Things That Matter

A Journalist Knew That An Undocumented Comatose Man Had To Be Conscious And Went On A Wild Chase To Find His Family

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For nearly 20 years, one anonymous crash victim had spent his days lying alone in a California hospital without a name, without family, and supposedly, without consciousness.

A man from Mexico, whose family believed him to be dead, had spent the better part of 20 years in a coma and unidentified. According to a recent report conducted by the Los Angeles Times, the victim was considered catatonic and in a “vegetative state” until one day, an investigative journalist began looking into the patient’s life and identified him. 

With her work, one man’s story, which could have seen the rest of his life spent on a hospital bed, is moving forward with a little bit more hope.

Just before his 34th birthday in January 2016, an investigative journalist began to dig into his story. 

Joann Faryon of the LA Times discovered his real name and spent four years by his side trying to prove that he was conscious. 

According to the Daily Mail, Ignacio was nicknamed ‘Sixty-Six Garage’ by trauma surgeons who treated him after he was injured in a car crash on June 1999. He was known as ‘Sixty-Six Garage’ for the first 16 years that he spent in a vegetative state at Villa Coronado Skilled Nursing Facility in Coronado. 

The Los Angeles Times was the original publication that broke the story on August 1 publishing a long-form column on how investigative journalist Faryon did all she could to find out the real identity of this man.

“[Sixty-Six Garage] is the name he probably would have been buried with if Ed Kirkpatrick, director of the Villa Coronado Skilled Nursing Facility, hadn’t let me into Room 20 — Garage’s room. I’d already spent nearly a year at the Villa, reporting on people on life support. I’d documented what life was like for people kept alive this way — more than 4,000 in California alone — and the life and death choices their families were forced to make. Now Kirkpatrick was trusting me to tell Garage’s story,” writes Faryon in her story. 

The article has also inspired the production of the podcast, titled “Room 20,” where the Los Angeles Times recounts the time the investigative journalist spent figuring out where he belonged and what his life before the accident had been like.

In the LA Times article, Faryon details the two years that she spent getting to know Ignacio, or Nacho, as his family called him. Through the trajectory of those two years, she tracked down people, she sorted through documents and scientific evidence in order to understand how one ordinary Mexican teenager could lose his humanity and his identity in such a tragic way. 

Ignacio had been in a car crash near the U.S.-Mexico border in 1999 shortly after crossing the border. 

According to the LA Times report, Garage had been kept alive in a hospital by way of feeding and breathing tubes. Doctors had declared that he was living in a vegetative state with no awareness of his surroundings. Authorities who had assumed he was an undocumented immigrant due to the few pesos he had in his pocket were uncertain as to how to identify him. 

But Faryon had refused to let the story go. After observing his interactions as the hospital she began to suspect that he was, in fact, conscious and aware of his surroundings when he seemingly smiled at her one day in 2015. Faryon also recalls the times that he “appeared to move in and out of consciousness,” sometimes smiling and other times Ignacio appeared to stare at the ceiling and “strike his right leg on the corner of the bed for hours.” 

After that one smile from Ignacio, this investigative journalist decided to fight for this man until getting to the bottom of who he was and where his family’s whereabouts were. 

Besides spending two years with Ignacio to figure out his story, Faryon showed the beautiful side of empathy and humanity as she basically became a huge part of his support system. In the article she published, she writes of the many medications Ignacio had to take and the numerous painful procedures he underwent on a daily basis and she talks about how she did her best to soothe him and make him feel safe. 

According to the original repor  Faryon had clocked in hundreds of hours  between 2015 and 2017 visiting Ignacio and trying to find more information about his crash.

The journalist managed to also uncover a copy of the accident report from 1999. The accident report she obtained revealed that he had been hit by a pickup truck that collided with another car. She also received help from immigrant rights advocacy organization Border Angels. The founder of the organization helped her track down Ignacio’s real name by cross-referencing his fingerprints with Border Patrol agent records. 

In 2016, Faryon tracked down Ignacio’s sister, Juliana, and traveled to Ohio to meet her in 2016.

According to Faryon’s reporting, Juliana explained that her brother Ignacio had left to the U.S. from his home in Oaxaca, Mexico when he was only 17 years old. Weeks after he embarked on his journey, Ignacio had called her to tell her he had been detained by Border Patrol. After he was released, he made the trip back to the U.S. again. 

After that second trip to the U.S., Julianna didn’t hear from her brother again and she assumed that he had died crossing the border that second time. But little did she know that her brother was in a hospital in California, unidentified and without anyone actively looking for him. 

Finally, in February of 2016, Faryon helped Julianna reunite with her brother Ignacio.

Although Faryon wasn’t present during the reunion, she writes that nursing assistants in the California facility that Ignacio was in, said they believed he recognized his older sister. 

Selena Gomez Announces New Netflix Series ‘Living Undocumented’

Entertainment

Selena Gomez Announces New Netflix Series ‘Living Undocumented’

Selena Gomez continues her reign as a Netflix producer with Living Undocumented. It is always great when celebrities use their platforms to enrich and educate. Gomez has a huge platform and can generate huge numbers. 13 Reasons Why blew Netflix’s expectations out of the water, and I can’t help but think it’s because of Gomez’s enormous Instagram following. The girl has reach. 

As you might have guessed, Living Undocumented is a documentary series that follows the lives of undocumented immigrants as they navigate life under the looming threat of increasingly cruel immigration policies and ICE raids.

Selena Gomez announces Living Undocumented on Instagram

“I am so humbled to be a part of Netflix’s documentary series Living Undocumented. The immigration issue is more complex than one administration, one law or the story you hear about on the news. These are real people in your community, your neighbors, your friends—they are all part of the country we call home. I can’t wait for you guys to see this and hope it impacts you like it impacted me. Available globally October 2,” Gomez wrote.

Living Undocumented 

Living Undocumented will focus on eight undocumented families. Premiering on October 2nd on Netflix, the show will chronicle the families as they face possible deportation. The narratives will range from hopeful to infuriating, but the series will put a human face on a dehumanized group of people. 

It cannot be said again that the United States has always struggled with two contradictory narratives: the one where it is a beacon of hope for the tired, hungry, and poor, versus the one where it has upheld numerous racist and xenophobic immigration policies. This is an issue that predates Trumpito, even if he has kicked it into it’s most degrading form. 

“I chose to produce this series, Living Undocumented because, over the past few years, the word ‘immigrant’ has seemingly become a negative word,” said Gomez. “My hope is that the series can shed light on what it’s like to live in this country as an undocumented immigrant firsthand, from the courageous people who have chosen to share their stories.”

Gomez is joined by executive producers Eli Holzman, Aaron Saidman, Mandy Teefey, Anna Chai, and Sean O’Grady. Chai will also co-direct the series.

“Living Undocumented is designed to illuminate one of the most important issues of our time. But rather than discussing this issue with only statistics and policy debates, we wanted viewers to hear directly from the immigrants themselves, in their own words, with all the power and emotion that these stories reflect.”

Humanizing immigrants is key

People don’t just bring guns into Walmarts to kill 22 innocent humans beings for no reason. It is no secret that President Trump’s dehumanizing language was a catalyst for the El Paso shooting. The suspect whose name shall not be invoked told officers he was looking to kill “Mexicans.” Mexicans — the Latinxs Trump referred to as rapists and criminals. The mass murderer also said he wanted to stop a “Hispanic Invasion,” in his manifesto. Trump called Central Americans “invaders.” 

According to Pew Research Center, this year they found that 58 percent of Latinx adults say they experienced discrimination because of their race or ethnicity. Across all races and ethnic groups, two-thirds of individuals surveyed say that expressing racist views has become more common since Trump was elected. 

This year, at a Trump rally, supporters were cheering about shooting immigrants. 

“How do you stop these people?” Trump asks. Then someone yelled back, “Shoot them.” Trump smiled. The crowd cheered. Three months later, the El Paso shooting took 22 lives.

“The language that criminalizes and makes Latinos out to be evil is affecting our own citizens and it’s going to have both short- and long-term consequences that we are starting to see in the Latino population,” Elizabeth Vaquera, an associate professor at George Washington University who studies vulnerable groups, told the Washington Post.

A Bipartisan Non-Issue Becomes A Partisan Issue

This immigration “issue” started off as a hoax but through Trump’s horrible policies he created this new immigration crisis. In 2017, when Trump took office, migrants arrested at the border were at the lowest level in three decades. 

Three former employees of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security wrote in Politico, the border crisis is all Trump’s fault.

 “It is Donald Trump himself who is responsible. Through misguided policies, political stunts and a failure of leadership, the president has created the conditions that allowed the asylum problem at the border to explode into a crisis.” 

Public Religion Research Institute survey found that 80 percent of Democrats view the fact that the majority of the United States will be nonwhite by 2045 as a good thing, while 61 percent of Republicans say it is bad. 

The barrage of harmful rhetoric has turned what was not even a problem into a national crisis with opinions straddling partisan lines, and a heightened hatred of Latinx people. Living Undocumented might be exactly what this country needs. 

International Students Face Increased Obstacles Under The Trump Administration

Things That Matter

International Students Face Increased Obstacles Under The Trump Administration

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The Trump administration’s immigration policies are criminalizing survivors, tearing families apart and emboldening racists and xenophobes throughout the country. But President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration agenda is also negatively impacting higher education in the US. According to multiple recent reports, it has become increasingly difficult for international students to receive their visas, also adding a greater workload on universities and their employees who try to help students work through the red tape and advocate on their behalf.

Those in higher education and immigration law say that the process for international students to attain their visas have become harder under Trump.

 According to government data, approval of student visas is down and many remain in limbo for longer periods. The latest available department data show that student visas declined by more than 100 thousand from 2016 to 2018. This has led to an overall decrease in the number of new international students enrolled at US colleges. For instance, survey data collected by the Institute of International Education during the 2016–17 school year found that enrollment of international students fell by 3 percent from the previous year. In the most recent data, which looks at the 2017–18 school year, it fell by close to 7 percent.

NAFSA: Association of International Educators reports that these visa obstacles started after Trump issued a memorandum in 2017 that called for the “heightened screening and vetting of applications for visas and other immigration benefits” as well as new or updated requirements for visa holders studying or working at US colleges. Additionally, the Atlantic reports that changes initiated by the Trump administration in 2018 made it even harder for recent graduates with student visas to continue living in the country legally. 

“I’ve been in the field for almost 20 years, and the amount of immigration changes during the last three years has been exponential,” Kristy Magner, who oversees Tulane University’s Office of International Students and Scholars, told the publication. 

One of the most high-profile cases was that of Ismail B. Ajjawi

In August of 2019, the incoming Harvard Palestinian freshman from Lebanon was detained by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a Boston airport. The 17-year-old was denied entry after CBO officers found social media posts from his friends that criticize the US. As a result, Ajjawi’s visa was canceled. However, because the teen was detained at an airport, sparing him from being officially deported, he was able to re-apply for a visa back home. Ten days later, Ajjawi returned to Boston and was able to start school.

Also in August, nine Chinese students who were returning to the US as undergraduate students at Arizona State University were detained at Los Angeles International Airport.

 According to the university, the students were in CBP custody for a week and were “denied admission to the U.S. to continue their studies.” They were ultimately forced to return to China, despite being “academically eligible to return to ASU and to the United States under their visas.”

“[I]t is beyond my comprehension how the U.S. government could establish and implement policies that bring about the outcomes we are now witnessing,” ASU president Michael Crow wrote in a letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan. 

While these cases are among the most extreme, they follow a growing pattern of increased difficulty for international students. 

Many institutions, including New York University, expressed seeing more students denied travel in advance of their trips.

NYU was one of the first schools to establish support for immigrant students upon the start of Trump’s presidency. In January 2017, just days after Trump’s inauguration, it created the Immigrant Defense Initiative, which offers “free, confidential advice and representation” to students and staff who could be at risk for deportation. Other universities, including Columbia University, the California State University system and George Washington University, now also offer free immigration-related legal services for students. 

But students, and now university employees who are tasked with new responsibilities in helping the international academics, need more help. Back in July, Harvard University president Lawrence Bacow sent a letter to Pompeo and McAleenan sharing his grievances. “Students report difficulties getting initial visas — from delays to denials,” he wrote. “Scholars have experienced postponements and disruptions for what have previously been routine immigra­tion processes such as family visas, renewals of status, or clearance for international travel.”

Dr. Hironao Okahana, associate vice president of policy and research analysis at the Council of Graduate Schools, told Teen Vogue the rise in incidents like Ajjawi’s are concerning and worth further investigation. 

“[W]e’ll be carefully observing to see if any additional incidents occur as quarter-system schools begin their term in a few weeks,” he said.

In addition to the denial of visas and slowed-down processes, universities face another problem: Trump’s anti-immigration agenda is stopping international students from applying to US institutions. 

“I think that both [the Trump administration’s] immigration policy and the messaging of the day are literally turning [international] students away … and making them less inclined to want to study in the United States,” Brian Rosenberg, the president of Macalester College, a liberal-arts institution in St. Paul, Minnesota, told the Atlantic.

As a result, some schools are doing additional work to ensure international students that they are welcome at their universities.

Philip A. Glotzbach, the president of Skidmore College, told the Atlantic that his staff has had to “work a lot harder” to recruit and retain international students. Additionally, Barbara K. Altmann, the president of Franklin & Marshall College, said that her school has been taking “extraordinary measures … so international students know [they’re welcome here].” For instance, because one in five students at the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, liberal-arts school is from outside of the US, mostly China, it has created a network of Chinese nationals that send reassuring messages to incoming students from the Asian country. 

“These incidents,” said Okahana, “as isolated as they may be, are troubling and have created chilling effects.”

Read: Migrants Are Dying In US Immigration Custody And Here’s What You Need To Know About The Victims