Things That Matter

Sneaking In Sugar Packets Is Just One Reason That Can Land Migrants In Solitary Confinement

It is quite evident that undocumented immigrants are experiencing torture at unimaginable levels. Some risk never seeing their family again; others are getting sick; some are drinking out of the toilet; young girls aren’t given the proper feminine products; some are being sexually abused; others are experiencing physical and emotional abuse; some are sent to Mexico, a country they do not know; and, if they’re lucky they are given asylum only to endure a lifetime of uncertainty in a country that is led by a person who clearly doesn’t want them here. Shall we go on? Okay, let’s continue. 

An investigation led by several news outlets and immigration advocacy groups shows that “one of every 200 detainees has spent at least two weeks in isolation.”

Credit: Unsplash

The investigation includes years of documents that date back not just to the Trump Administration by the Obama Administration as well. The report found that while both administrations placed undocumented people in solitary confinement, under the Trump Administration immigration officials were citing suicide watch and “protective custody for LGBT people” as a reasoning for keeping isolated. To further illustrate just how much of this population was placed in these harsh conditions, the report shows that between “2016 to early 2018, about 40 percent of undocumented immigrants were in solitary confinement.” 

One of those people in solidarity confinement was a 36-years-old trans-Latina from Central America. She was only allowed one hour a day to walk outside.  

“You never know what day it is, what time it is,” Dulce Rivera said in an interview with NBC News. “Sometimes you never see the sun.” 

The reason she was put in solitary confinement because immigration officials reportedly got wind that Rivera had kissed and touched another person in detention. According to NBC News, those reports were later to be unfounded. Rivera said that because of her solitary confinement she became more and more depressed and attempted suicide. She attempted to hang herself in her cell with a noose made from her blanket. Thankfully a guard saw her, cut her down, and saved her life. Now Rivera faced another problem. Instead of immigration officials giving her the mental health help that she needed, because of her suicide attempt, they put her in solitary confinement yet again. 

The investigation shows that detention officials have several reasons for putting undocumented immigrants in solitary confinement. Some of those reasons include sneaking in sugar packets, menstrual blood stains on a uniform, being gay, among other things. 

In response to this investigation Bryan Cox, a spokesman for ICE, told the Atlantic they are using the proper protocol to decide when a detainee should be placed in solitary confinement. He added, “any suggestion that the use of segregation in ICE custody is above the norm for detained populations would be a false claim.”

The Atlantic also reported that under the Obama Administration, ICE officials would resort to solitary confinement for unjust reasons. For example, they list that one detainee got “14 days disciplinary segregation for failure to follow the meal procedure,” another got “14 days for asking to pay an officer to buy him cigarettes,” and another “30 days for making perceived threats because he asked an officer for his address.” 

So how long were these detainees held in solitary confinement? The investigation shows that some of them were in there for hundreds of days and one man was in isolation for 780 days. 

2014 story by PBS discussed the dangers of solitary confinement and what that does to a person’s mental health. Not only does it make a person more dangerous but the majority of them want to kill themselves just to escape the feeling loneliness. Others who are allowed to return and engage with other detainees/prisoners face another kind of dilemma. They’ve forgotten how to interact with others around them. 

“I’ve had prisoners tell me that the first time they’ve been given an opportunity to interact with other people, they can’t do it,” Craig Haney, a professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz, told PBS. “They don’t come out of their cell … And obviously this social atrophy, the anxiety which surrounds social interaction can be extremely disabling and problematic for people who are released from solitary confinement, either released back into the larger prison community or even more poignantly, released from solitary confinement into the larger society.”

Ellen Gallagher, a policy advisor at the Department of Homeland Security, exposed this horrific treatment of undocumented immigrants in solitary confinement. 

“We have created and continue to support a system that involves widespread abuse of human beings,” Gallagher told NBC News. “People were being brutalized.” 

READ: The Mother Of A Child Who Died In Immigration Custody Is Suing The Private Prison Company

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Smugglers Are Tagging U.S.-Bound Migrants With Color Coded Wristbands And Here’s Why

Things That Matter

Smugglers Are Tagging U.S.-Bound Migrants With Color Coded Wristbands And Here’s Why

As the United States experiences a so-called surge of people attempting to enter the U.S., human traffickers and smugglers are working double time as they try to capitalize on the increased movements.

Cartels and human traffickers have long run their smuggling operations like a legitimate business but they’ve only got more advanced in how they move people across the border region and one key tool: color-coded bracelets. These bracelets almost act as passports for migrants to safely cross a cartel’s territory without interference or threats of violence. But what do these bracelets mean and how are they fueling the problem of human trafficking?

Plastic bracelets are being used by cartels to identify migrants in their territory. 

U.S. border agents carried out nearly 100,000 apprehensions or rapid expulsions of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in February, which is the highest monthly total since mid-2019. With the increase in people attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, cartels are managing this migration of people over their territory and trying to make money off the humanitarian crisis. 

Many cartels have implemented a color-coded bracelet system that identifies those migrants who have paid for permission to cross their territory. In the Rio Grande Valley sector, Border Patrol agents have recently encountered immigrants wearing the bracelets during several apprehensions, Matthew Dyman, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told Reuters.

The “information on the bracelets represents a multitude of data that is used by smuggling organizations, such as payment status or affiliation with smuggling groups,” Dyman said.

The color-coded system isn’t totally understood.

Credit: ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images

Migrants can pay thousands of dollars for the journey to the United States and human smugglers have to pay off drug cartels to move people through parts of Mexico. This is a money-making operation and cartels want to pay close attention to who has paid. The bracelets may just be a new way to keep track.

Criminal groups operating in northern Mexico, however, have long used systems to log which migrants have already paid for the right to be in gang-controlled territory, as well as for the right to cross the border into the United States, according to migration experts. In fact, in 2019, smugglers kept tabs on rapidly arriving Central American migrants by double checking the names and IDs of migrants before they got off the bus to make sure they had paid. 

One man, a migrant in Reynosa – across the border from McAllen, Texas – who declined to give his name for fear of retaliation, showed Reuters a picture of a purple wristband he was wearing. He told them that he had paid $500 to a criminal group in the city after he arrived from Honduras to ensure that he wasn’t kidnapped or extorted. He said once migrants or their smugglers have paid for the right to cross the river, which is also controlled by criminal groups, they receive another bracelet.

“This way we’re not in danger, neither us nor the ‘coyote,’” he told Reuters.

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Despite Promises, President Biden Looks To Reopen A Child Migrant Center Facing Sexual Assault Allegations

Things That Matter

Despite Promises, President Biden Looks To Reopen A Child Migrant Center Facing Sexual Assault Allegations

Since taking office in January, President Biden has been hard at work addressing everything from the nation’s COVID vaccine program and economic response to comprehensive immigration reform. However, several of his planned changes have hit major roadblocks as federal judges (many appointed by Trump) strike down his new policies.

But despite much of his administration’s progress on issues that affect the Latino and immigration communities, the administration is seriously considering reopening one of the country’s largest child migrant detention centers.

The Biden administration looks to reopen the Homestead facility for children.

The Biden administration is facing a sharp increase of unaccompanied child migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border and they’re considering reopening one of the nation’s most controversial detention centers.

The Miami Herald reported that the feds might reopen the Homestead site under the name Biscayne Influx Care Facility, an announcement that has caused outrage among advocates working towards ending the detention of children altogether.

“That place has a history of all kinds of abuse and profiting off the lock-up of children,” said Lis-Marie Alvarado, program director of the Miami-based organization American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), which led the call for Homestead’s closure in 2019. A move to reopen the facility is “appalling and a slap to our faces,” she said.

The center has a troubling history of sexual assault allegations.

The facility was in the news in 2019 following shocking allegations of sexual abuse and prison-like conditions, which drew the condemnation of several Democratic candidates for president, including current Vice President Kamala Harris.

Detaining children, particularly in such dire conditions, “is a human rights abuse being committed by the United States government,” she told a small crowd. Harris later described seeing “children lined up like prisoners” as heartbreaking. 

Homestead first opened as a temporary shelter in 2016 under President Barack Obama, closed the following year, and was reactivated in 2018. Between March 2018 and August 2019, it housed more than 14,300 unaccompanied minors ranging from 13 to 17 years old, including dozens who had been torn from their parents under Trump’s policy of separating families. The average length of stay in the facility was 52 days by March 2019, with some minors spending almost four times as long.

The hypocrisy of the administration is truly frustrating.

Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In June 2019, then-Senator Kamala Harris (and candidate for president) visited the Homestead facility demanding that it be shut down. She, along with several other Democratic lawmakers, joined a series of rallies at the center to denounce Trump’s cruel immigration policies. The facility was subsequently shut down just a month later after mounting public pressure.

But now, a year and half later, the facility might be reopened under the Biden-Harris administration.

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