We will die here in jail, asylum seekers cry out to American lawyer


Undocumented immigrants wait in a holding facility after arriving at the U.S. Border Patrol detention centre. Photo: Quartz

Immigrants currently being detained at a federal prison in the United States have expressed fear that they might die in jail before their cases are concluded.

Describing the inhuman conditions in which the detainees are being held, a federal public defender in Oregon, William Teesdale, lamented that the detainees were strip-searched and clamped in overcrowded cells with open toilets.

“They are served scant meals that violate religious restrictions,” Teesdale added, concerning the condition of immigrants who are seeking asylum in the United States of America.

The Oregonian reports that Federal public defenders say 120 asylum seekers are enduring those conditions at a federal prison in Sheridan, in the American State of Wyoming, where some have considered suicide and at least one has attempted it.

“We are dying day by day inside here,” Teesdale quoted a detainee as saying as he filed a report in federal court in Portland.

The immigrant was unwilling to be identified in the filing due to fear of persecution or retaliation, Teesdale said in the documents.

Most of the asylum seekers held at the prison in rural Sheridan say they faced risks in their home countries, including India, Nepal, Guatemala, Mexico and China.

Instead of being welcomed to the U.S., they ran into the “zero-tolerance” policy of the Trump administration that calls for the detention of people who try to enter the country illegally.

“Here we have come to save our lives but I think we will die here in jail,” one detainee said, according to Teesdale’s affidavit.

Several detainees have untreated medical conditions, including a heart problem, gunshot wound and broken leg.

He said they are confined for long hours in cells with open toilets. They must eat in the cells and have no indoor or outdoor recreational opportunities.

They are strip-searched in front of other detainees, and Hindus were given beef and pork to eat, even though it’s against their religion, and tried to survive on just the vegetables accompanying the meals, Teesdale said.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement recently transferred four detainees to a centre in Tacoma, Washington, for specialised medical care, Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman, Clarissa Cutrell, said.

Other detainees also considered killing themselves, court documents state.

Those seeking asylum must show authorities they have credible fear in their homelands.