Friday, November 16, 2018

Asylum Seeker on Hunger Strike Dies at Northwest Detention Center

This comes directly from a press release I received via email. Amar Mergensana had been on a hunger strike since August, protesting along with a national prison strike. However, rather than ending his hunger strike along with everyone else, he continued to refuse meals for months, and yesterday a fellow inmate reported witnessing paramedics attempt and fail to resuscitate him, then remove his body.

He was a 40-year-old from Russia who crossed into the U.S. from Mexico to ask for asylum, as is legal standard procedure for someone fleeing dangerous conditions in their homeland. When his asylum was denied, he decided to go on and continue a hunger strike because he would rather die than return to Russia, as he said during his interview with Crosscut in October.

And so, the NWDC and the United States of America let him die rather than releasing him. They had attempted to force-feed him, a practice which I find to be supremely fucked up and a violation of bodily autonomy, but it didn't work. The witness said that Mergensana's hands and feet were blue. I don't know what that means, but suffice it to say that this middle-aged man almost certainly would not have died if he were allowed freedom.

Maybe they wanted him to die. They certainly treated him as such.

“We are horrified and saddened by Amar Mergensana’s death. He died protesting his detention and imminent deportation in the only way that was left to him. His death makes clear that ICE and GEO Group cannot guarantee the health and safety of people they cage. The more than one dozen hunger strikes by people detained since 2014, in which hundreds have taken part, speak to the need to shut down these cages for immigrants once and for all,” stated Maru Mora Villalpando of NWDC Resistance. “In the last written statement he gave us, Amar described being left in a cold locked room, naked, and with nothing but a bed sheet and a thin blanket. We demand that ICE and GEO Group be held accountable for their role in Amar’s death,” Villalpando continued.

So was it hyperthermia? We may never know. What we do know is that ICE and the NWDC murdered this man, who suffered immensely in an attempt to gain freedom for himself and help his fellow prisoners. This is a travesty.

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