Freed hunger striker describes the past four months in ICE custody as “torture”
An asylum seeker who went on a 110-day hunger strike to force his freedom describes his recent months in an El Paso immigration detention center as repeated torture.
“When they force-fed me they tortured me a lot. They come to me and they tell me, we’ll send you back to your country, you can’t stay here,” said the 22-year-old from Nepal, who asked to be identified by the initials KC because he fears harm from political opponents in his native country.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has declined to comment on KC’s detention and force-feeding. He was freed on Friday from ICE’s El Paso Processing Center on a $10,000 bond.
He began a hunger strike on Nov. 19, demanding to be free on bond while he pursued his asylum claim. ICE responded by obtaining a federal court order Dec. 6 to force-feed him through a nasogastric tube.
In a Feb. 27 ruling, U.S. District Judge David Guaderrama of El Paso criticized ICE’s medical treatment of KC during his hunger strike, saying it “barely” fell short of being an unconstitutional form of punishment. KC resumed eating March 9 after ICE officials told him they would grant him a bond if he ended his hunger strike.
His bond was posted four days later on Friday morning and he was freed later that afternoon. He has been detained by ICE since arriving in the United States in May 2019.
KC plans to live with a relative in Texas while he pursues his asylum claim that he faces death because of his political activities if returned to Nepal. An immigration judge ordered him removed from the country in November, but that decision is being reviewed by the Bureau of Immigration Appeals.
He spoke with El Paso Matters by phone with the help of Hindi interpreter Ajay Kumar, who was freed by ICE in September after his own 76-day hunger strike.
When asked how he was feeling after being freed, KC chuckled. “I’m very happy, sir. I’m very happy to be free. I am free so I feel very good, sir.”
KC said his health has improved in recent days since ending his hunger strike.
“I feel OK for right now. I eat a little bit but I feel good,” he said.
El Paso Matters asked Kumar what advice he had for his fellow hunger striker now that he is free.
“My advice is study his case and be prepared to stay legally. Present himself in court and don’t do anything illegal like missing court,” said Kumar, who is now living in California while pursuing his asylum claim.
“Yes sir, I will follow all instructions,” KC said.