For Immediate Release
April 1, 2021
El Salvadoran Asylum Seeker in ICE Detention on Day 26 of Hunger Strike, Likely Hospitalized at Facility with Troubled History
April 1, 2021, MIAMI – Marvin Reyes Ventura, a 45-year-old El Salvadoran asylum seeker currently in ICE detention at Krome Service Processing Center, is on the 26th day of a hunger strike to fight for his release from detention. Reyes Ventura has been hospitalized for three days, with no contact with his family. Additionally, his family has not been able to get any updates from ICE directly on Reyes Ventura’s condition.
Reyes Ventura, a long-time New Jersey resident, has been on his second hunger strike for over three weeks as a political protest to demand ICE release him from detention so that he can seek asylum while living with family and have easier access to his legal representation. He has lost over 30 pounds and faces increasing health risks. In mid-March, a doctor told him his glucose levels were dangerously close to 60, which would put him at risk of going into a coma.
On March 16th, Reyes Ventura stated, “I am at risk of dying. I only ask ICE to please consider me. I am very weak at the moment. My stomach really hurts, it burns. My back hurts, as well as my head.” On Tuesday March 30th, he called family members to tell them he was being taken to the hospital. His family has not heard from him since then, and ICE has refused to provide them directly with any information on his condition or location.
It is believed Reyes Ventura is at Larkin Community Hospital, where ICE typically sends sick detainees. In January 2020, a 63-year-old Cuban man in ICE custody died of cardiac arrest at the facility. In September 2017, a Cuban immigrant in ICE custody died a week after he was found hanging in the hospital. According to Naples Daily News, the hospital “has been cited in past state and federal inspection reports for failure to monitor patients adequately and placing patients with known psychiatric conditions in unsecured areas because they admitted more than the hospital’s license allowed.”
Reyes Ventura has been in ICE detention since November 27, 2019. He was initially detained in New Jersey at Essex County Jail, and then transferred to Bergen County Jail in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reyes Ventura states that while at Bergen County Jail, he was kept in “a dirty jail cell with critters and rats,” and “the food was terrible, the sheriffs were racist, and we were kept inside 22 hours a day.” Reyes Ventura caught COVID-19 in detention, and said that ICE ignored his medical issues. “They didn’t care knowing I have high blood pressure and other symptoms, and I was at risk of dying in lockdown.” He and others went on a 26-day hunger strike at Bergen County Jail in November 2020 to protest the conditions at the jail and demand their release. “Even during those 26 days of only drinking water and having fainted twice, ICE still didn’t care. Instead, ICE threatened to take me to the hospital to force-feed me. I am not an animal to be treated like this, I am a human being and I have the right to have another chance,” said Reyes Ventura.
Reyes Ventura was transferred to Krome Detention Center in Miami as political retaliation by ICE because of his first hunger strike. Krome is presented by ICE as a mental health facility, but has a long history of abuses and neglect, and has force-fed hunger strikers in the past. A report by the Project on Government Oversight found 153 reports of people held in solitary confinement at Krome between January 2016 and May 2018, including 121 reports of solitary used for discipline.
In El Salvador, in 1998, Reyes Ventura’s father and brother were shot in front of him, and subsequently he and his family faced threats. The violent killings deeply affected the family. “Especially my brother, the one who is detained,” said Reyes Ventura’s sister, who is also an asylum seeker and lives in New Jersey. “Because he saw all that, he lived through all that happened there, and since then his life has changed. Because he never got any help from a professional, he never had any therapy. He needed my dad obviously, and my brother.”
A lawyer helped Reyes Ventura begin his asylum case while in detention; it is still being processed. “If my brother gets deported, he will be in danger there [in El Salvador]. Because that man is still there. Some neighbors […] they tell my mom they’ve seen him. And, actually there in the same neighborhood, he killed a boy about five months ago. He shot that boy seven times, and he was also a neighbor. I am sure that if my brother goes to El Salvador, they will kill him too,” said Reyes Ventura’s sister.
“Marvin is putting his life at great risk by going on hunger strike in hopes of being released to his family. He has a strong and loving family, and his sisters are his biggest advocates who can help him adjudicate his asylum case from home. Despite facing the psychological and physical torture of incarceration during the pandemic months, he reached out to a community of advocates and providers who are committed to seeing him thrive and finally be connected to the mental health resources and services he never had. ICE must stop criminalizing him and free him immediately,” said Marlene Ramos, an organizer with Abolish ICE NY-NJ.
The Abolish ICE NY-NJ Coalition envisions an end to detention, ICE, jails, prisons, and policies that criminalize immigrants, specifically focused on New York and New Jersey. The coalition is made up of the following organizations: Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, Borderless Existence Initiative, Critical Resistance NYC Chapter, Central Jersey DSA, Center for Constitutional Rights, Doctors for Camp Closure, Freedom For Immigrants, Freedom To Thrive, New York State Youth Leadership Council, NYU Law Immigrant Rights Clinic, NYC Democratic Socialists of America, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, North Jersey Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Queer Detainee Empowerment Project, Drew Roosevelt Institute, Solidarity & Mutual Aid Jersey City, Unitarian Universalist Faith Action New Jersey and more. Follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.