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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Honduran Woman Gave Birth On Bridge Between U.S. And Mexico Border But What Will Happen To Them Next?

Things That Matter

Honduran Woman Gave Birth On Bridge Between U.S. And Mexico Border But What Will Happen To Them Next?

Julio César Aguilar / Getty Images

As the number of parents and children crossing the border continues to increase, driven by violence and poverty in Central America, many are growing desperate while being forced to wait in migrant camps in Mexico. While crossings have not reached the levels seen in previous years, facilities that hold migrants are approaching capacity, which has been reduced because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This is forcing many to check the status of their claims by crossing into the U.S. to speak to border agents. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that more and more women are being forced to give birth in less than ideal situations – putting at risk both the lives of the mother and child.

A migrant woman gave birth on a bridge between U.S.-Mexico border.

According to Mexican border authorities, a Honduran woman gave birth on the Mexican side of the border bridge between Matamoros, Mexico and Brownsville, Texas. The woman was apparently trying to reach the U.S. side, but felt unsteady when she got there and was helped by pedestrians on the Mexican side waiting to cross.

Mexico’s National Immigration Institute said the birth occurred Saturday afternoon on the Ignacio Zaragoza border bridge, also known as “Los Tomates.” It said authorities received an alert from U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials regarding “a woman trying to enter the country improperly.”

It said the woman was taken to a hospital in Matamoros, where she was given free care. Her child will have the right to Mexican citizenship.

Hernández is hardly the first woman to give birth while hoping to cross into the U.S.

Just last month, a woman gave birth along the U.S. side of the Rio Grande. She had just crossed the river and her smugglers were yelling at her to keep moving as U.S. Border Patrol agents arrived. But she couldn’t continue, fell to the ground, and began to give birth.

The mother and her her daughter are safe and in good health. “They treated me well, thank God,” said the woman, who didn’t want her name used because she fears retribution if she’s forced to leave the country, in an interview with ABC News.

“There’s so many women in great danger,” Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, told ABC News. “They must really think before they do what they do and risk the life of their unborn child.”

Like so many other women, Hernández was waiting in Mexico under Trump’s cruel immigration policies.

Hernández was reportedly among about 800 migrants sheltering in an improvised riverside camp while awaiting U.S. hearings on their claims for asylum or visas. Other migrants are waiting in Matamoros, but have rented rooms.

Thousands of other migrants are waiting in other Mexican border cities for a chance to enter the U.S. — some for years. The Trump administration has turned away tens of thousands at legal border crossings, first citing a shortage of space and then telling people to wait for court dates under its “Remain in Mexico” policy.

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This Virtual Posada Aims To Help The LGBTQ Migrant Community And They Need Your Help

Things That Matter

This Virtual Posada Aims To Help The LGBTQ Migrant Community And They Need Your Help

Juan Zanella Gonzalez / Getty Images

For many Latinos, the word posada, evokes holiday celebrations surrounded by family and friends, singing, enjoying a warm meal (of tamales and ponche, of course), and spreading holiday cheer all around. Obviously, this year’s posadas will look very different but it’s more important than ever that we continue with traditions.

Posadas are steeped in the history of Mary and Joseph’s quest for safe refuge where the Virgin Mary could safely give birth to Jesus in Bethlehem. Given our current government’s cruel and anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric, the story of Mary & Joseph rings true with many people hoping to find a safer, better home in the United States. This is especially true for LGBTQ migrants who face unique challenges in both their journeys to the U.S. and their asylum experience.

Enter the LGBTQ Center Orange County. The center has proudly stood up to help the community in powerful and life-changing ways and their annual Queer Posada is one of the most important.

The LGBTQ community faces unique challenges in their quest for asylum and settlement in the U.S.

Credit: Lino de Jesús Herrera / Getty Images

LGBTQ detainees across the country have shared harrowing experiences of being mocked or tortured for their gender identity or sexual orientation. Many others have been sexually assaulted while in ICE custody or while waiting for their asylum claims at the U.S.-Mexico border. And transgendered and HIV-positive detainees have both been denied medically necessary healthcare that has posed a risk to their lives.

Migrant advocacy groups and several lawmakers have demanded that ICE release all LGBTQ detainees and anyone with HIV in the agency’s custody, because the government has repeatedly failed to provide adequate medical and mental health care to them.

And Southern California is home to the nation’s largest undocumented community, which means organizations like the LGBTQ Center Orange County have their work cut out for them. However, the center has proudly stood up to help in powerful and life-changing ways.

Meet JB, who was detained at Adelanto Detention Center and relied on the help of the LGBTQ Center Orange County.

JB, who identifies as a transgender man, was a detainee at Adelanto Detention Center. While in custody he was denied access to his hormone therapies which had negative effects on both his physical and mental health.

JB credits the LGBTQ Center Orange County with saving his life. The Center was a consistent advocate for JB and helped provide much-needed cash and weekly visits.

You can hear more stories from LGBTQ migrants who have been helped by the LGBTQ Center Orange County’s countless programs by following our Snapchat account, which will feature more important voices.

The LGBTQ Center Orange County offers so many important programs that help migrants out in extraordinary ways.

So often, LGBTQ migrants make the journey to the U.S. alone and, therefore, don’t have the family support (neither financial or emotional) that’s so important. But that’s where the LGBTQ Center Orange County comes in to help fill that void.

Volunteers and employees of The Center do so much for the community: from attending numerous events throughout the year to educate and provide much-needed resources or sending $20 to a detainee so they can have a filling meal, to helping advocate for the end of the partnership between Santa Ana Police and the Orange County Sheriff with ICE, to providing weekly citizenship classes to those who need them.

The LGBTQ Center Orange County has also been a leader in assisting eligible residents with their DACA applications, which is a cause close to the hearts of Luis Gomez and Jonatan Gutierrez – both DACA recipients who work with the LGBTQ Center Orange County.

And now it’s our turn to give back at the LGBTQ Center Orange County’s posada.

Obviously, this year’s posada tradition looks very different but the LGBTQ Center Orange County is working to keep the tradition alive by taking it online and making it free for all to attend. However, it is a critical fundraising event that enables the center to do all that it does for the LGBTQ migrant community across Southern California. 

And the work the center does is so important because it shouldn’t just be on detainees to speak out. All of us as part of the LGBTQ and migrant communities should support those in detention and speak out about the injustices they’re suffering in detention.

Donations from the Queer Posada will go toward the center’s LGBTQ Immigrant Fund. The unrestricted funds meet multiple needs from bonds, commissary funds, airline tickets to immigration filing fees. The center has also distributed checks to LGBTQ community members who have been severely impacted by COVID-19. You can get more information and RSVP for this free, virtual event here.

Plus it’s going to be a fun and free event that you won’t want to miss.

Not only will you be able to virtually hang out with members of the community and leaders from the LGBTQ Center OC but there will also be a spirited round of lotería, a raffle, and a live performance by the LGBTQ Mariachi Arcoíris de Los Angeles.

During the Queer Posada, their will also be an exclusive screening of the nearly 15-minute Before and After Detention documentary, followed by a Q&A with the director Armando Ibañez. The film follows three trans women who were released from detention centers. Angela, Fernanda and Gladys live in Los Angeles, while their asylum status is pending. In the documentary, they talk about their lives in their home countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico and being detained in the U.S.

The LGBTQ Center Orange County’s Queer Posada is taking place this Saturday, December 12 at 6 p.m. on Zoom, and is an important event for both the LGBTQ and migrant communities, one that you do not want to miss!

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