As many as 22 Indian asylum-seekers, all of them Sikhs, are on a hunger strike in a Florida jail that started on July 25, demanding that a local court should hear their bond (akin to bail) hearing, prompting a US civil rights group to seek federal government intervention.
Local civil rights group American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has expressed concern over their deteriorating health and sought the intervention of the federal government.
“The situation is urgent because of these men’s rapidly deteriorating health,” said Shalini Agarwal, a staff attorney for Florida unit of the ACLU.
She added that the ACLU was working to get to the bottom of the case, especially in light of US Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) allegedly responding unlawfully toward hunger-striking detainees in other immigration detention facilities, she said.
The 22 detainees went on hunger strike when they learned that the judge who would hear their bond appeal at the Broward Transitional Center (BTC), does not grant bonds to individuals in their circumstances, even though other detainees in identical circumstances in the same jurisdiction are granted bond.
These Indian nationals were then transferred to Krome Service Processing Center in Florida. Based on promises by officials that they would receive a bond hearing at Krome, they ended the hunger strike, ACLU said in a statement.
However, when the day of many of their bond hearings at Krome arrived, their cases were transferred back to BTC for removal hearings.
Several of them have now been hospitalised and are being threatened with force-feeding.
ACLU in a letter to the department of homeland security alleged that ICE has jeopardised these men’s health by making false promises of a meaningful bond hearing.