Things That Matter

Louisiana Police Detained A US Citizen After A Judge Cleared His Release Because He’s A Latino

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On Aug. 31 2018, Ramon Torres was pulled over based on the suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Torres refused to take a breathalyzer test. As a consequence, he was arrested and jailed. The next day, a judge ordered his release, however, he was not immediately let go. Instead, the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office placed Torres on an “immigration hold.” 

Torres is originally from Honduras, but arrived to the United States with his family when he was a child. In 2009, he became a naturalized citizen.  

Those who know Torres, attempted to intervene and supplied the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office with documents, such as his birth certificate, social security card, and U.S. passport, proving that he was a citizen. These documents should have been enough to confirm Torres’ citizenship. Yet, their efforts were ignored and he was kept for a total of four days. 

Torres was released only after his friend hired a lawyer. 

“The increasing national rhetoric of fear and racism around immigration is tearing apart our local communities,” said Katie Schwartzman, the legal director of the ACLU of Louisiana. 

This week,  the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana filed a suit on behalf of Torres. According to the suit, Torres was held for immigration review due to the color of his skin and his Latinx sounding name. It is an example of racial profiling, an act that is both illegal and unconstitutional. 

Torres’ Fourth and Fourteenth amendment rights were violated. As a result, the ACLU is seeking to award him compensation for his unlawful detention. 

The ACLU is blaming the harmful rhetoric that is currently being spread throughout the country. The line has to be drawn between local law enforcement and federal immigration. Local authorities are there to protect, but time after time, their actions stem from the damaging comments said by government official and their own racial biases. 

As a reminder, it is not the duty of local law authorities to enforce immigration policies, especially when they are unconstitutional and unjust. Law enforcement should be able to recognize when protocols are wrong to conduct and hold each other accountable in order to do their duty to protect their community instead of harming it. 

Immigrant communities are being unfairly targeted, harassed, and terrorized by the very law enforcement agencies that should be protecting them.

According to the suit filed by the ACLU, Torres asked why he was still being held by law enforcement and received a response by an individual who said it was a policy of the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office to automatically hold every Latinx person to conduct a thorough investigation of their immigration status. 

This policy is more than questionable. The intention the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office claims to have is to prove that the people they are holding are U.S. citizens. However, when presented with the right and lawful documents they turn a blind eye. It is not a matter of serving their community. In this case, the deputies are looking to terrorize Latinx folks. It is a tactic that has been used in this country before. For example, sheriff Joe Arpaio who conducted traffic patrols that targeted immigrants in Arizona. Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt because of his tough scare-tactics against immigrants, but was pardoned by Donald Trump when he took office. 

What kind of message does that send to local law authorities? For starters, without accountability, people like Arpaio and those at the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office know that they can get away with harassing Latinx people because they are backed by an administration that shares their same beliefs. Furthermore, it makes it seem okay for the people in power to bully immigrants into hiding. They are demonstrating that Latinx folks are the ‘other’ and it does not matter if they are citizens or not. We aren’t welcome. 

Policies like the one the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office has in place do more harm than good, thus feeding into laws that are rooted in xenophobia.

If it happened to Torres, who is a citizen of the United States, imagine the many people that have to face the same thing every day – some of which may be citizens or are undocumented. People shouldn’t have to worry about carrying multiple forms of identification with them 24/7 or that these documents won’t be enough to support them, but it’s a reality for many due to the unjust profiling that occurs. 

Immigrants are thought of as easy targets, but organizations like the ACLU are attempting to change that by fiercely defending their rights. In their press release, the ACLU states that their goal is to “continue the fight against all forms of anti-immigrant bias and discrimination. The safety and wellbeing of our communities depend on it.” 

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

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

DHS / Public Domain

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

ICE Is Taking Advantage Of Migrants Who Can’t Read Or Write In Their Court Proceedings

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ICE Is Taking Advantage Of Migrants Who Can’t Read Or Write In Their Court Proceedings

Sandy Huffaker / Sandy Huffaker

Last summer, images of undocumented immigrant children went viral. These images didn’t show them crying, or being taken away from their parents. These children were pictured alone in court. The nameless children had no one by their side, no one to represent them, and had no clue what was going on, despite the fact that they were there trying to seek asylum. In some cases, these children wore headphones as a means to translate what the judge was saying. However, given that they were just children, the translation was almost useless. Reports are now servicing that immigration officials are using the language barrier as a means to keep them out of the U.S. 

An op-ed, written by a volunteer at the border, states that asylum-seeking immigrants cannot read or write in English or in their native tongue and immigration officials are taking advantage of that.

Emily Reed, a recent grad student from Barnard University, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post that stated she witnessed this manipulation from immigration officials against illiterate undocumented people. Reed was at the border in Texas volunteering with classmates at the South Texas Family Residential Center volunteering with the Dilley Pro Bono Project when she witnessed this manipulation. 

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection often conveniently exploit asylum seekers who cannot read. Along with an unfamiliarity with our deliberately complex immigration system, the illiteracy of Central American migrants, especially women, facilitates the deportation of parents and separation of families,” Reed wrote. She added, “By manipulating illiterate refugees who often unwittingly sign away their rights, the U.S. government is violating the basic tenets of the internationally recognized and protected right to seek asylum.” 

Reed added that her volunteer program with the legal center provided Spanish documents to the migrant families, but they couldn’t under that either.

“Simple translation is not enough,” she wrote. “The Dilley Pro Bono Project provides documents in Spanish, but even this paperwork was difficult for many migrant women to understand. Many women I helped to fill out paperwork struggled simply to write their children’s birth dates.”

The migrant families are being rushed within the court and legal process, which in turn, is causing deportation to happen a lot faster.

Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reported that the haste paperwork at the border made it possible for immigration officials to rush and deport undocumented immigrants. The ACLU stated this process should not be rushed because people need to take their time and understand what is going on and what it is that they’re signing. 

“This waiting period is crucial to ensure that parents have an opportunity to make an informed decision about whether to fight their own removal cases, leave their children (who may have their own asylum claims) behind in the United States, or make some other decision,” the ACLU stated lasted year. “In short, families will be making life-altering decisions after months of traumatic separation — and the fact that the government is trying to shortchange them a matter of days to do so is galling.”

A New York Times report showed that 58,000 asylum seekers are currently stuck in Mexico under Trump’s policy because they’re awaiting asylum hearings.

The backlog for these asylum hearings is up to six to eight months, and when they’re ready for their hearing the majority of them won’t understand what needs to be done. This is why they need proper representation, and a patient legal system so they comprehend what is being asked of them and what the next steps are. 

What makes this matter even worse is that there’s not enough legal representation for each family unit, or individual, at the border. 

Last year, it was very apparent that there were not enough lawyers or legal help for undocumented immigrants at the border, and this year there’s even more undocumented people awaiting help and attempting to seek asylum. There people like Reed who want to help asylum seekers, but it’s not as easy as they might think. 

“People see the crisis happening, and they want to do something right now, which is great. But when we explain that this is a long-term fight, and we need your long-term commitment. That’s when people sort of back off.” Zenén Jaimes Pérez, the communications director at the Texas Civil Rights Project, told Huffington Post last year. 

If, however, you are willing to put in the time, or you’re interested in learning more about how you can provide legal help, or assist legal teams at the border, please reach out to: the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (“ProBAR”); the Immigration Justice Project (“IJP”); the ACLU of Texas; and RAICES.

READ: Selena Gomez Announces New Netflix Series ‘Living Undocumented’