Evgenii Ivanov has not eaten since August 4. The 41 year old Russian citizen is currently detained at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in California, where he’s has skipped 51 meals in the past few weeks and lost 27 pounds, according to a filing in federal court reported by the Daily Beast.
On Thursday, a federal judge granted ICE’s request to restrain and force-feed Ivanov so that he doesn’t die, something an ICE official told the judge “could lead to acts of inmate violence and disruption” and potentially further hunger strikes among the other inmates at the facility.
Here’s a stupid trap to fall into: Ivanov is not eating. Force feeding will save his life. Are his guards not being compassionate by doing it, then? That’s certainly what they want you to think! ICE has been force-feeding detainees on hunger strikes since at least 2015. (Ivanov is far from the only one, he’s not even the only Russian.) This completely ignores an easier solution: asking the detainees what they need to continue eating. You can see this obvious fallacy outlined in the Daily Beast’s reporting on ICE’s plea to the judge to approve the force-feeding and restraint:
“Perceptions the other ICE detainees, as well as other inmates at the Otay Mesa Detention Center, may form as a result of such an adverse event could lead to acts of inmate violence and disruption,” Assistant Field Director James Dobson wrote in a declaration.
“Other detainees may conclude that medical staff simply let the detainee die, without doing anything to save his life. Some detainees would almost certainly and quickly form such a conclusion. This could easily lead to acts of disruption, i.e., work stoppages, food strikes, etc., and violence by detainees acting either alone or in groups. I am concerned that these acts will be directed against staff (including medical staff) or against institutional property, to express detainees’ anger, resentment, and frustrations.”
I wonder, why are these people angry? Perhaps there is a better way to keep them from intentionally starving themselves to death, like improving their conditions? In Ivanov’s case, I can think of one specific thing that would help: a lawyer. Per the Beast’s reporting again (bolding mine):
It’s not clear why Ivanov, who was detained last November and is awaiting a deportation hearing next month, began a hunger strike on Aug. 4. There was no attorney listed for him in the court file.
Per the San Diego Union-Tribune, Ivanov has been in immigration proceedings since November, after he presented himself at a port of entry without “proper entry documents.” He’s considered “inadmissible,” and it is not clear if he’s seeking asylum. You know what would clear so many of these things up? If he had a lawyer. Per the Union-Tribune, his next court date is set for the end of September. He may not have legal representation by then but at least we know he won’t be allowed go hungry.
Does all this remind you of anything? Guantanamo Bay was also used to detain foreign nationals without due process. Hunger strikes were common, and force-feeding detainees became the norm. The shitty, post-9/11 justification at the time was that these were suspected terrorists (which ignores the fact that even these people should be afforded basic human rights). At ICE facilities, even that flimsiest of pretenses is gone: Many of those in custody are accused only of illegally crossing the border. And yet here we are.