Things That Matter

A Colorado Church Has Provided Sanctuary To This Woman And Now She Just Gave Birth There To Avoid ICE

The humanitarian crisis product of the influx of undocumented migrants to the United States and the Trump administration’s tough policies and law enforcement techniques have resulted in stories of survival that are almost hard to believe. ICE raids all over the country have torn communities and families apart. But for all the bigotry there are some stories that reveal that there are still some good people out there and that human kindness and perseverance count for something. 

The recent tribulation of a 36-year-old Peruvian woman is one of such cases. 

Ingrid Encalada Latorre gave birth to a baby girl at a church in Boulder, Colorado

Credit: Twitter. @UUSC

She has been living at the Unitarian Universalist Church since 2017 with her two sons, after she moved from another religious site. Places of worship have a de facto status as a sanctuary and there is an unwritten agreement between law enforcers and religious organizations that dictates that once in a sacred building, migrants and refugees are safe from arrest. She has become an immigrant rights advocate based on her own traumatic experiences.  

The authorities have been persistent in their punitive actions against this outspoken woman.

As U-Wire reported in August, “In July, Encalada Latorre was fined nearly $5,000 by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for not leaving the country”. The bill just keeps adding up. And this is an strategy that is increasingly being used by the current administration as U-Wire reported in July: “The Trump administration threatened to impose these fines on immigrants who seek sanctuary in locations where ICE does not conduct enforcement operations, such as churches. Although the penalties are not new, imposing the financial penalties has been rare, according to reporting by the Washington Post”.

Damn. Some migrants have been fined for more than $400,000. Of course, almost no one is able to pay that kind of money. 

Ingrid declined to go to hospital to give birth, and for a very good reason.

She feared that she would become a target for ICE if she left the place of worship. She had a 15-hour natural birth and she delivered her baby with the help of a midwife. Ingrid kept her birthing plans under wraps until the last minute because any information leak could very well put her at risk of deportation.

She told The Daily Beast: “Having a baby is always a light of life. I am excited to have my beautiful baby girl and my two sons, who I love very much. My life continues, and this broken system will not stop my fight to keep my family together.”

She moved into the church after a court appearance where she pleaded guilty.

Her crime: trying to buy a Social Security number so she could work and provide for her kids. She got bad legal advice and pleaded guilty to a felony, which is much worse than the correct category of a misdemeanor. The church has been more than accomodating, and a shower and proper living quarters have been provided for Ingrid and her children. 

The church’s reverend, Eric Posa, is like the coolest man of the robe ever.

Credit: Twitter. @TheLeftRev

Eric Posa has a long history of fighting for the dispossessed and the vulnerable, and his stern defence of Ingrid is proof of that. He told The Daily Beast, which first broke the story: “We talk about the joy of new life at the church, but I’ve got to say, in my career, it’s never been as literally true about new life being added to the church as happened here”.

And Posa also served some truths to the system: “In a system that would tell people that they are less human than those who are native-born citizens—and especially those of us with white skin—and in a system that would actively discourage the rest of us as treating Ingrid and others like her as fully human, she decided not to limit and pare down her life, but to expand her family”.

Some might get judgemental about Ingrid’s decision to have a baby under such circumstances, but bringing life is a way of resisting a bleak future. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about Ingrid’s case to highlight the faults in the system.

Ingrid ended up in this legal mess because she had to resort to a misdemeanor because even though she is part of the community in Colorado, she has lived under the shadows and in fear for too long, just like millions of migrants who are hard working and bring a sense of solidarity to social life in the United States. AOC also visited Ingrid and offered her support as part of a trip to Boulder, where she also spoke at a dinner.  

She Died In Border Patrol Custody, Now Details Are Emerging In The 7-Year-Old Guatemalan’s Death

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She Died In Border Patrol Custody, Now Details Are Emerging In The 7-Year-Old Guatemalan’s Death

@ACLUTexas / Twitter

We can’t say this enough (and no, we won’t get “over it”): the Trump administration’s hardened stance on migration has led to mass-scale suffering and individual stories that would break just about anybody’s heart. We have already discussed the living conditions in which minors are being kept in actual cages, how families are being separated sometimes permanently and the effects of an increased used of private companies to provide housing facilities for migrants and refugees detained by ICE and Border Patrol.

There have been deaths while migrants are in custody of these agencies. And recently doctors have been detained for trying to administer flu shots to migrant kids who due to weakened bodies, stress and physical proximity to each other are prone to acquire contagious diseases. The current situation in the border has brought out the best and the worst in people, from amazing acts of compassion to the most xenophobic remarks that lack any kind of nuance. 

But among all stories of despair and death, perhaps the ones that affect us the most on an emotional level are the deaths of minors while on custody of United States authorities.  

A Guatemalan girl was seven, and she died of dehydration, exhaustion and shock while in custody of Border Patrol.

The authorities have not released the girl’s name, but we know she was trying to cross the Mexican border illegally with her father. The pair were caught along with a group of undocumented migrants in a remote spot of the New Mexico desert. She was taken into the custody of the Border Patrol, which informed of her death on Thursday.

The details of her death are harrowing. As reported by The Washington Post: “the girl and her father were taken into custody about 10 p.m. Dec. 6 south of Lordsburg, N.M., as part of a group of 163 people who approached U.S. agents to turn themselves in”. 

While in custody things took a turn for the worse, her already dire condition quickly deteriorated and it is unclear whether she was given water or food.

Yes, migrants arrive to the United States in terrible physical condition after crossing the desert in possibly the worst conditions anyone could imagine. They are subject to heat, unbelievable emotional distress, wildlife threats and lack of food and water. But the humane thing to do, and not just humane but also ethical and ascribed to international law, is to provide medical care to those detained.

The Washington Post report informs: “More than eight hours later, the child began having seizures at 6:25 a.m., CBP records show. Emergency responders, who arrived soon after, measured her body temperature at 105.7 degrees, and according to a statement from CBP, she ‘reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days.” As The Washington Post argues, this could lead to further scrutiny to the processes through which migrants are processed and their health assessed. 

The child was transported by helicopter to a hospital in El Paso, Texas.

However, it was too late: less than 24 hours after arriving to El Paso. The father remains in El Paso with Guatemalan consular authorities. According to The Washington Post, Border Patrol is investigating the circumstances in which the little girl died, as “Food and water are typically provided to migrants in Border Patrol custody, and it wasn’t immediately clear Thursday if the girl received provisions and a medical exam before the onset of seizures.”

The influx of migrants seems to have outgrown the capacity of US authorities and the sociopolitical situation in Latin America, and particularly in Central America, has led to recent episodes of violence and strife that has increased the number of those who wish to find survival (not even a better life, but the possibility to remain alive) in the United States. 

Activists are furious over how long it took for authorities to release information on the case.

Cynthia Pompa, advocacy manager for the ACLU Border Rights Center, said in a statement: “The fact that it took a week for this to come to light shows the need for transparency for CBP. We call for a rigorous investigation into how this tragedy happened and serious reforms to prevent future deaths.”

The autopsy results won’t be available for several days, but facts lead to dehydration, septic shock and fever. And it seems that we will sadly have more cases like this, as apprehensions have registered record numbers in recent months. As WP reports: “In November, Border Patrol agents apprehended a record 25,172 “family unit members” on the southwest border.” There is indeed a humanitarian crisis at hand.

Doctors And Nurses Protested Outside CBP Office Demanding Flu Shots For Migrant Kids, Many Were Arrested

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Doctors And Nurses Protested Outside CBP Office Demanding Flu Shots For Migrant Kids, Many Were Arrested

@WendyFry_ / Twitter

United States Customs and Border Protection would not allow a group of doctors access to provide flu vaccines to children in a San Diego detention center. At least three children, according to the Guardian, have recently died in immigration custody due to the flu. They were ages two, six, and 16. 

Just recently, the death of 16-year-old Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez garnered national attention when ProPublica uncovered surveillance footage that revealed Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials did not appropriately tend to his flu symptoms. 

Groups like Doctors for Camp Closure, Families Belong Together, and Never Again Action participated in a protest and effort to provide children detained by CBP the vaccines. 

“We see this as medical negligence on the part of the US government,” said Dr Bonnie Arzuaga, co-founder of Doctors for Camp Closure, told the Guardian. “People are being held in close confinement and usually are under a lot of physical and emotional stress … and maybe malnourished and may not have access to hygiene supplies. That puts them at risk.”

Physicians were turned away at a Chula Vista border patrol station.

A group of licensed doctors went to the detention center to run a free flu clinic. CBP would not allow them in. The agents said it was not “feasible” to offer any migrants medical assistance.  

“More people will die without the vaccine,” Dr Hannah Janeway, an emergency medicine physician that was turned away told the Guardian. “There’s no doubt. They are being locked in cages in cold weather together, without any vaccination, in a year that is supposed to bring a horrible flu epidemic.”

Janeway also works with asylum seekers in Tijuana and believes the government has a moral obligation to provide vaccinations to children. 

 “Our government, who is creating these conditions and allowing them to persist, is basically saying some people’s lives are worth more than others, and it’s OK for children to die,” Janeway said. 

Doctors have repeatedly been turned down by CBP. 

Doctors have mobilized for over a month in an attempt to allow the US to vaccinate migrants. In November, they made a formal proposal to operate a free pilot clinic. CBP rejected the proposal alleging it is too logistically difficult to set up because of time constraints. 

“[Migrant detainees] should generally not be held for longer than 72 hours,” CBP spokesman Matthew Dyman told the Guardian in an email. “Every effort is made to hold detainees for the minimum amount of time required.”

Dyman asserted that the larger system in place provides adequate medical care to migrants who are in detention centers for the long-term. However, government records prove that both adults and children are often detained for longer than 72 hours, in crowded conditions — sometimes held for weeks without explanation. 

“It has never been a CBP practice to administer vaccines and this not a new policy,” an official statement from CBP said. “Individuals in CBP custody should generally not be held for longer than 72 hours in either CBP hold rooms or holding facilities. As a law enforcement agency, and due to the short-term nature of CBP holding and other logistical challenges, operating a vaccine program is not feasible.”

52 people protest in front of CBP facility demanding to be allowed to provide medical care. 

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, at least 52 people, largely licensed doctors and medical students, marched from Vista Terrace Neighborhood Park to the detention facility demanding to be let in or to let the children out to receive vaccines from a mobile clinic they set up. 

“We have the team here. We have the vaccines. It would not take 72 hours to do,” said Dr. Mario Mendoza, a retired anesthesiologist who was present. “What I can say is we are not leaving here until they let us enter. We are doctors. We are against death and we are for humanity.” 

Mendoza is an immigrant from El Salvador. He fled the dangerous country because his mother was an advocate for teacher’s rights — a noble cause that put her life in danger. 

“My heart hurts a lot for the immigrants that are here, both the adults and the children. I came here undocumented from El Salvador in 1981. We ran for 12 hours through the desert. We survived only by the grace of God and the strength of my mother,” said Mendoza. 

Doctors are arguing that it doesn’t matter how long migrants are detained, they should be entitled to life-saving services. Dr. Arzuaga believes that all CBP has to do is let them in. Others feel the fact that CBP won’t allow them to provide services is a testament of how they have dehumanized migrants altogether. 

“They are having difficulty prioritizing something like this, because they have so far dehumanized people. My question is, why not?” Danielle Deines, a neonatologist at the protest. “If you want to hold people in detention, you can provide people the basic flu vaccine … You’re saying death is acceptable to you, and that you don’t value human life.”