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Iraqi nationals protest immigration detention through hunger strike

Immigration and Customs Enforcement - or ICE - agents
U.S. Air Force
Creative Commons

Some Iraqi immigrants who are being detained while they fight deportation have gone on a hunger strike.

It’s not clear how many detainees are refusing to eat. Family members and the ACLU say it might be as many as 50. 

Many of the detainees are from metro Detroit and are being held at a federal facility in Youngstown, Ohio.

“There’s such a financial burden on the families out here because they are there. If they were out here, they could work, they could provide for their families, they could pay for their lawyers themselves, but right now, what we’re stuck with, it’s a bit much, honestly," said Ashourina Slewo. Her father is being held at the Youngstown facility. She says the detainees want to be released to their families while their cases are argued.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says seven detainees have been placed on medical watch after going without eating for 72 hours.

The ACLU says the detention far from their families poses a needless hardship, and makes it harder for the immigrants to consult with their attorneys. Many have been in custody for months.

"Right now, with this hunger strike, what they’re demanding – and I don’t think this is an unreasonable demand – what they want is to be able to come home and fight their cases from out here,” said Slewo.

The federal government is seeking to deport the detainees because they have criminal convictions in their past.  

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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