Amarillo, TX - Claims that hundreds of immigrant women seeking asylum in Texas are being mistreated has one Amarillo woman worried about her mom.
Cinthya Calderon is now joining the fight to free her mother and other women detained at Texas immigrant detention centers.
For the past three weeks, women at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center near Austin say they have been taking turns participating in a hunger strike. They are refusing meals because they want to be freed from conditions they claim are inhumane, including being served spoiled and uncooked food as well as hostile treatment from staff.
"They're treating her like a criminal," said Calderon. For the past seven months, her mother has been detained at Hutto, awaiting her U.S. immigration hearing.
Calderon said her mother, Francisca Morales Macias, fled Mexico to escape a dangerous domestic abuse situation and instead entered a situation at Hutto that's led women to refuse meals. Nearly 30 women have written letters detailing mistreatment, including Macias. Calderon said that led to retaliation and her mom was moved to an all-male facility. "They moved her from Hutto to Pearsall, TX for no reason. They didn't give a reason. They just moved her and have her isolated."
Calderon is now working with a group called Grassroots Leadership, a non-profit trying to eliminate immigrant detention centers. "We just want to help as many women as we can, not just my mother," said Calderon.
"There's no reason for these detention centers to exist," said Cristina Parker, the immigration programs director for Grassroots Leadership. "There's no reason for these women and men to be held in immigrant detention except really to win profit for just a couple of multi-billion dollar companies."
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said there is no hunger strike. In statement the agency said, "ICE takes the health, safety, and welfare of those in our care very seriously and we continue to closely monitor the situation. Currently, no one at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center is identified as being on a hunger strike or refusing to eat."
Parker said that is a lie and Grassroots Leadership has proof. "We've had a wide network of people here in south and central Texas going to visit the women and getting phone calls from them and their attorneys. We have ample evidence that there is a hunger strike. The fact is, it's just ICE's PR policy to deny it."
Grassroots Leadership has started a petition to end immigrant detention. To learn more about it, click here.