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Immigrant mothers detained with their children fast in protest

/ Source: NBC News

A group of mothers held at a family immigrant detention center in Texas along with their children began fasting Tuesday to protest their living conditions and demand their release.

Ten mothers were to participate in the weeklong fast that will limit them to one meal a day. They also were refusing to work or to send their children to school until all the mothers and children detained at the family detention center in Karnes, Texas, are released.

Several immigrant rights advocates explained the protest during a conference call with reporters Tuesday. They called on the Obama administration and Sarah Saldaña, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to release women and children detained at Karnes.

Many of those detained traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border from Central America and Mexico last spring and summer, crowding border facilities and forcing the federal government to quickly assemble emergency shelters.

“We will not rest,” said Andrea Cristina Mercado, co-chair of the We Belong Together campaign. “Our movement to end family detention will continue to grow until all the mothers and children behind bars are free.”

This latest protest comes about a week after a group of mothers participated in a five-day hunger strike at the Karnes detention center during the week before Easter. That protest began with about 80 women, but many dropped out after three women were placed in isolation for a day along with their children.

Kenia Galeano, a 26-year-old mother from Honduras, was among the women placed in isolation. She and her 2-year-old son were released on bond last week after spending five months in the Karnes family detention center. On Tuesday, she called on ICE to release the other women and children.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is closely monitoring residents at the Karnes Family Residential Center "to verify residents are eating meals that are served three times daily, provided snacks provided or food purchased from the commissary," ICE spokeswoman Adelina Pruneda said in a statement.

She also said detainees are allowed to voice their opinion without interference.


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_ Griselda Nevarez