(Adds comment from Immigration and Customs Enforcement)
By Jon Herskovitz
May 25 The American Civil Liberties Union sued
the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in federal court on
Thursday, seeking records the civil rights group contends
provide accounts of hunger strikes at immigration detention
The ACLU said in its filing that in recent weeks there have
been a new series of hunger strikes at U.S. Immigration and
Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers in Georgia, Oregon
and Washington, adding hunger strikes have previously hit
detention centers in Arizona, Florida, Louisiana and Texas.
The suit comes as U.S. Republican President Donald Trump has
promised a crackdown on illegal immigration and the
Republican-dominated U.S. Congress this month agreed to fund an
additional 5,300 detention beds for those suspected of illegally
entering the country.
"The Trump administration's plans to expand detention and
strip away existing structures for oversight of detention are
likely to produce more protests both inside and outside the
walls of detention facilities," the lawsuit filed in the U.S.
District Court for the District of Columbia said.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Jennifer
Elzea said in an email: "ICE is unable to comment on pending
The lawsuit said detention center inmates have launched the
hunger strikes over the past few years as a non-violent way to
bring attention to what they see as a lack of access to bond
hearings and inhumane conditions of confinement.
The suit also said that some inmates who have previously
launched hunger strikes were met with extraordinarily punitive
From April 1-22, an average of 36,235 immigrants were in
detention per day, according to the most recent statistics
provided by ICE.
The White House in March requested bringing the total number
of beds up to 45,700, saying the additional capacity was
necessary to achieve the president's goal of "enhancing interior
enforcement efforts and ending 'catch and release' for those
apprehended at the border."
The agreement reached in Congress would increase the number
of immigration detention beds to 39,324 from 34,000 currently,
according to a summary provided by the House Appropriations
In April, hundreds of detainees at an immigration detention
center in Washington state began refusing meals in a hunger
strike to protest conditions at the facility and delayed
immigration hearings, activists said.
The Geo Group Inc, the company that operates the
Washington state facility and other detention centers around the
United States, declined to comment on the lawsuit.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Sandra Maler)