Things That Matter

A Group Of Women At A Migrant Detention Center Demanded Information About Covid-19, Then They Were Pepper Sprayed

As the Coronavirus spreads throughout communities across the United States, one group of people are at particular risk for contracting the virus: migrant detainees.

Tens of thousands of migrants are packed into crowded detention centers with little access to proper sanitation or medical treatment. Even before the outbreak of Covid19, migrants were facing outbreaks of measles and influenza at greater numbers than the general public.

Now, as they demand information on the risk this new virus poses them, they’re being met with violence.

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, so have confrontations between detainees and guards.

Credit: DHS / Office Of Inspector General

On Monday, migrants clashed with guards over a lack of safe conditions and demanded to be released from the South Texas Processing Center. The melee led to a standoff and the guards shot pepper spray at the detainees, which ended with nine of the migrants now held for disciplinary charges. The detainees had raised concerns about the lack of screening measures for new arrivals to the complex.

Then, a day later in Louisiana, an ICE spokesman said seven people were pepper-sprayed at the Pine Prairie detention center. Earlier, an ICE detainee in New Jersey described harrowing conditions and said migrants went on a hunger strike for soap. ProPublica obtained an audio recording in which the detainee said that guards, in response to the strike for hygiene products in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, told the detainees that they “have to die of something.”

The threat faced by detainees in ICE custody is real.

Credit: Grisel Gringis / YouTube

Four people — two correctional officers and two detainees — tested positive for COVID-19 at New Jersey detention facilities.

According to ICE’s guidance, new detainees who arrive at facilities are screened and isolated for a certain period of time if they have a fever or respiratory symptoms. The staff is also consulting with local health departments to determine whether there’s a need for testing.

For ICE’s part, they’re defending the use of chemicals against detainees as a necessary tool.

ICE spokesperson Bryan Cox told Mother Jones that pepper spray was used because “four persons became confrontational.” The rest of his statement said:

“The facility was conducting an informational briefing on COVID-19 preparations and safety measures in a detainee housing area to ensure persons in custody have accurate, timely information about the situation,”

As far as the use of force against migrants, he goes on to say: “ICE is tasked with providing safe and secure detention facilities for individuals in its custody. On March 25, at the LaSalle ICE Processing Center in Louisiana, a group of ICE detainees became disruptive and confrontational with facility staff in their housing area. Detainees refused to comply with directives from facility staff and four attempted to force their way out of the housing area, at which time facility staff deployed oleoresin capsicum, commonly referred to as ‘OC’ spray. Upon deployment of OC, the detainees became compliant and facility staff was able to mitigate further risk of injury to both detainees and staff. This immediate use of force was conducted consistent with agency protocol. Medical staff evaluated all individuals who came in contact with the pepper spray; no detainee or staff injuries were reported.”

Even before the outbreak, ICE was using pepper spray against migrants in its facilities.

Last summer, over 100 immigrants were pepper-sprayed at a Louisiana Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center. The incident happened after a group of detainees began to protest the conditions they were being forced to endure.

ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said that a “group of ICE detainees refused to depart the outdoor recreation area at the Pine Prairie facility Friday evening,” adding that “after repeated attempts by facility staff and ICE personnel to disperse the group and restore orderly operation of the facility, a brief, calculated use of pepper spray was employed Saturday morning.”

And this incident came just a day after 30 migrants were sprayed at a separate Louisiana facility. It’s obvious ICE is eager to use pepper spray against detainees in their care.

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Justice Amy Coney Barrett Just Issued Her First Opinion In Abortion Case And Cast Doubt On Future Of Roe V. Wade

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Justice Amy Coney Barrett Just Issued Her First Opinion In Abortion Case And Cast Doubt On Future Of Roe V. Wade

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It was no secret that if the Republican Party and Donald Trump got their way with the Supreme Court, that women’s health and reproductive rights would be under attack. Well, Trump installed his new justice, Amy Coney Barrett, to the court in November and she’s just issued her first opinion in a case related to access to abortion.

Amy Coney Barrett handed a victory to the White House and Conservatives regarding abortion.

Since taking her seat on the Supreme Court in November, Justice Coney Barretts’ opinions have escaped much scrutiny. However, her latest opinion in an abortion-related case is drawing scrutiny from both the left and the right for clues of how she might rule in the future.

The decision, issued despite objection from the court’s more liberal judges, reinstates a requirement for patients to pick up the drug, mifepristone, in person. Three lower courts had blocked the Food and Drug Administration’s in-person pick-up requirement for mifepristone during the coronavirus pandemic, citing the risks of contracting COVID-19 at a doctor’s office or a hospital.

Julia Kaye, staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Freedom Project, called the court’s decision “chilling” and one that “needlessly” endangers “even more people during this dark pandemic winter.”

In an interview with NPR, she added that people of color, like Black and Latinx patients, are at particular risk for health risks posed by COVID-19. Requiring them to go to a doctor’s office in person to pick up the drug threatens the health and lives of those patients, she said.

It’s the first abortion-related decision since last year’s swearing in of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, whose presence on the high court bench ensured a new conservative majority. Abortion-rights advocates have been fearful of what a conservative majority could do to chip away at legal protections for abortion.

On the surface, this week’s abortion ruling is fairly minor but it has many women worried.

Credit: Phil Walter / Getty Images

In its ruling, the Court didn’t release a majority opinion, which means that the case doesn’t explicitly change existing legal doctrine. And the case concerns a policy that the Biden administration could likely reverse after President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

But, when you read between the lines, the case – FDA v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – warns of a dark future for abortion rights and women’s health.

The premise of pro-abortion rights decisions like Roe v. Wade (1973) is that the Constitution provides special protection to the right to an abortion that it doesn’t provide to other elective medical procedures. Yet, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor explains in dissent, American College effectively rules that a commonly used abortion drug may be regulated more harshly than any other legal medication.

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Survey Says Support For Abortion Has Risen In Mexico

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Survey Says Support For Abortion Has Risen In Mexico

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Abortion rights have been long-debated issues for countries across the globe. Always, when it comes to conversations about women’s reproductive rights, is the debate that decisions like these should be decided solely by the people directly affected. You know, the ones with uteruses. Surprisingly, the president of Mexico agrees.

Last Thursday, the president declared that he believed that the decision about whether the country should legalize abortion should be left up to women.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador stressed last week that the legality of abortion should be up to Mexico’s women to decide.

While López Obrador avoided revealing his actual position on the issue, he did say that a public consultation should be considered in the decision. In Mexico, the issue of abortion remains controversial and is still rejected by many Mexicans.

“It’s a decision for women,” Lopez Obrador explained one day after the Argentine Senate voted to make abortion legal. “It’s just that matters of this nature should not be decided from above.”

Lopez Obrador’s comments came soon after the Argentine vote was made and journalists in a news conference asked him whether he thought Mexico should take similar action.

Mexico, a majority Roman Catholic nation, is changing in its perception of abortion restrictions.

According to Reuters, “At the end of November, support for abortion stood at 48% in a survey, published by the news organizations El Financiero and Nación321 – a steep rise from the 29% recorded in March. The poll, based on telephone interviews with 410 participants, asked if respondents agreed that “the law should permit a woman the right to abortion.”

While abortion is legal in Mexico City and the state of Oaxaca, it remains illegal in most of the country with the exception of special circumstances.

According to Reuters, a “nationwide poll published in September 2019 by newspaper El Financiero showed that a woman’s right to abortion only had majority support in Mexico City and Baja California state.”

Sixty-three percent of people who took part in the survey said that they were against abortion rights while 32% were in favor. Fifteen thousand adults took part in the survey.

Various nations in Latin American ban abortion in totality. El Salvador, has in the past sentenced women to up to 40 years in prison. Until recently, only Cuba and Uruguay have allowed women to recieve elective abortions.

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