The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to expose the treatment of hunger strikers in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities. 

The ACLU seeks a range of documents related to hunger strikes in ICE detention — from policies to records of specific incidents. The complaint notes that advocates for social change — including Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Cesar Chavez — have long used hunger strikes as a form of nonviolent protest. The modern-day immigrants’ rights movement is no exception. In recent years, hunger strikes have roiled immigration detention facilities in many states, as detainees seek to call attention to lack of access to bond hearings and inhumane conditions of confinement.

In April 2014, for example, the ACLU of Washington sued ICE for putting hunger strikers in solitary confinement at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington. And in 2017, a federal court authorized officials at the Stewart Detention Center, run by private prison company Corrections Corporation of America/CoreCivic, to restrain and force-feed a hunger-striking immigration detainee. According to reports, the hunger striker is Vitaly Novikov, a refugee from the former Soviet Union who is protesting ICE’s plans to deport him to the Ukraine.

Since our filing in 2017, we have received some documents, but are still negotiating with the BOP for full disclosure.

The government made significant further disclosures in 2019 and we agreed to dismiss the case in November 2019.

Date filed

May 25, 2017