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ICE allowed to force-feed hunger striker detained at Krome

Sun Sentinel logoSun Sentinel 1/22/2020 By Mario Ariza, Sun Sentinel
a group of people standing in front of a fence: Foreign nationals at the Krome detention center, where those with criminal records and deportation orders are often held, in Miami in September 2015. A report this year by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Americans for Immigrant Justice mentioned Krome along with others for "substandard" conditions. © Jose A. Iglesias/Miami Herald/TNS Foreign nationals at the Krome detention center, where those with criminal records and deportation orders are often held, in Miami in September 2015. A report this year by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Americans for Immigrant Justice mentioned Krome along with others for "substandard" conditions.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Immigration authorities asked a federal judge last Friday for permission to force-feed Saleem Khan, a 33-year-old Indian citizen who has been on hunger strike at Krome Detention Center since December 11.

Federal court filings reveal that, since his hunger strike began, Khan has lost more than 30 pounds, or 20% of his body weight, after refusing about 115 meals.

The request came in the form of a petition for an emergency court order from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement to U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams.

In the petition, ICE asked the court’s permission to “permit involuntary administration of nutrients, hydration, laboratory tests, and perform routine medical examinations against Saleem Khan.”

Essentially, ICE asked the judge’s permission to force-feed Khan through a plastic nose tube.

Citing established case law, the court granted permission.

Khan’s motivations for refusing food is unclear. It is also unclear from the filings whether he has been allowed to see an attorney since his arrest in Calexico, Calif., on July 26, 2019, as none is listed in the federal court record or in the filings.

But in their motion asking a U.S. District Court judge for permission to force-feed Khan, federal officials said that the Indian immigrant’s refusal to eat “poses a serious threat to the security and good order of the Krome Detention Center.’”

Minutes before a conference call on ICE’s emergency petition was set to begin, a gaunt, sallow-faced man wearing ill-fitting jeans and a baggy shirt was brought into the courtroom by U.S. Marshals.

Court officials confirmed that the man in the wheelchair was Khan before sealing the courtroom and barring this reporter from observing the proceedings.

At least one undocumented immigrant held in ICE custody in Miami’s Krome Detention Center refused meals last year as part of a broader national protest by detainees in Phoenix, San Franisco, San Diego, and El Paso.

During that protest, six detainees stopped eating in a move against verbal abuse, threats of deportation from guards, and lengthy lockups while awaiting legal proceedings in immigration detention.

In 2015, a U.S. District Judge in South Florida ordered that 10 Bangladeshi immigrants on hunger strike at Krome detention center be force-fed.

The nonprofit advocacy group Freedom for Immigrants has documented at least 1400 hunger strikes at ICE Detention facilities since 2015.

Force-feeding of detainees in ICE custody generally occurs through a lubricated plastic tube that is inserted through the nasal cavity and down into the esophagus.

The World Medical Association has declared that the force-feeding of competent individuals by physicians is unethical. The American Medical Association has also issued statements calling force-feeding unethical. And the International Committee of the Red Cross considers the procedure “a gross violation of medical ethics.”

A last minute filing made on Tuesday by attorneys for the federal government noted that, over the weekend, Khan’s “consumption of additional nutrients led to weight gain,” but the filing is unclear as to whether Khan voluntarily consumed the nutrients, or was forced to do so via feeding tube.

An ICE spokesman could not comment on Khan’s specific case, but noted that “ICE fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference. ICE does not retaliate in any way against hunger strikers. ICE explains the negative health effects of not eating to our detainees. For their health and safety, ICE closely monitors the food and water intake of those detainees identified as being on a hunger strike.”

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©2020 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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