Things That Matter

All of the Migrant Children That Have Been Killed At The U.S. Border

Getty Images News - John Moore / Staff

The challenges that the US faces with immigration across the Mexican border isn’t necessarily a new one. In fact, the Clinton administration was “rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country.” Border migration isn’t even an issue that’s particularly unique to the US – just look to Ireland to see the issues it had when it was figuring out how to manage immigration between the Republic and Northern Ireland. But what is unique about the current situation is not only the Trump administration’s aggressive policies that have stopped migrants at the border at a rate that’s jumped 90 percent since 2018, it’s the deaths of six migrant children in custody.

Read on to find out about these children.

1. Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez

Instagram / @englishwithsoh

One of the most recent death in US custody was a 16-year old Guatemalan boy by the name of Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez. He died on April 29, after the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention facility officials noticed he was sick, and hospitalized him. Vasquez was in intensive care for a few days before he passed away. So, what made him so sick, you ask? Influenza. Yep, that’s right – he died from a sickness that we can easily be inoculated against. Something that, chances are, we all probably suffer from when winter rolls around.

Instagram / @blacktruthnews

So how is it possible that a teenager could have died from a bout of the flu? Anyone who’s been paying attention to the news will know that Buzzfeed recently caught wind of the fact that more than 52,000 people are now being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement – or, ICE. However, the facilities that they use to hold people only have enough beds, in total, for 45,000. Putting two-and-two together, it’s unsurprising to think that overcrowding in detention facilities could easily result in both the rapid spread of infection and also that a sick child would be overlooked and may not receive needed treatment.

2. The Toddler

Instagram / @feministinpower

The name of the two-and-a-half-year-old has not been released to the press. This could be for a number of reasons: the authorities may have concealed The Toddler’s name as part of their damage control efforts, or it could simply be to protect the identity of the small child. Practicing healthy skepticism, it’s more likely the former since The Toddler is currently the youngest child to have died in US custody. He passed away on May 14.

Instagram / @adam_allegro

The Toddler and his mother were also from Guatemala, which is currently ravaged by violence, poverty, and drought. It’s worth noting here that, according to the United Nation’s (UN) 1951 Refugee Convention, an asylum seeker is someone who seeks protection in another country due to the threat of violence in their home country. In this case, it’s not illegal for people to cross international borders and present themselves to authorities to ask for asylum. It stands to reason that the US agrees with these terms since they’re a signatory on the Convention. But you know what? Day after day, we still hear the words “illegal immigrant” thrown around. For children like The Toddler, who are fleeing violence, they’re not an illegal immigrant – they’re an asylum seeker. But they’re still being detained and dying, due to long processing times and semantics.

3. Juan de León Gutiérrez

Instagram / @marionydv

16-year-old Juan de León Gutiérrez passed away on April 30, after being apprehended by the CBP near El Paso on April 19. The Guatemalan Foreign Ministry said Gutierrez died of complications after developing a rare infection in his brain’s frontal lobe, known as Pott’s puffy tumor. It’s usually caused by a severe sinus infection or a head trauma. Whether he contracted a sinus infection or suffered a head injury as a result of being in detention remains to be seen. He was unaccompanied at the time, meaning that he had no family with him when he was in detention – or when he passed away.

Instagram / @enmnews

So what is President Donald Trump doing about all of this? His most recent comments regarding the deaths in CBP custody saw him blame the Democrats since they are refusing to work with him and approve changes to improve the current system. However, these “improvements”, for want of a better word, would see $4.5 billion in emergency humanitarian funding directed towards detaining families for longer and expediting deportations – policies that the Democrats oppose. Despite these setbacks, ICE has requested funding for another 9,000 beds, so that it can increase its capacity to detain people in 2020.

4. Jakelin Caal Maquin

Instagram / @wandaltrammell

Guatemalan youngster Jakelin Caal Maquin was only seven years old when she passed away from sepsis, a bacterial infection, on December 8 last year while in the custody of border patrol agents. This was two days after she and her father were detained by local authorities.

Instagram / @pod617

Possibly the only positive to have come from Maquin’s death was a change in policy from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). They ordered medical checks for all children in custody, and expanded medical screenings, too. In fact, since December the CBP has been transporting about 69 individuals per day to higher-level care facilities, which includes hospitals. While it is likely that some people have developed illnesses while in detention, some are arriving with pre-existing health conditions, such as the likes of influenza and liver disease.

5. Felipe Gómez Alonzo

Instagram / @gpedrozaaa

Felipe Gómez Alonzo didn’t even live to see Christmas Day last year, having passed away on Christmas Eve while in CBP custody after contracting influenza. Yep, another flu case. At the time, he was being detained with his father, and was in the process of being moved from the CBP’s El Paso station because the facility had run out of space. The eight-year-old died at a highway checkpoint.

Instagram / @broloelcordero

While Alonzo’s death was a first for children’s deaths in CBP custody, the fact that he was being kept on the side of a highway was not. It was reported by the Associated Press that the Border Patrol has been dealing with overcrowding in detention centers by simply detaining people for hours outside in a parking lot, and under an international bridge. Families are made to sleep at these locations on the grass and pavement outside, or in poor conditions in military-style tents. This puts them at risk of violent assault and potential accidents. It seems this practice won’t be ending anytime soon since the Border Patrol announced at the beginning of May that it was opening two 500-person tents to house detainees – one in El Paso, and another in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.

6. The Sixth Child

Instagram / @theexecutivetea

News has broken that a sixth, El Salvadoran, child died in US custody in September 2018. While her name is yet to be released, what is known is that she was ten years old, and had been detained for eight months before her death.

Instagram / @gerahy

According to authorities, the girl had a history of heart defects and died in a hospital in Nebraska. It is assumed that she was alone in her detention, as the Department of Health and Human Services were responsible for her, and they are typically responsible for providing healthcare to unaccompanied minors.

While just one think piece about these unnecessary deaths isn’t suddenly going to make the Trump administration reconsider how it is treating these children, it’s still important to remember the names of these young people who had their whole life ahead of them – before neglect and mistreatment cut them short. Valuing human lives is also about remembering them in death, too.

The Statue Of Liberty Gets Arrested By ICE In A New Las Vegas Mural That Speaks To Our Inhumane Immigration Policies

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The Statue Of Liberty Gets Arrested By ICE In A New Las Vegas Mural That Speaks To Our Inhumane Immigration Policies

A mural showing the Statue of Liberty being handcuffed by immigration enforcement officers has been unveiled in Las Vegas, amid rancour and anger over Donald Trump’sharsh immigration policies.

The mural, titled “Chained Migration,” was unveiled late last month in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Mural by Izaac Zevalking / Photo by Jesse Hudson

Since then, it has caused a lot of dialogue between those who support it and those who don’t. 

The mural is a 20×50 art installation that depicts the Statue of Liberty handcuffed and bet over the hood of an ICE patrol car. It was created by Izaac Zevalking, also known as Recycled Propaganda, a political artist that aims to create art influenced by history and current events. Zevalking himself is an immigrant from the UK. Zevalking is using the Statue of Liberty, who is considered a beacon of hope for immigrants, to demonstrate how the harmful rhetoric used against them is harming the American Dream.

In an interview with KTNV Las Vegas, Zevalking explains that the goal of the mural is to create a conversation about immigration in the United States. “I want people just to think about the issue. Wherever that thought leaves you. Wherever that conversation with someone else leaves you. I think it needs to be discussed more in human terms.”

Although some came to the internet to praise Zevalking for his mural, others were quick to disagree with his artwork. 

This Twitter user used the infamous MS13 gang as her reasoning for this mural being shameful. Her comment imitates the language that Trump uses in his statements referring to those who migrate into the United States. She plays into the stereotype that all people who are immigrating to the U.S are dangerous gang members. 

Some on Twitter were quick to claim they’d happily paint it over.

In the replies, a Twitter user suggested they paint over the mural in protest. 

However, Recycled Propaganda clapped back, suggesting that if it gets painted over they keep on bringing it back.

The art piece could not have been more timely given the recent comments made by Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

After being asked in an interview with NPR if the words of Emma Lazarus are part of the American ethos, Cuccinelli replied, adding a line to the poem, “They certainly are – give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.” 

The original reads as, “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

Recently, the Trump administration decided to make it more difficult for immigrants to obtain a Green Card if they receive government aid, such as food stamps or Medicaid. Cuccinelli is a big defender of this policy, so it is not surprising that these comments about Lazarus’ sonnet were made. 

When immigrants are being discussed in politics, it is usually done so in ways that strips them of their humanity.

When folks migrate to the United States, it is often done so out of desperation and necessity. Immigrants come with nothing but a backpack filled with the essentials. They come to work low-paying jobs and because of their status, it is difficult for them to get the assistance they need for issues like healthcare and food assistance. To ask immigrants to come to the United States and to be self-sufficient only treat them with very little dignity is unfair.

When describing this policy, Cuccinelli uses words like a burden when describing immigrants who need public assistance. After his initial remarks about the poem, Cuccinelli said on CNN that the poem was originally referring to Europeans who migrated to the United States. 

The artist, who is an immigrant from the UK points out that America is a very different place for white immigrants.

KTNV Channel 13 Las Vegas / YouTube

“I personally wasn’t born in America. I was born in the UK and I don’t ever feel attacked as an immigrant and I think that’s cause my skin is white,” Zevalking says. 

There is a stark difference between the ways European immigrants and Latin American immigrants are treated in the United States and Zevalking is tapping into that notion with his mural, “Chained Migration.” He is acknowledging his privilege as a European immigrant and using it to shed light on how criminalizing it is for non-white immigrants living in the United States.

The Homestead Detention Center Just Transferred Out All Migrants Kids But May Welcome New Ones As Soon As October

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The Homestead Detention Center Just Transferred Out All Migrants Kids But May Welcome New Ones As Soon As October

V Kilpatrick / Pinterest

You’d be forgiven for thinking that maybe the Trump administration was reconsidering the way it was treating migrant children who are crossing the boarder. Especially since earlier this month, we’d reported that the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in Miami, Florida, was to close. However, it looks like Homestead is set to reopen again – as soon as this October.

Well, that didn’t last long.

Pinterest / Jordan Malone

The beginning of the month saw the last of the children, who were detained at the facility, removed. While it’s difficult to say exactly how many children were originally housed at the detention center due to the overcrowding that’s taken place across holding facilities nationwide, it’s thought that there were between 2700 to 3000 children staying at Homestead. Part of the reason why Caliburn International, the company that runs Homestead, was instructed to reduce its detainees in the first place was due to government compliance issues. That is, the government had introduced new standards in preparation for hurricane season.

We still don’t know where the previous group of children went after leaving Homestead.

Pinterest / Chance Vintage

Even though the children were removed, it’s not clear what happened to the children once they’d left Homestead. The fact Caliburn International is a for-profit company and still required staff to show up for work, despite there being no detainees, has also clouded the issue. At the time of writing, reports say that while 1,700 employees had been dismissed due to the center officially closing, more than 2,500 kept their jobs. It’s not clear what they’re doing at Homestead while they await new inmates.

And because Homestead is an influx center, it doesn’t require a state license. 

Twitter / @marwilliamson

Typically speaking, influx centers are essentially designed to house a large number of inmates, in case the government suddenly finds itself inundated by asylum seekers. These centers are only intended for short stays, which is why they can legally hold a larger number of detainees. Otherwise, Homestead’s population would be capped at 500 children. And while we’re on the subject of numbers – temporary facilities like Homestead are actually more expensive, in the long run. They cost the government around $775 a day per child, while permanent shelters run at about $250 per day per child. Nice to know everyone’s tax dollars are being spent wisely.

Is this all starting to should kinda familiar to you? Yea, us too.

Pinterest / PolitcusUSA

If you’ve been paying attention to the news, it should. The US government recently argued in federal court that it shouldn’t have to provide things like toothbrushes and soap to detainees, since they were only being temporarily housed in the facility in Clint, Texas. Spoiler alert: the judges didn’t buy that argument, since inmates are being held for months at a time at these facilities. Again, these places that don’t provide basic necessities for inmates are more expensive to run than a more permanent facilities. 

But, we digress.

Pinterest / Chance Vintage

Oddly enough, even though Homestead is set to open again in October, Caliburn’s contract expires November 30. At this stage, it’s unclear whether the company will see the contract renewed, or whether a new contract will be opened up to competitive bidding. Apparently the original contract with Caliburn was awarded without competition, which was done so around the same time John Kelly, Trump’s ex-chief of staff, joined the company’s board of advisers. Bueno.

All of this shows that it’s still business as usual.

Pinterest / V kilpatrick

At the same time, even if the contract for Homestead was open to competitive bidding, it’s unlikely that much would change at the facility for the children who will be staying there. Companies and non-profits that promote asylum seeker’s rights and would likely provide safe and comfortable facilities have little interest in bidding for such contracts, since the very policies motivating them are diametrically opposed to the espoused values of these organizations. 

At the end of the day, this is all semantics. Because while it’s definitely important that we examine the ways that we detain migrants, and ensure that everyone receives due process, we’re not asking the most important question of all: should we even be detaining children for seeking asylum?

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