Immigrants being detained at three California facilities and in facilities in a number of other states launched a series of hunger strikes in October 2015. Most of the detainees involved are from Africa and Asia. Some of these asylum-seekers have been detained for as long as two years as they wait for their cases to before an immigration court, and they hope that their actions bring attention to what they consider to be unreasonably long periods of detention. Some immigrant advocates are demanding that the detainees be freed on bonds.
The advocates also point out that detention can place asylum-seekers at a disadvantage when their cases are eventually heard. They say that detainees find it difficult to gather the documentation and witness testimony necessary to satisfy immigration courts. Federal law requires detainees to be given bond hearings when they spend more than six months in detention.
Unofficial reports indicate that almost 50 detainees at facilities in Orange and San Diego and 44 detainees in Alabama were originally involved in the hunger strikes, and their numbers were swelled on Nov. 30 when detainees at California’s large Adelanto detention center began to refuse food. Authorities closely monitor the condition of hunger strikers, and judges may order force-feeding to prevent their health from deteriorating. A previous hunger strike at the facility in Adelanto lasted approximately two weeks.
The uncertainties of the immigration process can place a great strain on those hoping to live and work legally in the United States. Attorneys with experience in this area may seek to calm the anxieties of immigrants by explaining the steps involved in securing a green card or visa and the kinds of documentation needed. Attorneys could also advocate on behalf of clients during immigration hearings or deportation proceedings.