“Being the daughter of immigrants is a very American story.”
Diane Guerrero, whose parents got deported to Colombia when she was 14 years old, opens up about immigration, identity, and diversity for MTV’s campaign #BeyondTheWall. “‘Beyond the Wall’ is love, empathy, inclusion. If we start having conversations of how we work together and stop having conversations about walls, then we can get somewhere,” says “The Orange is the New Black” star. “And then we’ll be what this great nation represents,” she added. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Listen above. Everything she says is so powerful.
Cristela Alonzo, Arturo Castro, and others have also joined the movement. Find out more about #BeyondTheWall, here.
The weather is growing colder, the days are growing shorter, and flu season has started to rear its ugly head. As usual, the government is encouraging anyone older than six months to get the vaccine, but one population is actually being denied flu shots.
Thousands of people are still detained at Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities for undocumented entry, and so far, none of them have had access to the influenza vaccine.
A few months ago, CBP camps were dismally overcrowded—they are still seeing an average of 3,500 people in custody each day, but that number has decreased substantially from a daily average of 20,000 migrants earlier this year (from January through July, over 600,000 migrants were detained after attempting to cross the border). Nevertheless, the conditions of the CBP sites (cramped quarters, limited access to hygienic facilities, etc.) make a perfect breeding ground for viruses, yet CBP officials have claimed that it would be too difficult to implement a vaccine program within their current infrastructure, which includes a staff of more than 250 medical personnel.
“To try and layer a comprehensive vaccinations system on to that would be logistically very challenging for a number of reasons. There’s a system and process for implementing vaccines—for supply chains, for quality control, for documentation, for informed consent, for adverse reactions,” the CBP said in a statement. They also said that this policy has been in place for some time, largely due to the fact that their “typical” processing time of 72 hours doesn’t warrant the need for interventions like vaccination. Of course, most of the people being held at CBP facilities have been there much longer than three days.
On top of not vaccinating the thousands of people in their custody, CBP does not require their staff to get a flu shot—a policy that could not only perpetuate the virus in CBP facilities but could also put their own families at risk.
“CBP officers could be shedding the virus. You are adding a whole other layer to what is basic medical neglect,” said Dr. Bonnie Arzuaga, a pediatrician based in Boston who also founded Doctors for Camp Closure. “In every other institutionalized setting—hospitals, schools, long term healthcare facilities—staff are required to get the flu shot.” The influenza vaccine is essential in institutionalized settings because of its incredibly high contagion rate. According to the CDC, the flu is contagious up to 24 hours before someone develops symptoms and up to a week afterward.
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University and a longtime adviser to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged that this year, the flu has started early and is already wreaking havoc all over the country. Dr. Jennifer Shu, an Atlanta-based pediatrician, noted that many of her patients hadn’t even had a chance to get their flu shots before getting infected. “This year, I had children testing positive for the flu in early October,” said Shu. “We don’t usually see flu that early in the year.” So far, of the main circulating strains is Influenza B, which has a propensity to hit children especially hard.
As many as 61,200 adults and 143 children died from complications of the flu illness in the 2018-2019 flu season. Three of those children died of the flu while in CBP custody.
To combat CBP’s negligence and prevent further deaths of the individuals in their care, Arzuaga’s Doctors for Camp Closure volunteered to provide free vaccinations to people in CBP’s care. The group formed in August of this year and is comprised of around 2,000 physician members, many of whom signed a letter to federal officials offering this vaccination service. The physicians stated that they initially planned to vaccinate 100 migrants, ultimately hoping to vaccinate the majority of the people currently detained.
The doctors with Doctors for Camp Closure confirmed that of 200,000 children in federal custody last year, the three deaths mentioned above, which were attributed to complications from influenza, are nine times higher than the expected child death rate from the flu. “In our professional medical opinion, this alarming mortality rate constitutes an emergency which threatens the safety of human lives, particularly children,” says the Doctors for Camp Closure letter.
The CBP ultimately dismissed this letter and the physicians’ offer to administer free vaccines. Kelly Cahalan, CBP spokesperson, told The Post that her agency has never provided immunizations for detained migrants and has no plans to do so. And a representative told CNN, “We haven’t responded [to the letter], but it’s not likely to happen.”
One of the biggest misconceptions that the world has about the United States and its approach to migration, particularly during the Trump administration, is that immigrants are facing rejection everywhere. It is important to explain, however, that federal policies for which the White House and State Departments are responsible sometimes run contrary to what states and even city officials do.
That is the case of immigrant policies: states like California, for example, have often disagreed with federal authorities in issues such as sanctuary cities. In turn, cities like Chicago, for example, boost and celebrate migration and the multicultural prism that it generates, and run programs that attempt to make new arrivals feel welcome and become a part of the wider community.
A new study has revealed which cities are most welcoming for migrants, fostering their incorporation into the wider community and encouraging diversity and cultural exchange.
The study was conducted by New American Economy, a bipartisan research group that is doing work on Immigration Reform. This is the second annual city-index. New American Economy was established by very wealthy corporate executives and mayors including Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch. The group’s webpage states its aim: “fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans”.
The group conducts high-end research and they have found that migrants are very important to the economy (duh! did you need all that research to find that out?).
In their first report they found out that “more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children – a key takeaway that has shifted perspectives and laid the foundation for better conversations about the role of immigrants in our economy and society”. Yessir! The study took into account cities that met these criteria: “Total population is more than 200,000 people. Foreign-born population is more than 10,000 people. The share of total population that is foreign-born is more than 3.6 percent”.
Chicago reigns supreme! The jewel of the Midwest.
As a region, the Midwest was the most accomodating site for new arrivals. So why was Chicago ranked on top? Because it provides a better environment for social, political and economic integration. The city’s mayor Lori Lightfoot was, of course, superhappy, and said in a statement: “We are tremendously proud Chicago has been named the most welcoming city in America for immigrants and refugees. This ranking reflects the passionate and dedicated work of countless public officials and community members across our city who have come together to stand up and fight for the rights of our immigrant and refugee communities, no matter the cost”. Preach!
Let’s not forget that Chicago’s history is full of migratory waves from Greece, Poland, Mexico, Italy… basically people from all over the world have contributed to the economic and social fabric of the city.
Second place, Chula Vista, California… and the state as a whole is pretty well ranked.
It is interesting how the border state of California has a total of four cities in the top 10. Common sense could dictate that the states closer to the border would face more challenges when it comes to migration, but the study reveals that California is using its history to develop better programs for integration. The state is in a key geopolitical position: bordering Mexico and the conflicted entry point of Tijuana, but also with a shore in the Pacific Ocean which encourages ties with Asia and Oceania. Chula Vista got perfect scores for Economic Empowerment, Community, and Inclusivity. Well done!
A very honorable third spot: Jersey City.
Jersey is sometimes seen as secondary to New York City, but it is the third place, a great win in itself. According to the report: “The city earns high marks for Government Leadership, Inclusivity, and Community, among others. Economic Empowerment and Civic Participation are two areas where the city could improve”.
4th… San Francisco, California, the entryway for many Asian migrants.
San Francisco’s history is tightly linked to migration. This city has attracted multiple groups since the Gold Rush, up to the dotcom era when many young professionals arrived in the city looking for that big breakthrough. According to the report, the city scores great in most areas but is expensive: “The city boasts impressive marks across the board in all policy categories. There is room to improve when it comes to Livability, which takes into things such as cost of living and educational attainment levels”.
Yes, the city is very expensive for anyone… one of the most costly in the world. But those views, though!
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