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Immigration Officials Say Hunger Strike Continues

May 31, 1985

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Immigration officials say a hunger strike by illegal aliens over conditions at a detention center is continuing, despite allegations that a beating by guards ended the protest.

Officials refused to comment on the allegations of violence at the camp in El Centro, 110 miles east of here but said there were defections among the hunger strikers. The number refusing food dropped Thursday from 12 to eight, officials said.

But Shari Cruhlac, a law clerk with the Imperial Valley Immigration Project, which has represented many aliens in their attempts to stay in the United States, said Thursday, ″I believe the strike was destroyed early this morning by brutal violence by INS officials.″

She said she was told that officials beat the protesters. She said she was told of the beating by a camp inmate, Manuel DiJesus Sanchez, who claimed to have witnessed it.

The hunger strike began Monday by aliens protesting what they say are inhumane conditions at the detention camp.

″As of this morning, only 12 aliens were participating. A large group defected the movement last night,″ James Turnage, San Diego district director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, said Thursday.

Later that day, an employee at the detention center, who would not give his name, said there were at least eight men still on a hunger strike.

He refused to comment on the allegations of violence and said Robert Roll, the center’s supervisor, was gone for the day and could not be reached.

Phone messages to INS offices in San Diego and Los Angeles Thursday evening were not returned.

Meanwhile, INS western regional commissioner Harold Ezell said the agency would seek to disbar or suspend El Centro attorney Graciela Zavala, accusing her of inciting disorder at the camp by helping to orchestrate the hunger strike.

A woman answering the phone at Ms. Zavala’s office Thursday said she was unavailable for comment. Earlier this week, the attorney denied accusations of involvement in the affair.

In a federal court action in Los Angeles Thursday, attorneys accused the INS of cutting off legal help for detainees at the center.

The lawyers include representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Central American Refugee Center, the National Center For Immigrant Rights and the immigrants rights office of the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.

Update hourly