Over 500 migrant fathers and sons, who are being held in a Texas detention center after being separated from each other for weeks, are planning to go on strike tomorrow “as a last resort” in protest of the facility’s unjust conditions.
The fathers are going on hunger strike and say they’ll also resist orders from immigration officials, and the boys intend to boycott their schoolwork. The protest will take place at three patio areas in the Karnes detention center, The Guardian reports.
According to the nonprofit Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), which shared the strike plan with media, the detained families say they’ve been subjected to unjust conditions in detention, including being tricked into accepting deportation orders and denied the opportunity to talk to asylum officers. As a result, they’re demanding that U.S. officials expedite their immigration cases and allow them to pursue their asylum claims in court.
“We are desperate, we are tired of being incarcerated, and we want to be released with our sons,” reads a letter the fathers released to the media via RAICES. “We do not deserve to be deported after all the suffering we are going through. We ask a judge to please help us. Similar to the help we received by being reunited with our children, we ask to please release us.”
If a non-U.S. citizen is at risk of being persecuted in their home country, under international law, they have the right to claim asylum in the states. However, due to deliberate misinformation from the Trump administration, some migrant parents who were separated from their children have given up their claims in an attempt to reunite with their kids faster.
Government officials have not released a list of detainees at Karnes, nor have they been clear about the statuses of their immigration cases, but advocates at RAICES fear some of the fathers in the center may have been coerced or tricked into agreeing to deportation.
Jorge, a Honduran man who was forcibly separated from his son for more than two months, told RAICES, “There are approximately 500 families here, and everyone is desperate to get out here.” He added, “There are children crying and saying they want to leave this place.”
“We are planning a hunger strike tomorrow at this detention center because we don’t know anything,” a Guetemalan father named Olivio told RAICES. “We are incarcerated in here and there’s not much we can do, so now we are all planning to gather in the patio and wait to see what happens.”
Manoj Govindaiah, RAICES’ director of family detention services, said in a statement that the situation at Karnes is one of the worst he’s seen in 12 years of practicing law. “That these families feel the need to strike shows how tired they are of the games the administration continues to play with vulnerable communities,” he added.
This piece has been updated.