'This is not humanity': Disturbing video shows ICE authorities force-feeding asylum seeker
Ajay Kumar was held for about a year in the ICE detention center, where he says he was mistreated and his Hindu religious beliefs were not respected
In the 15-minutes-long video obtained by The Intercept, ICE officials and nurses can be seen forcing a tube down the throat of a migrant identified as Ajay Kumar, who left India in June 2018 seeking political asylum. Kumar was detained at the US border in California and was taken into custody by the ICE authorities before being transferred to a detention center in El Paso, Texas. "Due to political reasons, I had to leave my country because my life was in danger there," Kumar told The Intercept.
Kumar was held for about a year in the ICE detention center, where he says he was mistreated and his Hindu religious beliefs were not respected. He said the officials at the center used the same utensils for him in which beef dishes were served, and which goes against his Hindu beliefs. "When I opposed it, they would say that if you want to eat, you have to eat this," Kumar said. They even denied him access to his holy books. And when he retaliated against these things, he was sent into solitary confinement as punishment.
After being tired of the mistreatment, Kumar and three other Hindu asylum seekers went on a hunger strike, which lasted for more than a month. As their condition deteriorated, a judge approved the force-feeding of the asylum seekers, a highly controversial practice condemned by medical and human rights groups as unethical and torturous. The officials immediately started the process of force-feeding which continued over the course of three weeks between August and September of 2019. "I asked them to give me my freedom. If they had granted it at that time, there would have been no need for all of this," Kumar said in the interview. "This is not humanity. This is totally against humanity."
The whole process was captured by ICE officials to make sure that they used only ‘calculated force’ to feed them. In the video, which was recorded when the officials first fed Kumar, agents can be seen offering Kumar a protein shake, which he rejects. Then multiple agents come beside his bed and restrain his arms and legs as nurses insert the food tube down his throat. At another point in the video, two nurses can be seen attempting to insert a feeding tube into Kumar's nose.
"As soon as they started the second time, it was more painful than the first time, because my nose was already injured and the tube was going inside, tearing it again," Kumar said. "So the second time was more painful than the first. When they took it out [the second time], I had a lot of blood in my throat, which is why I had to vomit, and they brought the trash can for me to spit out the blood," Kumar said.
"You guys know the only thing I want: my freedom," the asylum seeker added. Kumar and other Indian Asylum seekers said the process was not just painful but also humiliating. The process, however, continued for more than three weeks.
The hunger strike eventually resulted in his freedom. Kumar was released in September 2019 after being on a 74-day hunger strike. Kumar now lives in California with his girlfriend and works for DoorDash and Instacart. He is currently waiting for the court date and justice for himself.
However, the humiliating process garnered criticism from both officials and outside observers. "It is the duty of the government to provide adequate medical care, not just to keep [Kumar] alive," federal judge Frank Montalvo wrote of Kumar's care.
"Every professional society that has ever spoken on this issue has stated, clearly, that force-feeding is unethical," said Dr Parveen Parmar, who reviewed Kumar's medical records. "Second, my review of all of Mr Kumar's care in ICE custody showed a consistent lack of adherence to a basic standard of care which was so shocking, it has haunted me since," Dr Parmar said in a statement obtained by the Texas Monthly.