Things That Matter

Doctors And Nurses Protested Outside CBP Office Demanding Flu Shots For Migrant Kids, Many Were Arrested

United States Customs and Border Protection would not allow a group of doctors access to provide flu vaccines to children in a San Diego detention center. At least three children, according to the Guardian, have recently died in immigration custody due to the flu. They were ages two, six, and 16. 

Just recently, the death of 16-year-old Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez garnered national attention when ProPublica uncovered surveillance footage that revealed Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials did not appropriately tend to his flu symptoms. 

Groups like Doctors for Camp Closure, Families Belong Together, and Never Again Action participated in a protest and effort to provide children detained by CBP the vaccines. 

“We see this as medical negligence on the part of the US government,” said Dr Bonnie Arzuaga, co-founder of Doctors for Camp Closure, told the Guardian. “People are being held in close confinement and usually are under a lot of physical and emotional stress … and maybe malnourished and may not have access to hygiene supplies. That puts them at risk.”

Physicians were turned away at a Chula Vista border patrol station.

A group of licensed doctors went to the detention center to run a free flu clinic. CBP would not allow them in. The agents said it was not “feasible” to offer any migrants medical assistance.  

“More people will die without the vaccine,” Dr Hannah Janeway, an emergency medicine physician that was turned away told the Guardian. “There’s no doubt. They are being locked in cages in cold weather together, without any vaccination, in a year that is supposed to bring a horrible flu epidemic.”

Janeway also works with asylum seekers in Tijuana and believes the government has a moral obligation to provide vaccinations to children. 

 “Our government, who is creating these conditions and allowing them to persist, is basically saying some people’s lives are worth more than others, and it’s OK for children to die,” Janeway said. 

Doctors have repeatedly been turned down by CBP. 

Doctors have mobilized for over a month in an attempt to allow the US to vaccinate migrants. In November, they made a formal proposal to operate a free pilot clinic. CBP rejected the proposal alleging it is too logistically difficult to set up because of time constraints. 

“[Migrant detainees] should generally not be held for longer than 72 hours,” CBP spokesman Matthew Dyman told the Guardian in an email. “Every effort is made to hold detainees for the minimum amount of time required.”

Dyman asserted that the larger system in place provides adequate medical care to migrants who are in detention centers for the long-term. However, government records prove that both adults and children are often detained for longer than 72 hours, in crowded conditions — sometimes held for weeks without explanation. 

“It has never been a CBP practice to administer vaccines and this not a new policy,” an official statement from CBP said. “Individuals in CBP custody should generally not be held for longer than 72 hours in either CBP hold rooms or holding facilities. As a law enforcement agency, and due to the short-term nature of CBP holding and other logistical challenges, operating a vaccine program is not feasible.”

52 people protest in front of CBP facility demanding to be allowed to provide medical care. 

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, at least 52 people, largely licensed doctors and medical students, marched from Vista Terrace Neighborhood Park to the detention facility demanding to be let in or to let the children out to receive vaccines from a mobile clinic they set up. 

“We have the team here. We have the vaccines. It would not take 72 hours to do,” said Dr. Mario Mendoza, a retired anesthesiologist who was present. “What I can say is we are not leaving here until they let us enter. We are doctors. We are against death and we are for humanity.” 

Mendoza is an immigrant from El Salvador. He fled the dangerous country because his mother was an advocate for teacher’s rights — a noble cause that put her life in danger. 

“My heart hurts a lot for the immigrants that are here, both the adults and the children. I came here undocumented from El Salvador in 1981. We ran for 12 hours through the desert. We survived only by the grace of God and the strength of my mother,” said Mendoza. 

Doctors are arguing that it doesn’t matter how long migrants are detained, they should be entitled to life-saving services. Dr. Arzuaga believes that all CBP has to do is let them in. Others feel the fact that CBP won’t allow them to provide services is a testament of how they have dehumanized migrants altogether. 

“They are having difficulty prioritizing something like this, because they have so far dehumanized people. My question is, why not?” Danielle Deines, a neonatologist at the protest. “If you want to hold people in detention, you can provide people the basic flu vaccine … You’re saying death is acceptable to you, and that you don’t value human life.”

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10-Year-Old Boy Found Crying Alone Near Border Had Been Deported And Kidnapped With His Mom

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10-Year-Old Boy Found Crying Alone Near Border Had Been Deported And Kidnapped With His Mom

Anyone who has watched this video of a 10-year-old boy asking a Border Patrol officer for help through tears, can admit just how heartbreaking it is. The boy says he was left alone while traveling with a group across the border when they abandoned him.

But now his family is speaking out and sharing the backstory to the emotional video that further highlights just how urgently the crisis at the border needs to be addressed.

Video of a 10-year-old boy wandering near the border quickly went viral for how heartbreaking it was.

A heartbreaking video shared last week by Customs and Border Protection of an unnamed 10-year-old boy found wandering alone in Texas underscored how desperate the situation is on the southern border. The video showed a young Nicaraguan boy found on the side of a dirt road by an off-duty Border Patrol agent after wandering alone for four hours in the desert.

People reports that U.S. Customs and Border Protection released footage of the incident, which happened on April 1 by a Rio Grande border patrol agent. The boy explains to the officer that he woke up and discovered that his group had left him behind. “I came looking because I didn’t know where to go, and they can also rob or kidnap me or something,” he told the officer. 

In a statement to the publication, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the agent “transported the child to a Border Patrol facility where he was fed and medically screened.”

But now we’re getting a better understanding of what led to this heartbreaking video.

Now, the boy’s family have described his plight to the Washington Post. Little 10-year-old Wilton Obregon and his mom crossed the border into Texas last month but were expelled under Title 42, a policy that releases migrants back to Mexico without letting them seek asylum.

Hours after they were sent back, they were kidnapped, according to Wilton’s Miami-based uncle, Misael Obregon. The kidnappers called him and demanded a $10,000 ransom but Misael could only pay $5,000 so the kidnappers only released Wilton. They dumped Wilton back at the border. Obregon said his sister is still in custody of the kidnappers. “Now I’m worried that she’s going to die,” he said.

In fact, the boys mom called Misael Obregon on Friday morning, crying after seeing the video of her son crying at the border.

The family’s plight highlights the need for reforms to Title 42.

During the campaign, President Biden complained about the humanitarian consequences of the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which forced asylum seekers to wait for the their court hearings in Mexico. Many were forced to wait in dangerous refugee camps along the border that subjected them to human trafficking, violence, and sexual assault.

Under Title 42, though, which began under President Donald Trump and continues under Biden, asylum seekers are again in the same desperate situation. It’s unclear how many of them have been kidnapped.

“The Biden administration is winding down one of the Trump administration’s most notorious policies but at the same time it is expelling other asylum seekers back to the very same dangers, attacks and kidnappings through its continued use of the Trump administration’s Title 42 policy to evade U.S. refugee law,” Eleanor Acer, senior director of refugee protection at Human Rights First, said in a statement.

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

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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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