August 07, 2019

More than 100 immigrants tear gassed by ICE in US detention centre
American immigration officials used tear gas and allegedly fired rubber bullets on more than 100 immigrants conducting a hunger strike at a detention facility in Louisiana over the weekend, just a day after as many as 40 detainees who were demonstrating against their detention conditions were reportedly pepper sprayed at a separate facility in the state.The spraying occurred at a facility in Pine Prairie, where more than 1,000 detainees are held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at a time, according to legal representatives for detainees in the facility who spoke to The Independent.According to a legal representative with the Southern Poverty Law Centre representing a detainee who witnessed the incident, more than 100 detainees were sprayed and hit with tear gas by law enforcement "in riot gear" on Saturday in a central yard of the facility. Many were then taken to a separate facility for decontamination, and legal representatives have since indicated they believe those impacted are being moved to different facilities.Another legal representative with a different immigrant legal group told The Independent that their clients reported seeing the use of "rubber bullets, which is painful but not deadly"."When an individual in detention goes on hunger strike, it means the person is willing to put their body on the line just to be heard," Sofia Casini, the southern regional co-ordinator for the group Freedom for Immigrants, said in a statement. "Multiple hunger strikes happening simultaneously are no coincidence: they are indicative of the desperation and suffering that immigrants are facing inside these human cages."When contacted for comment, ICE spokesman Bryan Cox confirmed that an incident had taken place, and said the pepper spray was deployed after the detainees refused to disperse from the outdoor recreation at the facility.“Facility staff and ICE officers gave the detainees multiple opportunities to disperse and allow for the restoration of orderly operations. When the ICE detainees refused to comply, facility staff and ICE officers deployed pepper spray to disperse the group,” Mr Cox said in an email.Mr Cox continued: “Medical staff evaluated all individuals who came in contact with the pepper spray; no detainee or staff injuries were reported.”The incident came just days after dozens of immigrants were allegedly pepper sprayed and beaten at a facility in Bossier Parish, about 30 miles north of Shreveport.“There are lots of cops who came from another prison, they beat up the Cubans, they pepper spray them and handcuff them,” one of the men inside of the jail later texted his lawyer, according to Mother Jones, which was able to access those messages.Another text message from the same man claimed that the Cuban immigrants were attacked after they requested to be released on bond, and “to change the judge because he’s violating our rights”.The incident at Pine Prairie has once again drawn attention to the facility, which is operated by the private prison corporation GEO Group, which runs many of the jails that ICE relies upon for immigrant detention.
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