Several people whose family members have been in immigrant detention centers for months, or even years, are on a hunger strike outside the Phoenix Immigration and Customs Enforcement office.
The hunger strike started last night, and they plan to stay there without food for the next two weeks.
-Bill Montgomery Skewered in Puente March
Puente Human Rights Movement organized the event, describing it in an announcement as "an expression of suffering and willingness to do anything to keep a family together."
According to Puente, the family members being held in the immigration detention facility -- which is in Eloy -- also will be going on a hunger strike until early March.
Puente, which has been behind many pro-immigration rallies in Phoenix, has been calling on the Obama administration to stop its record level of deportations.
"The purpose of this hunger strike is to demand the release and halt the unnecessary deportation of our loved ones," Puente's announcement says. "We also wish to expose the most important piece missing from this debate, the human cost caused by the extraction of members from our community."
Read the bios of the hunger-strikers below:
Lourdes Hernandez was on her way home from a evening Christmas party with her husband and three children when they were stopped by the police. Lourdes and her two eldest daughters have done everything they can to defend J Cruz and bring him home: working extra hours to pay hundreds of dollars for lawyers, speaking out against the wrongful arrest, going door-to-door in their neighborhood for petitions to ICE. Seeing her 19 year old daughter working 80-hours a week and fearing that her youngest son will grow up without a father, Lourdes has now decided to fast for 14 days to bring her husband home. Lourdes explains, "My husband has been in detention for over 13 months. My children suffer every day that they are apart from him. My family is not complete without him, I need him home now. I am fasting so that everyone knows that I will put my body on the line to keep my family together."
Hermina Gallego and her family, including her daughter Rosy and her sister Margarita, left Mesa for Mexico when Hermina's father was given one month to live. Hermina couldn't abandon her father on his deathbed. But in Mexico, the family faced violence and persecution, the reason they left in the first place. Returning across the border, Rosy and Margarita were detained. Rosy, a 20-year old DREAMer, is now in Eloy Detention Center, where lawyers say she could be for years. Hermina explains, "I'm fasting for my daughter because she has been in detention for over 5 months. "My daughter is sick and she is not getting the proper treatment she needs. I am fasting because every day that my daughter is in detention is a day that her health is in danger, if I don't do anything she can die."
Anselma Lopez has been living in in the United States for 11 years. She and her husband have three children. Elder Lopez, her oldest son has been in Eloy Detention Center for over two years. For the last 2 years, Anselma has been organizing with Puente and advocating for the release of her son. Anselma has petitioned for the release of her son and fears that her son will die of he is sent back to Guatemala. "My son has been in detention for almost 3 years, I am fasting to bring him home. He should not spend another year in detention, his children and family need him home."
Jovana Renteria is the legal director for the Puente Movement. Jovana has been a staff of Puente for over 5 years and has been committed to helping reunite families. Jovana is going to fast for 14 days because she has witnessed the suffering that families and detainees endure due to the broken immigration system. As an ally, Jovana believes that she must fast with the families to show her support and let the families know that they are not alone and to reaffirm that the community stands with them.
Alejandra Sanchez has been living in Arizona for 13 years. She is a mother of 5 children, 4 of them DREAMERS and one a United States Citizen. Alejandra is a DREAM Mom in Arizona which is a national organization dedicated on organizing undocumented mothers and families. Alejandra has actively been organizing undocumented mothers and supporting the organizing efforts of her children for the last 3 years. Sanchez is a representative of the national DREAMERS Mothers. Alejandra and her husband were stopped and arrested in by Border Patrol last month where they exercised their rights and were released within 8 hours. Alejandra has chosen to participate in the hunger strike because she is representing all the mothers who have children in detention centers and are too afraid to come out and fight for their freedom.
Jose Valdez is fasting for the release of his son Jaime Valdez who has been in detention for over a year. "I am fasting for my son who is in detention. I am also fasting for the other men and women who sit in detention everyday awaiting to return to their families."