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Immigration Detainees Continue Hunger Strike at Wash. Facility

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The "B" cell and bunk unit of the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash on Oct. 17, 2008. The facility is operated by The GEO Group Inc. under contract from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and houses people whose immigration status is in question or who are waiting for deportation or deportation hearings. Ted S. Warren / AP file

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About 750 detainees housed at the Northwest Detention Center in Washington state refused to eat Saturday in an attempt to halt deportations and demand better conditions.

Community to Community Development, an immigrant activist group, helped lead protests outside of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Tacoma where the detainees are being housed. They said the strike began Friday, and that detainees are demanding better food, treatment and pay for work they do at the center.

The activist group plans to protest until Tuesday.

"People showing solidarity right now at Tacoma detention center!" group organizer of Latino Advocacy, Maru Mora, posted Saturday on Facebook.

ICE spokesman Andrew Munoz told NBC News that the agency "fully respects the rights of all people to express their opinion without interference."

"While we continue to work with Congress to enact commonsense immigration reform, ICE remains committed to sensible, effective immigration enforcement that focuses on its priorities," Munoz added.

The Northwest Detention Center houses about 1,300 detainees facing deportation. The detainees on strike are currently under medical observation, Munoz said.

According to ICE detention standards, detainees who refuse to eat for 72 hours are technically considered on a hunger strike.

— Mel Bailey

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