U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed that more than 550 detainees in Washington state at Northwest Detention Center are on a hunger strike. The detainees, who have refused to eat since this past Friday, are demanding safer working conditions, better food and that President Obama sign a presidential order to end deportations, according the founder of the Latino Advocacy Maru Mora Villalpando.
The detainees on the hunger strike, said Villalpando, are just one part of an increasingly growing group of campaigns nationwide against the policy on immigration in the U.S.
The Latino Advocacy founder said the total amount of people on hunger strikes exceeds 1,200, more than 100% the amount ICE earlier reported.
The current strike is scheduled to last until the end of Tuesday.
The facility holding the detainees is run by GEO Group a private correctional services firm. It houses at this time 1,300 people who could be deported once their immigration investigation is completed.
ICE says that the current hunger strikers are being observed at all times by the center’s staff and by its medical personnel.
Villalplano, whose group helped to organize protests near the detention facility in February said the protesters had started the strike Friday because that is the time when guards segregate those being deported the next Monday morning from those remaining at the detention facility.
Hunger strikers at the detention facility had been inspired to not eat after they had witnessed protesters near the facility preventing deportation vans from leaving the facility.
Solidarity actions near the center have been planned together with the hunger strikes. People will come every day between noon and four in the afternoon through Tuesday to give their support, said Villalpando.
Villalplando has accused GEO of exploiting the detainees in the facility by only paying them a daily rate of $1 for their services performed that included janitorial and kitchen work.
GEO, which refers to itself as the leading provider of detention and correction facilities services in the world, has lobbied Congress on immigration reform.
The detainees in facilities in Washington State joined other campaigns nationwide protesting deportations.