Hunger Strike Spreads; Haitian Immigrant Activist Freed]

Hunger Strike Spreads; Haitian Immigrant Activist Freed


On January 17 a group of immigrant rights activists in Florida suspended a
hunger strike — the Fast for Our Families <> —
which they began on New Year’s Day. "After watching the suffering of our
Haitian brothers and sisters, and seeing the determination of the Department
of Homeland Security to ignore the voices of immigrant families fighting to
stay together, we must continue our struggle in a different way," they wrote
in their
Three of the fasters had been hospitalized during the 17-day protest.

The activists announced their decision a day after Homeland Security
Secretary Janet Napolitano passed within a block of St. Ann’s Catholic
Mission in the Miami suburb of Naranja, Florida, where they were camped out.
Despite pleas on the fasters’ behalf from Marleine Bastien, one of Miami’s
most prominent and respected Haitian immigrant activists, Napolitano made it
patently clear that she would ignore the fasters’ demand for a meeting with

The protest is not over. *Others have picked up where the fasters left off.
On January 18, Martin Luther King Day, the **Southwest Workers’ Union
*announced that as many as 70 immigrants jailed at the Port Isabel Detention
Center in Bayview, Texas, were in the third day of a **hunger

*. The strike began as **thousands

* in Phoenix, Arizona on January 16 to protest the anti-immigrant crackdowns
of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Among their reasons for the hunger
strike, detainees at Port Isabel cited solidarity: with the people of Haiti,
with the Fast for Our Families and with Jean Montrevil, a Haitian immigrant
and community leader detained in New York City. The hunger strikers are
demanding an end to detention, deportation, raids and human rights abuses;
and an immigration system that guarantees transparency, due process and
consideration for families.*

A day later, on January 19, 100 detainees at the Varick Street immigration
jail in Manhattan refused to go to the mess hall, and gave guards a flier
declaring they were on a hunger strike to protest detention policies and
practices. According to detainees quoted in the *New York
*, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) responded by sending in a SWAT
team that used pepper spray and beat up some of the detainees; ICE then
further punished the protesters by moving them into segregation cells or
transferring them to jails in other states.

On January 23, the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York
City<> announced
on its Facebook

Jean Montrevil had been released from the Varick Street immigration lockup,
and had finally been reunited with his wife Jani Montrevil and their
children. Since December 30, when Jean Montrevil was detained by ICE at his
regular monthly immigration check-in, hundreds of people had rallied in his
defense and sent letters to ICE demanding his release. While his case is not
yet won, he can at least remain with his family while he fights his
deportation. Three key factors likely influenced his release: the earthquake
in Port-au-Prince, which forced ICE to suspend deportations to Haiti;
tireless mobilizing by his family and supporters in the New Sanctuary
Movement; and, presumably, his own organizing behind bars, which inspired
other detainees to join the protest movement.

The Fast for Our Families plans to protest at the Department of Homeland
Security in Washington, D.C. on January 27. Meanwhile, the Trail of
a 1,500-mile trek to Washington started by six students from South Florida
on January 1, continues to make its way north. In their
the walkers wrote about stopping at a coffee shop outside Orlando to use the
restroom, and being surprised with an outpouring of support from the
employees there, who gave them free coffee and $40 in donations.

This movement for justice will continue to morph and spread. If you haven’t
joined it yet, now’s your chance to make history.
Lauren Martin | PhD Candidate | Department of Geography | University of
Kentucky | lauren.martin

We Are All Journalists
Dont hate the Media, Be the Media


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