using prisoners as slaves, no wonder the prison industry is protesting the legalization of marijuana and the decrease in slaves/product they would recieve each year.

  • This is just one more symptom of the fact that, in the U.S., profit has taken precedence over everything else, including justice and human dignity. In what other context could someone come up with an idea like for-profit prisons?

  • We should have a massive hunger strike to get money out of politics, in front of the congress building….they would probably just arrest everyone though

  • lol he was rude wtf do you think prison is blks and whites have been going through this since the first ever prison I bet you they would stop if someone said they were sending them to a Mexico prison

  • this is how trump distracts the left into smaller topics. just like obama and hillary, he is just a continuum of a nazi Bush policy

  • It's called jail… haha I'll eat a big cheeseburger with fries in front of your jail cell while you starve yourself!

  • The US is the only so called modern country that gives a person a Bill after release from Prison for the cost of his/her incarceration which he/she has to pay back or guess what, you go back to prison lol, or have your assets seized and sold to cover the Bill.
    Are you not supposed to go to Prison to pay off your "Debt to Society"??
    In Murica you get in debt while your in Prison serving your debt.
    Land of the FEE
    Home of the SLAVE

  • there are over 260 prisoners from the legitimately elected opposition party #HDP in Turkey, in a hunger strike, since weeks some of the hunger strikers have way passed day 60!
    So much more to talk about about #Turkey at the moment, but I feel shitty to adress here

  • to be honest I love me some Mexicans, Koreans etc, don't mind them here at all. I say welcome aboard (yes I voted trump). who I don't want here are Muslims. crusades up for those dirty bastards.

  • Since the invasion of America by early Europeans, it has always treated people like this and worst in order to maintain its "white supremacy". This is nothing new. And with the spread of global white supremacy, other countries are put under the same duress in order to crank out resources at below poverty wages. This system must end. It is not conducive to humans period. Even if you are white and receive privilege and benefit from the system just so that you can help maintain it, it is not conducive for you either. The greed will ruin the very earth. It will destroy us all eventually.

  • thank God this is a for-profit prison. at least somebody in America is benefiting by the defunct attitude of this fake religion.

  • it's all irrelevant anyways since the people in this prison are all going home very soon……
    .
    then they get to experience the life of the poor in their home country……..lmao!

  • Undocumented immigrants get paid more money that Americans citizen. Wow. The immigrants get $100 aday and the Americans get 28 cents aday. Wow.

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