Immigrant-rights activists have rallied outside the Northwest Detention Center in Washington state, while at least 750 detainees protested their treatment with a hunger strike and called for an end to deportations.
The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said on Saturday morning that 750 detainees had refused to eat and said they were on a hunger strike.
Activist Maru Mora Villalpando said the hunger strike started on Friday as a protest against deportations as well as conditions at the centre. She said the hunger strikers, who she believes number more than 1000, are seeking better food and treatment as well as better pay for centre jobs.
"We are concerned for their welfare, and we support their brave stand against inhumane treatment. We are gravely concerned about retaliation, particularly against the hunger-strike leaders," Villalpando said.
The centre currently houses nearly 1300 people being investigated for possible deportation.
ICE spokesman Andrew Munoz said the agency respects the right of detainees.
"ICE fully respects the rights of all people to express their opinion without interference," Munoz said. "While we continue to work with Congress to enact common-sense immigration reform, ICE remains committed to sensible, effective immigration enforcement."
The detainees are under continuous observation by centre staff and medical personnel.
ICE detention standards state that a detainee who has not eaten for 72 hours is considered to be on a hunger strike.