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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

Border Patrol Gave This Woman Zero Privacy As She Waited In An Emergency Room

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Border Patrol Gave This Woman Zero Privacy As She Waited In An Emergency Room

Jeff Greenberg / Getty

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has sparked outrage after Border Patrol agents were spotted waiting outside a patient’s room in the emergency unit of a Florida hospital before taking the patient into custody.

Video and images posted to social media on Sunday appeared to show at least one Border Patrol agent waiting outside a room at the Aventura Hospital and Medical Center in Aventura, Florida, with later footage appearing to show officers escorting the patient, a woman, into the back of a Border Patrol vehicle.

The ordeal started as the family was headed home after a day at the beach.

During a traffic stop, Border Patrol agents detained an undocumented woman who was on her way home from a family outing at Haulover Beach. It wasn’t long after the Border Patrol car pulled her over that she entered into a panic attack, vomiting and then eventually fainting. The officers took her to a Miami-area hospital, where she was treated by emergency-room doctors.

On the side of a road in Miami Beach, the federal agents had repeatedly told her, “We just need you to come with us.” Her kids, both teenagers, were crying, begging the agents not to take away their mother. But that appears like it’s exactly what happened. A family’s day at the beach ending with life long trauma for two teenagers who didn’t want to lose their mother and a woman fearful for her future.

Once she arrived to the emergency room, Border Patrol agents refused to leave the woman alone.

In fact, they wouldn’t leave her at all for nearly five hours. Officers waited either inside her actual room, affording her zero privacy, or they were waiting for her outside an open door. Agents refused to budge even as doctors and nurses came to ask her questions and give her medication.

When the woman was discharged shortly thereafter, a uniformed Border Patrol agent escorted her to a patrol vehicle and drove away. Immigrant-rights activists, who captured the incident on video, say the woman’s detention showed callous disregard for a person undergoing medical treatment.

Migrant rights activists were quick to condemn the agency’s actions and some even caught the drama on film.

Thomas Kennedy, who filmed a series of videos documenting the incident, told The Washington Post that the incident raises questions about the line – or lack thereof – between immigration enforcement and emergency medical care. He declined to name the woman out of concern for her safety.

“A hospital should be a place where a patient is protected from interrogation,” Kennedy, the political director at the Florida Immigrant Coalition, said in an interview. “You shouldn’t have a Border Patrol agent right there with you while you’re getting treatment.”

“It’s truly embarrassing as a country that this is a place where we are — that this is how business is being conducted, when we have a woman with children in the midst of a medical emergency being detained,” says Alexandra Audate, a lawyer and rapid-response volunteer with the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC), who was present at the hospital.

Sadly, this is hardly the first time Border Patrol has harassed people in hospitals.

High-profile incidents in recent years have drawn attention to Border Patrol’s role in hospitals along the U.S.-Mexico border, where agents have allegedly handcuffed asylum seekers to their beds or rushed migrants to the emergency room after they’ve gotten sick in detention.

Less has been documented about Border Patrol’s place in hospitals elsewhere in the 100-mile “border zone,” where the agency can operate with a heightened kind of authority. That area, which encompasses a majority of the U.S. population, includes any point in the country that’s within 100 miles of a coastline, Canada or Mexico – including the entirety of states like Florida, Michigan and Massachusetts.

In the border zone, agents can stop, question, and detain anyone they suspect of having committed immigration violations – as they seem to have done on Sunday.

More Than 700 Women Have Disappeared From A Texas ICE Detention Center And Their Lawyers Don’t Know Where They Are

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More Than 700 Women Have Disappeared From A Texas ICE Detention Center And Their Lawyers Don’t Know Where They Are

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Across a network of more than 200 migrant prisons and municipal migrant jails, the US government is detaining roughly 18,000 people at any given moment. And that’s not including the more than 12,000 minors who are held in other facilities under the supervision of the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s.

And amid this network of for-profit private prisons and government-ran detention centers, migrants are constantly being shuffled around – often without little notice to their lawyers and even family.

This time, the agency is accused of moving more than 700 women without notifying their lawyers, family, or anyone else.

According to attorneys from the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), ICE has moved more than 700 women out of a Texas detention center. And ICE gave their lawyers zero way of locating them, which is especially damning considering many of the women face serious medical conditions.

Starting on Sept. 20, the women being held at the Karnes County Residential Center were sent to other centers around the country so that the facility could be used to detain families. More than two weeks later, their lawyers from RAICES have no idea where the majority of these women are being held, and they can’t find any updated information in ICE’s online detainee tracking system.

Many of these women have serious medical conditions and not being able to advocate for their health could have fatal consequences.

“I’m really fearful that their conditions could worsen,” Meza said. “I don’t want them to be in another ICE press release about death in detention.” 

The situation highlights a common problem for migrants in ICE custody: They can be transferred between facilities with little notice and yet their new locations are not promptly updated in the system. If their existing lawyers and family members can’t find them, they may have to go through their cases without legal representation, especially in remote areas where legal counsel is sparse. And those with serious health issues could die if advocates who don’t know where their clients were transferred are unable to fight for their right to medical treatment. 

According to ICE, advocates shouldn’t worry because “adequate medical care is being provided to all detainees.”

An ICE official told HuffPost that “Comprehensive medical care is provided to all individuals in ICE custody” adding that staffing includes registered nurses, licensed mental health providers, a physician and access to 24-hour emergency care. The official acknowledged that the women at Karnes had been transferred to other facilities, but did not explain why their locations were not showing up in the online system.

But given the deaths that have occurred in ICE facilities and the overall cruelty towards people in their custody, few people trust ICE’s ability to care for migrants.

At Karnes, some of the immigrants were allegedly being denied lifesaving care, such as cancer and HIV treatment, and that suicidal patients were not receiving psychiatric counseling. One woman with cancer in her uterus said she had not received medical treatment for more than two months. Another immigrant, who is HIV positive, said she was not getting her medication or being evaluated by a doctor, even as her symptoms worsened.

The lack of medical care in immigrant detention facilities is well-established. Eight immigrants have died in ICE detention centers this year, and six minors have died in Border Patrol centers, in many cases because they didn’t receive proper medical help for their illnesses. 

Technically there’s no legal requirement for ICE to inform detainees’ lawyers that they are being transferred. 

According to Andrea Meza, Director of Family Detention Services for RAICES, ICE is not at all required to inform anyone when a detainee is transferred to a new location.

There is one exception: ICE is mandated to provide notice of transfer for Salvadorans, per the Orantes Settlement Agreement — but only Salvadorans.) Otherwise, Meza says, “There’s not really anything that requires them to give us notice as to where our clients are.” 

But even if ICE did update the platform used to track migrants in their custody, lawyers said it’s rarely that reliable.

It can take up to a few weeks for someone who is transferred to a new facility to show up in the system, which means families are often left wondering whether their loved ones have been deported back to life-threatening situations in their home countries.

“I think FedEx does a better job of tracking its packages than ICE does of tracking the people it detains,” Lincoln-Goldfinch, an immigrant rights attorney told HuffPo.  

Of the women RAICES has been able to locate, some are being housed at a private prison in Mississippi that the Justice Department found so poorly-managed it issued a scathing 65-page report detailing its problems. The Federal Bureau of Prisons to ended its contract with the prison earlier this year, but now immigrant women are being sent there.