Things That Matter

Almost 900 Migrants Exposed To Mumps While In Custody Yet Trump Refuses To Provide Vaccines

Recently it was reported that despite an upcoming flu season, the Trump administration was refusing to administer the flu vaccine to migrants in US detention centers. And that news came despite three children having died in US custody with complications related to the flu.

So when the CDC released a report that confirmed migrants are falling victim to communicable diseases while in US custody, many were hoping the administration would move to put an end to the outbreak. But it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen. The administration is doubling down on its inhumane treatment of migrants. And even though the CDC has explicitly stated that the migrants are contracting the diseases while in custody, many government officials are trying to spin the story by saying that the migrants are bringing diseases and infections with them.

The CDC has confirmed that nearly 900 migrants were confirmed to have mumps.

Almost 900 migrants were exposed to mumps while in immigration custody in the first such reported outbreak of the contagious viral disease in U.S.-run detention centers, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals.

Almost half of all the mumps cases, almost 400, were reported in facilities in Texas. According to the CDC, the outbreak began in October and it involved five cases in which migrants had been transferred between two facilities within the state.

In response to the report, Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Bryan Cox said medical professionals at detention facilities screen all new detainees within 24 hours of their arrival to ensure that highly contagious diseases are not spread.

The exposure has happened in at least 57 different facilities across the US.

The CDC said Friday that a total of 898 confirmed and probable mumps cases were reported among adult migrants detained in 57 of all 315 facilities housing Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees across 19 states between Sept. 1, 2018 and Aug. 22, 2019.

Only four of the facilities exposed to mumps are run by ICE. Another 34 facilities are run by private companies who contract with ICE, while 19 are county jails that house detained migrants.

And no, migrants aren’t bringing the infection with them – 84% of migrants were exposed while in US detention centers.

The CDC concluded that 84 percent of all the patients infected, 758 migrants, were exposed to mumps while in ICE custody, whether it was at a facility run by the agency or a company contracted by the agency.

Only 43 people, or 5 percent, were exposed to the virus before apprehension. The custody status of 97 migrants, or 11 percent, was unknown at the time of their exposure.

Thirty-three additional cases occurred among staff members in these facilities.

The high number of mumps cases “prompted a coordinated national outbreak response” from the CDC and ICE.

“As of August 22, 2019, mumps outbreaks are ongoing in 15 facilities in seven states, and new introductions into detention facilities through detainees who are transferred or exposed before being taken into custody continue to occur,” the CDC said in a statement.

Approximately 150 mumps outbreaks and 16,000 cases have been reported in the United States since 2015. Most of these cases have occurred in universities, schools and at athletic events, but this is the first report of mumps outbreaks in detention facilities, according to the CDC.

So what exactly is mumps?

Mumps is a highly-contagious viral disease that was once very common across the world. Symptoms include fever, muscle pain, headache, and a general feeling of being unwell. It can lead to severe complications including death.

In the U.S., vaccines have drastically reduced the number of mumps cases. Only a few hundred cases are reported most years, with periodic outbreaks involving colleges or other places where people are in close contact.

In the migrant center outbreaks, at least 13 people were hospitalized, the CDC reported.

Texas is on high alert because most of the cases have occurred at detention centers located in the state.

A large portion of the cases have been in Texas. The Texas Department of State Health Services raised the alarm in December, followed by six other state health departments in early January, prompting what the CDC report calls “a coordinated national outbreak response.”

Nashville immigration attorney R. Andrew Free has been tracking facilities with mumps outbreaks from reports of advocates and lawyers representing detainees.

“This has all the makings of a public health crisis,” Free said. “ICE has demonstrated itself incapable of ensuring the health and safety of people inside these facilities.”

Border Patrol Agents Threw Away Meaningful Items Belonging To Migrants, Now There’s An Art Show Displaying Dozens Of Items

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Border Patrol Agents Threw Away Meaningful Items Belonging To Migrants, Now There’s An Art Show Displaying Dozens Of Items

Tomkiefer.photographe / Instagram

Photographer Tom Kiefer worked as a custodian at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in Southern Arizona from 2003 to 2014. When migrants and asylum seekers crossed the Southern border officials would throw away their belongings, medications, and nonessentials during processing. Kiefer collected all of those belongs, arranged them systematically, and photographed them.

The photos will be displayed in the exhibition “El Sueño Americano / The American Dream: Photographs by Tom Kiefer” at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. 

The result is eye-catching and colorful art that, upon closer inspection, reveals the rich inner lives of migrants. Kiefer’s photographs of the CDs they were listening to, the medications they were on, and even diary entries provide insight into the almost ordinariness of migrants. These were just people carrying things that meant something to them the way anyone else going somewhere would. Then the U.S. government deemed those personal and sentimental items trash. 

What Kiefer provides is a rarely seen snapshot of what migrants cared about when they came to the United States looking for a better shot. 

Kiefer was documenting American history through his lens and labor. 

“It was my way of documenting a piece of our nation’s history,” Kiefer told the Washington Post

In one of his haunting photos, there are 32 CDs lined up. Some CDs are from artists like Trapt but others are mixed CDs with intimate labels like “Brown Pride” or “Super Sappy Songs for Issa 2.” The image reminds the viewer that these migrants were real people — and we don’t know who any of them are and because of the United States’ ever-changing immigration policies, we don’t know if they’re even OK. 

Kiefer began to find the belongings when he asked if he could donate the canned goods that Border Patrol authorities seized to food pantries. He went through the trash bins to look for the nonperishables, but what he found instead was a wealth of humanity. 

“The Bibles, the rosaries, the family photographs. I was shocked,” he said. “And I didn’t know what to do, because it was obviously being condoned.”

Kiefer knew he would get into trouble if he took other items so everything he gathered was by intuition. Altogether in his years working there he collected 100,000 items. 

“I had to do it all very quick, discreet,” he said. “It was just rapid-fire, split-second decisions about what I could keep and what had to go in the trash, stay in the trash.”

Throwing away migrants’ possessions is particularly cruel, Kiefer feels.

 “[It] underscores the cruelty of the tentative punishment that the government feels the need to levy against these people. It’s clear the majority of which are decent, contributing and who want nothing more than a better life for themselves or for their family,” he told the Los Angeles TimesWhen Kiefer first began going through the trash looking for cans, he found mostly toothbrushes. However, when things appeared to be more personal like religious items and diaries, he felt compelled to save them because, he says, “no one would believe me if I had not collected these items.” He purposefully used colorful backgrounds to humanize the items. He didn’t want a cold, white background that would make things look sterile, more like products than personal items. 
“[The photos are] like a knife to the gut, and that’s precisely something that I think gives this work its power — that it draws you in with its beauty and then it has this really profoundly sad backstory,” Laura Mart, Skirball curator, told the Los Angeles Times.

He hopes the legacy of his exhibition is empathy above all else. 

“Dora the Explorer. A personal belonging carried by a migrant or someone seeking asylum. When apprehended by USCBP while crossing the desert most personal belongings considered non-essential or potentially lethal are confiscated and discarded,” Kiefer wrote in a caption of a children’s Dora the Explorer purse. 

Things like children’s toys, backpacks, and clothing items are enough to infuriate and sadden just about anybody.

“Whether it’s an individual object, shoelaces, I present them in a way that I hope the viewer can not just identify, but just kind of be empathetic, or put themselves in the person or persons’ shoes: ‘Wow, a person carried that.’ ‘That’s the same cologne I use, the same toothbrush or toothpaste,” Kiefer said. 

While he was a custodian during the Obama administration, Kiefer says he didn’t witness the abuses of powers reported under the current president. Kiefer personally condemns the Trump administration’s treatment of immigrants and hopes his exhibition will change some peoples’ stances. 

“Is this the nation we want to be?” He said. “The way things are now is not sustainable.”

People Call To #AbolishICE After Finding Out The Agency Created A Fake University To Lure Students, Then Arrest Them

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People Call To #AbolishICE After Finding Out The Agency Created A Fake University To Lure Students, Then Arrest Them

Equality Now NYC

Roughly 10 months ago federal court documents were unsealed that showed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) created a fake university to lure immigrants with student visas into fraudulent behavior, according to the Washington Post. The University of Farmington was a fake school in Detroit, Michigan, where ICE agents worked as staff, there were no courses or teachers, and immigrants who had been in the U.S. with F1-visas were recruited.

Immigrant rights advocates believe ICE tricked these people into registering with the fake school, unbeknownst to them, so that they would falsely report they had enrolled in a real school to immigration services, ultimately resulting in the arrest of 250 people. ICE alleges that the students who enrolled knew the school was fake. 

In January, eight “recruiters” were charged with federal conspiracy. 

According to the Detroit Free Press, seven of the eight recruiters have pleaded guilty to aiding 600 students to live in the United States under false pretenses. Farmington alleged to be a graduate school with a focus on STEM. Most of the students were immigrants from India who entered on F1-Visas legally through acceptance to different schools. 

They transferred to the fake university and when the federal government shut it down, their visas expired with the school’s closure. However, the students’ lawyers allege they had no reason to believe what they were doing was illegal. 

“They should not punish these people who were lured into a trap,” Rahul Reddy, an attorney involved with the case, told the Detroit Free Press. “These people can’t even defend themselves properly because they’re not given the same rights in deportation proceedings.”

The Department of Homeland Security and a third party that accredits universities, listed Farmington as a certified school international students could attend.

ICE claims the students knew the university was fake and committed fraud to stay in the country.

“Undercover schools provide a unique perspective in understanding the ways in which students and recruiters try to exploit the non-immigrant student visa system,” ICE said in the statement.

According to prosecutors, the eight recruiters helped to create fraudulent records like transcripts to students to show to immigration officials. The recruiters received $250,000 in kickbacks, largely from undercover ICE agents. However, the university was entirely run by the government and it was the government that profited from the sting, according to Reddy. 

“They made a lot of money,” Reddy said, adding. “They preyed upon on them.”

Farmington tuition was on average $12,000 per year. The school’s website touted photos of classrooms and teachers, but none of those things actually existed or were conducted at the location. Since it opened in 2015, the fake university collected millions from students who never received an education. 

One of the recruiters, Prem Rampeesa, believed he was working with real school officials who turned out to be undercover agents, according to his attorney. He was sentenced to one year in prison with 295 days already served, after completion of his sentence he will be deported to India. 

“Their true intent could not be clearer,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Helms wrote in Rampeesa’s sentencing memo. “While ‘enrolled’ at the University, one hundred percent of the foreign citizen students never spent a single second in a classroom. If it were truly about obtaining an education, the University would not have been able to attract anyone, because it had no teachers, classes, or educational services.”

However, students say they tried to attend classes and were confused that there weren’t any. 

Workers near Farmington told WXYZ that they saw plenty of students come by asking when school would start or complaining they could not get in contact with staff. For advocates this paints a clear picture, ICE created a school, claimed it was legitimate, got immigrants to transfer or enroll in it, refused to provide educational services, and arrested the students essentially for not figuring out the school was fake. 

A 2008 ICE handbook illustrates that ICE agents don’t have to follow the same rules as other members of law enforcement, for example, they are not advised to entrap individuals, but exceptions are allowed.

“ICE knowing this or DHS knowing this tries to ensnare as many people as possible and get them wound up in an immigration system where they know that the cards are going to be stacked against the immigrant,” Angelo Guisado, an attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, told the Guardian. 

Since January, ICE has arrested 250 students on administrative charges, according to Detroit Free Press, however, about 80 percent have agreed to voluntary departure. Half of the remaining students have received final orders of removal, while the rest are contesting their removals. 

“This is not the first fake university that DHS created and I don’t think it will be the last,” Guisado said.