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Immigration detainees on hunger strike in Washington state

About 330 detainees were on a hunger strike for better conditions at an immigration detention center in Tacoma, Wash., as of Sunday afternoon, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The hunger strike at the Northwest Detention Center began Friday, and at one point more than half of the facility's 1,300 detainees - 750 - were refusing meals, an ICE official told the Los Angeles Times.

The facility is privately owned and operated by the GEO Group Inc., a government contractor. It houses immigration detainees during the deportation process.

According to an immigration activist website run by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the facility's detainees were protesting "the ongoing deportations overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the inhumane conditions at the for-profit detention center owned and operated by the GEO Corporation."

The detainees were seeking better food, better treatment, an increase in the facility's $1-a-day wages for work, and lower commissary prices, according to the labor network's website, www.notonemoredeportation.com.

As of Sunday afternoon, the 330 detainees who were refusing meals had not yet crossed the 72-hour threshold when prison officials must refer them for medical evaluation, according to a background statement provided by an ICE official.

GEO Group describes the Northwest Detention Center as a combination minimum-, medium- and maximum-security facility.

Some of the detainees in the facility have violent criminal histories, "including gang violence, rape and murder," according to the ICE statement, which added that the facility's most dangerous detainees have been placed on lockdown as a "safety precaution" during the hunger strike.

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