Things That Matter

ICE Has Made It Clear That The Cruelty In Its Policies Is The Point, Meanwhile An 8th Person Has Died In Their Custody

As the influx of undocumented immigrants continues to surge, there’s a great distinction that should be made about this group. There are currently hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants that are being detained in detention centers across the United States. There are also thousands of undocumented immigrants that are currently seeking asylum. Some are in the U.S. and others are waiting in Mexico under the Trump’s Administration “Remain in Mexico” policy.

So, understanding that there are undocumented immigrants both in the U.S. and in Mexico, the ones that are technically in the custody of the U.S. officials are the ones in this country and not a foreign one. We point this out in order for readers to understand the fatal casualties that occur in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and others that occur on the border (including those that die in the Rio Grande), and people that die or go missing in Mexico. The records for all of these deaths are separate. 

ICE is reporting that a 37-year-old undocumented man from Mexico died in their custody. He is the eighth person to die in ICE custody. 

According to a press release statement by ICE, Roberto Rodriguez-Espinoza was pronounced dead by medical staff at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, Illinois on Sept. 10 at 9:35 p.m. The doctor that was treating Rodriguez-Espinoza said the preliminary cause of death as a subdural hematoma. A subdural hematoma “is a collection of blood outside the brain,” according to WebMD. “Subdural hematomas are usually caused by severe head injuries.”

Despite the preliminary cause of death, ICE is reporting that his death was caused by his alcoholism.

Here’s the ICE report: 

“On the day of his arrest, during his intake screening, Rodriguez-Espinoza admitted to daily consumption of alcohol. On Sept. 7, facility staff observed Rodriguez-Espinoza acting confused and the facility’s physician ordered Rodriguez-Espinoza transported to the Northwestern Medicine Woodstock Hospital emergency room in Woodstock, Illinois, for further evaluation due to his confusion and history of alcohol consumption. On Sept. 8, the hospital transferred him via ambulance to Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital, in Huntley, Illinois, where he was diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage. He was then transferred to Central DuPage Hospital for a neurosurgery consult. Rodriguez-Espinoza failed to respond during a neurological exam performed upon arrival at Central DuPage and the attending neurosurgeon advised that Rodriguez-Espinoza was unlikely to survive the surgery.” 

ICE is also reporting that Rodriguez-Espinoza was allegedly a member of the Latin Kings gang. 

According to Latino USA, the Latin Kings gang first began in Chicago back in the 1950s. Other outlets report that the Latin Kings have gang members situated all over the country, and elsewhere. It is unclear whether Rodriguez-Espinoza was actually affiliated with that gang, but ICE is reporting that he had two convictions, one in 2016 on a burglary conviction and another in 2008 and was charged with a theft conviction. “ICE contacted the Mexican Consulate to inform them of Rodriguez-Espinoza’s medical status and to request assistance locating his next of kin. Mexican Consular officials subsequently advised that Rodriguez-Espinoza had no known next of kin.”

ICE is also stating that 8 deaths within the fiscal year (Oct. 2018-present) is not many compared to the number of detainees they have.

Courtesy of  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“On an annual basis, anywhere from 300,000 to 500,000 individuals are processed into ICE custody, many of whom have never had regular healthcare and suffer from severe acute and chronic medical conditions,” ICE stated. “The following chart [pictured above] shows that ICE is at a 6 year low regarding deaths on custody and the trend has been declining since 2004.”

However, as we previously noted in this article, ICE is not counting the overall number of undocumented deaths that occur at the border, or asylum seekers, or that of children. 

report that is public information on the ICE website shows six deaths since October. That number does not include the death of Rodriguez-Espinoza or that of Pedro Arriago-Santoya, who died on July 21 at the Stewart Detention Facility in Lumpkin, Georgia. ICE reports that Arriago-Santoya died of “cardio-pulmonary arrest secondary to multi-organ system failure, endocarditis, dilated cardiomyopathy with a low ejection fraction and respiratory failure.” 

Furthermore, an NBC News report from June shows that 24 undocumented immigrants died while in ICE Custody. So while ICE can say that this latest death is only the eighth death this fiscal year in ICE custody, that number is actually higher. 

ICE reports that they treat each person with the medical treatment needed and that each detainee has medical help available to them 24 hours a day. “Comprehensive medical care is provided to all individuals in ICE custody. Staffing for detainees includes registered nurses and licensed practical nurses, licensed mental health providers, mid-level providers like physician assistants and nurse practitioners, and a physician.”

READ: A New Documentary Is Showing An Untold And Heartbreaking Side Of The Undocumented Life In The US

This Guatemalan Mom Was Separated From Her Son At The Border After Enduring A Gunshot To The Face

Things That Matter

This Guatemalan Mom Was Separated From Her Son At The Border After Enduring A Gunshot To The Face

@ajplus / Twitter

In an exclusive interview with People Magazine, a 32-year-old Guatemalan woman recounts her experience fleeing her home country in August 2017 after being shot in the face at a demonstration. Not only does the woman—who goes by the false name Daniella—describe the event that catalyzed her desire to leave Guatemala, but she tells of the many months spent traveling north, and the many months spent in a detention center after reaching the border, separated from her young son.

On August 9, 2017, Daniella and her son, Carlos, were leaving their family’s house when they encountered a large protest against a new measure that would require people to pay for water. At first the protest was peaceful—but then bullets started flying through the air. Daniella and Carlos were just passing through, but a bullet had caught Daniella in two parts of her body: the left arm, and right below the eye.

“I threw my arm around Carlos to protect him—he was covered in blood, and I started to panic,” she told People. “Little did I know that the one bleeding was me.”

Because of rampant corruption in that part of Guatemala, Daniella knew that the police wouldn’t come—they were told not to interfere. So vigilant were certain members of the demonstration that Daniella’s father received a threatening call before she even made it to a hospital. The caller told her father that if they filed a report, he would kill the whole family. Later she learned that the man who had shot her lived just three blocks away from her mother. Fortunately, when she made it to the hospital, her husband—who had moved the the U.S. five years earlier to find work, sent money for the expenses.

After more than a week in the hospital, both bullets remain in Daniella’s body to this day.

“The doctor said that if they were taken out, I could be left in a vegetative state, or I could die,” she said. “To this day I still feel pain.”

After this harrowing experience, Daniella decided that it was time to follow in her husband’s footsteps and flee to the U.S. She knew that the journey would be anything but easy, but she could have never guessed how nightmarish a month lay ahead. Traveling by truck and by bus, there were many nights spent on the side of the road. When they finally made it to the Arizona border, they were not dropped off at an immigration center, as she had expected. Instead, she and Carlos were told to climb a tree, then jump from the tree to the border wall. From there, they could reach the other side.

“I told Carlos, ‘Mijo, you have to jump.’ He was so afraid that he wouldn’t move,” she said. “I looked into my son’s eyes, and I said, ‘Son, please trust me. Everything’s going to be all right.’

After they had both made it safely to the other side, they took just a few steps before the Border Patrol arrived. They were taken into custody and dropped off at “La Hielera”—The Icebox. There, Daniella was forced to sign papers she didn’t understand, and the officer who was present told her that the children would be taken to a shelter, then given up for adoption. Naturally, all the mothers were desperately frightened by this news.

Before leaving for court that same day, Daniella said goodbye to Carlos, unsure if they would ever see each other again. She told People Magazine that she held her son and said: “You’re a champion, Papa, and you’re always going to be in my heart.”

The mothers were not immediately told the whereabouts of their children. But five months after being moved to Eloy Detention Center in Arizona, Daniella learned that Carlos was in a New Jersey foster home.

A few months later, Daniella had her official court hearing. Her bail was posted at $30,000, and after filing an appeal to extend the bail deadline, Daniella was released from custody. She had been detained for 11 months.

The organization Immigrant Families Together had gathered the money for Daniella’s bail, and they helped her get back on her feet by providing her with food and clean clothes. They also took her to the airport to fly to Virginia, where Carlos had relocated to live with his uncle, her brother.

Daniella’s story isn’t unique—roughly 30,000 people are detained in the U.S. on a given day, and these numbers have seen major upticks throughout 2019. What makes Daniella’s story remarkable is her reunion with Carlos. Many families who have been separated at the border are not nearly as lucky.

While she and Carlos continue to deal with the psychological trauma of this experience, Daniella is grateful and focused on the future.

“Without the assistance from all the people that helped me, I wouldn’t be free,” said Daniella. “Now my only focus is my family, my son, starting a new life here in California . . . I don’t have to worry about being shot again or putting my son’s life in danger.”

ICE Is Going After A Twitter User For Spreading ‘Fake News’ But The Story Might Actually Be Real

Things That Matter

ICE Is Going After A Twitter User For Spreading ‘Fake News’ But The Story Might Actually Be Real

John Moore / Getty

As much as anything else, resistance against the increased pressure that ICE is putting on migrant communities is a matter of access to information. From shady facilities to lack of any details on the whereabouts of some detainees or the actual processes through which people are located, caught and processed, there is certainly a lack of clear information or even transparency on how the agency operates. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)  recently pointed fingers at a Twitter user who made a claim that might sound over the top, but that is actually sort of plausible in this day an age. 

ICE accused a Twitter user of falsely accusing an agent of posing as a homeless woman to track down a family.

Credit: San Francisco Chronicle

A Twitter user (whom we are not going to identify here, because misinformation or not this can put them at risk of harassment) claimed that an ICE agent pretended to be a homeless person in order to identify and follow a family of undocumented migrants. The tweet was shared by the agency. It read: “An ICE agent posing as a homeless women (sic) tried to access our shelter last night to look for a family, disregarding the fact that we are considered a Sensitive Location. Not only are we are religious organization, the shelter is located in a church.”

If this was true, it would shed light on a totalitarian-like operation that would be highly unethical. If this was indeed the case, the agency would have also violated the unspoken rule of religious buildings being safe places for undocumented migrants. 

It might have been a dubious claim but the crazy thing is that it might very well have been true!

The agency was quick to rebut the claims, perhaps aware of the severity of the claims and the precarious PR situation that it would put it in. They stated: “The allegations that ICE entered the Redmond United Methodist church this weekend, or dressed as a homeless woman to enter a homeless shelter located within the church, are false and do nothing but promote fearmongering.”

We can see here that the reputation that ICE has garnered is in so much trouble that even claims like these, which would have been outlandish a few years ago, are today totally believable and force the agency to discredit them. One of ICE’s strategies has been to promote the idea that their work is a matter of public safety, highlighting cases of detainees with criminal records. This paints an alarmist picture that can lead to dangerous generalizations.

Misinformation damages any democratic society, and social media platforms might not be doing enough to ponerse a la altura de los tiempos.

Credit: FactCheck.org

It doesn’t matter where it comes from, any type of misinformation damages democracy, as citizens do not have the right tools to make informed and conscious decisions when it comes to electing public officials. Social media platforms have been recently under fire for their propensity to be used to spread false information and to stir public opinion by creating information bubbles.

This means that if you receive news and political commentary primarily from your social media feeds, you are likely to receive a very similar range of news and opinions. If you insert an alarmist or misleading news story then the bubble’s general worldview is only validated. ICE has the power and the channels to discredit information they deem misleading, but that is not always the case. 

Real or not, the story got some pretty serious discussions going on Twitter.

One of the most vulnerable points ICE has when it comes to public opinion is the ruthlessness in which they seem to carry out their duties, as they seem to be intentionally punitive. They have been compared to the Gestapo on social media, and some users have highlighted the cruelty of their methods. Whether ICE agents posed as people in need to track down a family of undocumented migrants is ultimately not the point: the point is that it is not beyond the realm of reason to believe that was the case. 

And in the public’s mind digital media monopolies are also to blame

How much do we share online that could reveal key demographics including migratory status? ICE has gotten folk real paranoid, or at least highly weary, of the potential surveillance that individuals and communities could be subject to under the Trump presidency. This feeling of social and cultural uneasiness can lead people to mistrust each other and is fertile ground for even the most outlandish conspiracy theories. It is not that people are suddenly being too melodramatic: the lack of transparency of an agency such as ICE, that can literally decide over matter of life and death, is harmful beyond control.