The number of people participating in the protest wasn't clear. Two weeks ago, the FBI said 31 detainees remained in INS custody in New Jersey. Kerry Gill, a spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in Newark, said government standards define a hunger strike as a period of at least 72 hours in which a prisoner refuses food or drink. "So far, no one has gone 72 hours without food or drink," he said.
Gill said the INS on Thursday dispatched officers to meet with detainees who had threatened hunger strikes. The visits are normally done every few days, he said.
Sandra Nichols, an immigration lawyer representing four detainees in Passaic County and one in Hudson County, said the strike began as a protest against the slow speed with which the INS had been processing and releasing detainees already cleared by the FBI. Nichols said most of the detainees are being held for overstaying their visas and have agreed to be deported.
In Islam, Ramadan marks God's revelation of the Quran, Islam's holy book, to the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims abstain from food, drink and smoking during daylight hours in an act of sacrifice and purification.