by Cindy Knoebel
The hunger strike at Mesa Verde Detention Center has resumed.
On April 21, IMM Print posted an article about protests and a hunger strike at the facility by detained people fearing infection from the deadly COVID-19 virus. The reports were also featured in an article by the Palm Springs Desert Sun.
This morning, Centro Legal de la Raza issued a press release stating that, following threats of retaliation by officials at the facility, the hunger strike has resumed.
"Having temporarily stopped their hunger strike in response to threats of losing access to commissary resources, immigrants detained at Mesa Verde Detention facility have resumed the strike urging for mass release amidst concerns of COVID-19," the release says.
In late March, eighty-five men signed a petition calling conditions at the facility a "death sentence," with no means of social distancing and shortages of soap.
One man in the facility, Esteban Flores, was quoted in the release as saying, "The jail officials tell us that we need to be 6 feet away, but that is something that they are not letting us do. We are close to 3 feet from each other because we have no other choice. The jail officials do not all use masks, and they are coming in and out of the dorms. They could infect us."
The press release notes the strike originated in a women's cell two weeks ago, with around 200 others joining over subsequent days. Freedom for Immigrants recently gained access to the petition signed by 32 women two weeks ago at Mesa Verde, and mentioned in the Desert Springs article. It was written by a woman recovering from surgery who is in so much pain she can barely reach for the Iburprofen another woman in her cell obtained and placed near her bed.
PETITION TO THE LORD
Heavenly Father, we come to you as you taught us to fight our battles in the prayer room. We are women praying for you to touch the hearts of the U.S. Citizens and the rest of the world to help us, women and men detained in the immigration detention facilities across U.S.A.
We are your children, my Lord, we have made mistakes but we don't deserve to die like this - hopeless, abandoned, and in fear. But oh Lord, we have you and believe in you, please hear our plea because no one else is.
Oh Lord, take this pain and suffering away. This Detention Center where I am today, feels worse than prison. My sisters and I lay two feet away from each other. We are so vulnerable living in close proximity of each other. It is so easy to hurt each other, so easy to catch a disease with no protection around us. We have one room with 100 beds laid out like a mortuary. Every night I look around me keep thinking am I dead? but reality sinks in. We are just detainees at Mesa Verde Detention Facility and this is what we face everyday hopeless, abandonment and in fear.
We do not see the sunlight unless we are instructed to go outdoors. We do not have anything to do because we are restricted from activities, arts and crafts. The activities only happen when they have time. Playing any organized game/sport only occur every two weeks on Sunday. This is the time when we go outside and play in the playground for a small amount of time. They reward the winners with candy. Oh God how sweet it is to get candy but only a few can get it. We wish for all the money in the world to buy candy for everyone. We are happy to see a few get their candies and everyone else do too, but oh Lord we are thankful for this moment of happiness among us. There is no race, no color, just humans playing in your backyard, my Lord. How happy this makes us and gives us courage to go on until ICE decides what to do with each one of our cases. For some it takes years ...
We see sick people all around us, oh Lord please help and heal us! Please give them the strength to take the pain for another three days because that's how long it takes them to get us seen. I am sick and had surgery. I have recovered in this room with my sisters looking out for me. Three days after my surgery my pain medicine prescription expired and they made me wait three days to get a refill. Lord, help us bear with the pain. We don't want to scream or yell at the people taking care of us because it is not their fault, they are just doing their job. But oh God what will it take to get Ibuprofen for the pain. My sisters brought me Ibuprofen near my bed for me to grab and I'm thankful but I'm in so much pain. But I can't even stand up and bend to get it. God bless them Lord they are trying to help me. There are so many of us with medical conditions - asthma, diabetes, hypertension, heart and lung disease, allergies, etc. - we are so vulnerable to this Coronavirus. Lord is this our end, is this the way we are going to die?
Some of us have lived in the USA most of our life. We grew up here in USA. We went to school here, we birthed our children, we have built our family and lives in this land. We are not flight risks. We made a mistake, we have done our time for our crimes and we just want to go home to our loved ones. We want to remain here with our families. We don't even remember our birth countries - El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Philippines, China, Russia, Haiti, Africa and so many more but our home is here in the U.S.A. Lord, hear our cries because no one else is.
Oh Lord, we have so many of them here in the detention. Lord we pray that they be reunited with their loved ones. Give them a chance for freedom and opportunities to provide for their families back home. They have traveled a long way, driven from their country to escape violence, oppression persecution, poverty and discrimination.
We are experiencing unprecedented times, we have a pandemic world wide and the best ICE can do was post a letter that they were not visiting our detention anymore but we can contact them via email. We are forgotten here, left alone with our caretakers. ICE you are responsible for us, please don't just abandon us here to die. We are humans, we deserved better than that! Oh God is this how slaves felt back in history. Because we sure feel like one today.
God, I pray that you protect my brothers and sisters who share my pain, the pain of feeling hopeless and forgotten during these hard times. The pain of feeling like our lives don't matter, and we are left locked up and expected to survive this pandemic when surviving in here day to day is already a struggle. There is nowhere to run and hide from this deadly virus. We are housed in an enclosed dorm, sleeping and having close contact with others, waiting to get medical attention for several days. I know you are the Savior, Lord. But oh, Father, the enemy is so strong.
God, I fear for my life, I shouldn't have to die because I'm fighting to stay in a country where I've lived my whole life. This is my home!
We pray that ICE will have some compassion for my brothers and sisters and that they treat us like humans. If they won't give us freedom then give us what we need to protect ourselves.
Our lives matter ... immigrants lives matter.
Thank you, God
Women Detainee's housed in Dorm B, Mesa Verde Detention Center