Central American women holding a hunger strike at the Berks County Family Detention Center in rural Pennsylvania implored President Barack Obama to “set aside [his] vacation for 10 minutes and look at how we’re suffering locked up in here” on Wednesday, as they continued their second week of striking.

The women, who are also mothers, said they will continue striking until they receive some word on their asylum petitions. Activists with the grassroots group Make the Road Pennsylvania, who spent several months protesting outside the facility in solidarity, have taken their action to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, where Obama is on break with his family.

There are 22 women locked up at the facility with their children, none of whom have been charged with any crimes. The Nation reported on their plight:

“Our children are really paying the price psychologically and emotionally by remaining locked up in here,” one woman, Margarita, 22, told MSNBC by phone. “We don’t really care about ourselves anymore; what we want is for our children to have a fighting chance and that will happen outside of these walls.”

There is no reason to keep the families in detention while they wait for a decision on their asylum requests, the Nation says, citing a study by Human Rights First which found that refugees allowed supervised release nearly always show up for their hearings.


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