Things That Matter

A Third Man Has Died In ICE Custody After Testing Positive For Covid-19

As ICE continues to detain thousand of migrants across the country in crowded detention centers, the pandemic continues to claim lives. This time a 51-year-old Mexican man has died after testing positive for Covid-19 while in ICE custody.

For months, migrant and refugee rights organizations have implored the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – the agency that oversees ICE – to release all people in their custody to avoid mass contagion. The fear has been that keeping thousands of people in close quarters and without proper access to medical care could result in the deaths of countless people. But the agency refuses to listen, and it’s costing lives.

ICE announced that a third man has died in their custody after battling a Coronavirus infection.

A 51-year-old Mexican man, Onoval Perez-Montufa, has been announced as the latest victim to die of Coronavirus infection while in ICE custody. Perez-Montufa has been in ICE custody since June 15, when he was released from a Massachusetts prison and was being held by ICE at the Glades County Detention Center in Florida before he died on Sunday.

Perez-Montufa had been hospitalized for nearly two weeks as he attempted to fight off his Covid-19 infection. He entered the Palm Beach Country hospital on July 1 after reporting shortness of breath while in ICE detention.

He tested positive for COVID-19 on July 2, ICE said. The cause of death on Sunday was not immediately known.

Reports of the man’s death drew swift condemnation from immigrant rights organizations, who’ve been pushing for weeks for ICE to release more detainees from its facilities and arguing coronavirus poses a deadly threat to immigrants behind bars.

The death comes more than a month after a Guatemalan man who tested positive for COVID-19 died in ICE custody.

Unfortunately, Perez-Montufa is not the only victim of ICE’s continued detention policy amid a global health pandemic. His death comes a month after a 34-year-old Guatemalan man who had tested positive for COVID-19 died in ICE custody at a Georgia hospital in May.

That man, 34-year-old Santiago Baten-Oxlaj, had been in ICE custody at Stewart Detention Center since early March, the agency confirmed in a statement.

Baten-Oxlaj was the second confirmed victim of the virus while in ICE custody after a man from El Salvador died in early May.

Migrants in detention centers are at increased risk for the disease.

According to ICE’s own data, there are currently 883 cases of Covid-19 among the nearly 23,000 detainees in ICE custody. That’s an overall infection rate of nearly 4% – far above the national average.

And since the very start of the Coronavirus pandemic, medical experts and immigrant rights activists have warned about the growing risk detainees would face. They’ve long pointed out the inherent difficulties within detention centers – such as a lack of necessary space to accommodate proper social distancing guidelines – that put people in danger. Not to mention that the agency has long faced accusations of providing inadequate medical care to detainees. Advocates have used these arguments as a way to push for more releases.

At the beginning of the pandemic, ICE did asses their detainee population and decided to relocate vulnerable detainees, including those who are over 60 or are pregnant. Meanwhile, several federal judges have ordered ICE to release more than 500 detainees, citing the preexisting medical conditions of the immigrants released and the potential for life-threatening complications from COVID-19.

Despite the ongoing deaths and sky high infection rates, ICE said in a press release: “ICE is firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody and is undertaking a comprehensive, agency-wide review of this incident.”

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There’s A ‘Haunted Drive-Thru’ Experience Coming To Save Halloween And It Looks Terrifying

Entertainment

There’s A ‘Haunted Drive-Thru’ Experience Coming To Save Halloween And It Looks Terrifying

Miodrag Ignjatovic / Getty Images

I don’t care if it’s barely August. It’s never too soon to start talking about Halloween.

The year 2020 has already taken so much from us, I won’t let it take Halloween too. And thanks to come very creative, socially-distanced supporting Halloween fans, it looks like we won’t have to say goodbye to the best holiday of the year after all.

Orlando is getting a drive-thru haunted experience and I really want to go.

If you were worried that COVID-19 would spell the end of haunted attractions in 2020, you’d best buckle up. The brave and the squeamish alike are invited to travel The Haunted Road this fall, a drive-thru Halloween experience in Central Florida that offers a socially distant alternative to the traditional haunted house.

The Haunted Road promises a fully immersive horror experience replete with monsters and gore galore — which should ring like music to your ears if going to haunts is your Halloween tradition of choice. The difference here is that you’ll experience the world of nightmarish scenery and gruesome creatures entirely from the comfort of your vehicle. So, kind of like a haunted hayride, but Coronavirus safe.

At the heart of the experience is an original take on the story of Rapunzel. On The Haunted Road, Rapunzel “journeys into a world of disarray, faces bloodcurdling creatures — and hundreds of shocking scares.” There will also be a more family-friendly daytime version of the event on weekdays.

OK, a huge thank you to whomever thought up this genius idea.

The idea for The Haunted Road was borne from the idea of creating an original haunted attraction that adheres to safe social distancing measures.

Most haunted attractions place visitors into smaller spaces and encourage performers to get up close and personal to secure the scare. But with the coronavirus pandemic raging on, that in-your-face approach is largely unfeasible and could lead most haunts to remain closed for the 2020 season. And that’s where The Haunted Road comes riding in like a headless horseman poised to save Halloween.

“With the arts and entertainment industry at a standstill, and an increasing need to find new, safe outdoor entertainment, we knew it was the perfect time to develop a unique Halloween experience so everyone can enjoy a dose of horror this upcoming Halloween season, from the comfort of their car,” said Jessica Mariko, executive producer and creative principal, The Haunted Road.

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A Federal Court Ruling Could Finally Put Much Needed Stimulus Funds In The Hands Of Native Tribes

Things That Matter

A Federal Court Ruling Could Finally Put Much Needed Stimulus Funds In The Hands Of Native Tribes

Sharon Shischilly / Getty Images

Indigenous communities in the Unites States have often been forgotten or deliberately excluded from federal policy. Many nations have been forced to go it alone and, as Covid-19 ravages Native lands, many tribe members have died.

After more than two centuries of exclusion, amid a global epidemic, Indigenous communities are once again being excluded from the decision-making process in Washington even as Covid-19 devastates their communities.

But while Indigenous peoples haven’t always had success before the courts, there has been real momentum of late. In July, the Supreme Court recognized roughly half of Oklahoma as Indigenous land, in a ruling that will have far-reaching consequences in the state justice system and beyond.

Now, Native Americans are having to fight once again for what they’re owed as the federal government distributes the more than $150 billion in stimulus money. More than a dozen Indigenous organizations warned, starting in early April, that if the Trump administration did not listen to tribal governments, they ran the risk of turning the relief package into a “grave injustice.”

A federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to give Native tribes their withheld stimulus money.

Credit: Sam Wasson / Getty Images

Frustrated and disgusted that it has taken so long for the Treasury Department to distribute federal stimulus funds to Native American tribes, a federal judge ordered Secretary Steve Mnuchin to distribute the money immediately, according to HuffPost. The judge said that tribes should have received their portion of the CARES Act months ago when other Americans received theirs.

The decision from U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta was particularly critical of Mnuchin’s decision to hold back $679 million in funding set aside for tribes while waiting on a decision in another case that will determine whether tribal businesses are eligible for the funding, as The Hill reported.

In his ruling, Mehta said “Continued delay in the face of an exceptional public health crisis is no longer acceptable.”

Over the past three months, the Treasury Department has managed to send out billions of dollars in loans to small businesses, checks to families and aid to corporations. But distributing the $8 billion pot set aside for tribal governments has proved more difficult. As a result, tribes, already critically underfunded and among the nation’s most vulnerable communities, have not received all the money they need to weather the pandemic and begin recovering from the economic toll.

“Congress made a policy judgment that tribal governments are in dire need of emergency relief to aid in their public health efforts and imposed an incredibly short time limit to distribute those dollars,” he wrote in an order released late Monday night. “The 80 days they have waited, when Congress intended receipt of emergency funds in less than half that time, is long enough.”

Some tribes were owed $12 million in federal funding and yet got nothing from the government.

Credit: Mark Ralson / Getty Images

Much of the fault is with the Treasury Department which counted the populations of Native tribes differently that Congress had intended. This meant that some tribes would end up with zero funding while some for-profit tribal companies could end up with millions.

Since some tribes do not have a designated reservation or service area, their population counts were listed as zero and they received only the minimum $100,000 allocation.

“We are not races — we are sovereign nations,” said Chief Ben Barnes of the Shawnee Tribe. He added “How can a tribe have zero people?” noting that more than 3,000 people belong to his tribe. “It was a simple clerical error, but no one at Treasury tried to fix it.”

The oversight was even more egregious, Barnes said, because there is also a census count that, while not completely accurate, would have ensured the tribe got closer to the $12 million it believes it is entitled to based on enrollment numbers.

As the legal wrangling continues, the picture on the ground is disastrous.

The Indian Health Service (IHS) reports there have been nearly 33,000 COVID-19 cases reported to IHS, tribal, and urban Indian health organizations. In May, the outbreak in the Navajo Nation surpassed New York as the highest infection rate in the country—today, its infection rate is double any state. Today, the nation has more cases, in terms of raw numbers, than several states.

And while the funding threats and lack of resources threaten everyone, Indigenous elders—sometimes the only remaining speakers of nearly lost languages—face particular danger.

In recent years, there have been furious efforts to collect Indigenous histories and preserve nearly lost Indigenous languages. COVID-19 threatens to undo much of that work as it cuts through the elderly population.

“COVID-19, like many diseases, renders Indigenous elders—our knowledge-keepers and language holders—particularly susceptible to illness and death,” wrote Gina Starblanket and Dallas Hunt, two Indigenous professors and writers in the Globe and Mail in late March. “This virus not only places us at risk, but the future well-being of coming generations as well

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