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Lockdown Lifted As Hunger Strike Continues At Tacoma Detention Center

KUOW Photo/Liz Jones
The Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington.

Immigration officials say a lockdown has been lifted at a Tacoma detention center where hundreds of detainees are involved in a hunger strike.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement say the lockdown that started Sunday at the area of the Northwest Detention Center holding violent offenders was a precaution. 

Today marks the fourth day without food for some of the detainees, who say they're protesting record level deportations across the country.

The hunger strike began Friday night. Federal immigration officials in Seattle say 750 detainees initially joined in, but the number has since dwindled to 154 as of breakfast Monday morning, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

An attorney representing some of the detainees said their protest was inspired by a recent demonstration outside the facility two weeks ago when immigrant advocates physically blocked vehicles used in the center’s weekly deportation run.

The detainees said their protest is against escalating deportations across the U.S. and poor conditions at the detention center in Tacoma. They said they want better food and treatment, as well as better pay for center jobs.

Immigrant-rights activists said about 20 of the hunger strike organizers have been confined to a single cell.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman in Seattle did not immediately respond to this claim, but in a previous statement they said the agency respects the detainees’ rights to express their opinions.

Year started with KUOW: 2006