Hundreds of ICE detainees refusing to eat food provided at Tacoma detention center

More than 200 detainees are refusing to eat food served to them at the Northwest ICE Processing Center on Tacoma’s Tideflats, according to an immigrant rights group.

La Resistencia wrote in a press release Friday morning that detainees are participating in a hunger strike and “demanding eatable food, humane treatment by guards and the shutdown of the facility.”

La Resistencia spokeswoman Maru Mora said five pods were participating in the protest.

An ICE spokesperson said a hunger strike rumor is false.

“Failure to eat the facility provided meal is not a stand-alone factor in the determination of a detainee’s suspected or announced hunger strike action. Commissary food items remain available for purchase by detainees,” Tanya Roman, public affairs officer for ICE, wrote in an email.

“In general, ICE fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference,” Roman continued. “ICE does not retaliate in any way against hunger strikers. ICE explains the negative health effects of not eating to our detainees. Additionally, for their health and safety, ICE closely monitors the food and water intake of those detainees identified as being on a hunger strike. The agency is committed to ensuring that they are provided with the nutrients necessary for them to maintain their well-being.”

Detainees that do not eat for more than 72 hours will be referred to the medical department for evaluation and possible treatment, according to standards providing by ICE.

The protest is planned to last for 8 days, Mora said. It’s the 19th such hunger strike recorded by the group in five years.

Detainees at the center have staged hunger strikes in the past over food quality. Most recently, detainees claimed to have found bugs in their food, according to La Resistencia.

According to a tour of the facility in September, detainees are served 3,000 calories per day. Meals are brought to detainees in their pods, and they are allowed to purchase extra food.

The Northwest ICE Processing Center, formerly the Northwest Detention Center, holds up to 1,500 people.