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Upon arrival at the privately run Cibola County Correctional Facility in Milan, a group of 12 Cubans began a hunger strike, two of them said. In retaliation, prison officials again put them in solitary confinement, where they continued to refuse to eat, the two said. File photo courtesy Cibola Beacon

A dozen Cuban asylum-seekers detained in a facility near Grants say they have been repeatedly placed in solitary confinement as punishment for engaging in a right many Americans take for granted: peaceful protest.

In interviews with The New Mexican, two asylum-seekers in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody said they and 10 others were put in solitary confinement in two separate New Mexico facilities as a punitive measure for going on hunger strikes to protest the denial of their asylum cases and their lengthy stay in prison.

“We’re not criminals, but they just keep us locked up,” Juan Carlos Peña Pavon, a 51-year-old Cuban man, said by telephone while detained at Cibola County Correctional Center shortly after he spent nine days in solitary confinement. “We’re threatened with death if we return to our country, so they’re going to have to bury us here, incinerate us here.”

Reporter

Jens Gould covers politics for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He was a correspondent for Bloomberg News in Mexico City, a regular contributor for TIME in California, and produced the video series Bravery Tapes.

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