COVID fears prompt hunger strike at ICE Detention Center
La Resistencia held a demonstration outside the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) Dec. 15 to raise awareness about conditions in the facility.
Fears about the spread of covid-19 in the facility have led four people to hunger strike, according to La Resistencia. An inmate named Victor Fonseca has been striking for 12 days, as of Dec. 18, demanding that people vulnerable to covid-19 be released. Another striker, named Gloria, said she is afraid to eat the food in the facility because “the virus is all around us.”
The NWDC, one of the largest U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities, has reported 22 detainees have tested positive for covid-19 in the pandemic.
It’s difficult to tell whether this number truly represents the situation in the facility. A new report from the University of Washington Center for Human Rights raises concerns about the lack of comprehensive testing in the facility, the facility’s transparency about covid-19 and its policies around social distancing, sanitation and transferring people between facilities.
Recently, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project filed for a restraining order demanding the release of people vulnerable to covid-19. It follows a federal lawsuit filed in March by nwirp and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington requesting the release of nine vulnerable detainees.
UWCHR has previously investigated claims of medical neglect and that the facility is not providing adequate food and sanitation.
La Resistencia is a grassroots Washington organization, started in 2014 to help support a hunger strike started by an inmate at the NWDC. Its mission is to end immigrant detention and stop deportations. Another demand from the Dec. 15 demonstration was that President-elect Joe Biden declare a moratorium on deportations in his first 100 days in office.
Evictions in Seattle postponed
Mayor Jenny Durkan has extended an eviction moratorium for businesses, nonprofits and renters through March 2021. The moratorium was introduced early during the pandemic to temporarily protect renters.
During the moratorium, property owners can’t initiate an eviction in the courts, “unless there is an imminent threat to the health and safety of the community,” according to a press release from the Mayor’s Office. However, tenants are still expected to pay rent. The moratorium does nothing to forgive rental payments accumulated during the pandemic. Tenants can also be evicted if the owner wants to sell the property they are renting.
Anyone who receives an eviction notice during the moratorium can contact the Renting in Seattle hotline at 206-684-5700 for help, or submit a complaint online.
Gov. Jay Inslee is considering extending the statewide moratorium, which will expire Dec. 31. More than 171,000 households are behind on rent. As KUOW reporter Joshua McNichols put it: “For tenants, the worst case scenario is homelessness. For landlords, it’s being forced to sell against their will.”
Read more in the Dec. 23-29, 2020 issue.