Things That Matter

Separated Children Say Life In Detention Centers Included Cleaning Toilets, No Crying, And Daily Threats

A federal judge ordered families to be reunited after Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy illegally detained them at the border. The Trump administration has not fulfilled the legal order but those who have been reunited are speaking out about alleged abuse. Here are some of the first accounts of what they experienced inside those makeshift detention centers.

Several children — who have been released — have spoken out about what it was like inside detention centers.

While hundreds of kids have already been reunited with at least one parent, thousands more remain in detention centers. The Trump Administration was given a July 10 deadline to return children five and under, which it did not meet, and a July 26 deadline for all children 17 and under.

According to the a U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) official, there are still 2,551 separated minors, aged 5-17, currently in government custody, and the government alleges to have parental matches for 2,480 of them.

The kids faced strict rules while being detained including no crying, no touching, no misbehaving.

CREDIT: Twitter

Some of the kids said that if they broke any rules, authorities there would threaten to keep them in detention longer.

“They told me, ‘If you keep doing that, you’re going to have to stay here until you’re 18,'” a 9-year-old named Diogo De Olivera Filho, a Brazilan national, told The Washington Post about his habit of sleeping late.

Outrage over the situation has grown after children opened up about being forced to scrub the floor and clean toilets in order to get their breakfast.

CREDIT: Twitter

According to the New York Times, the children’s duties included mopping the bathroom, scrubbing the sinks and toilets. Then they were able to “form a line for the walk to breakfast.”

“You had to get in line for everything,” Leticia, a young girl from Guatemala told The New York Times.

Another child was reportedly injected with something because he was acting out.

CREDIT: Twitter

A boy said that his friend from Guatemala was injected because “he would destroy things,” the New York Times reports.

When he was given these injections, he just passed out and went to sleep.

No one has been charged or accused of abuse, but some of the kids are returning to their parents with apparent bruises.

About these allegations, Mark Weber, a spokesman for the HHS, told The Washington Post that their “focus is always on the safety and best interest of each child.”

“These are vulnerable children in difficult circumstances, and HHS treats its responsibility for each child with the utmost care,” Weber told the Post. “Any allegation of abuse is taken seriously” and, “after being investigated by the department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, ‘appropriate action is taken.'”

Political officials and immigration advocates are speaking out about the alleged abuse.

CREDIT: Twitter

Lawyer and president of the Covenant House, an organization that houses homeless kids, Kevin Ryan tweeted that if American kids were treated this way inside shelters they would immediately get shut down.

Cynthia Nixon, a gubernatorial candidate in New York tweeted her disdain of the treatment of these kids.

CREDIT: Twitter

These are among the first accounts from the children who lived these experiences. As more are reunited, more stories will be told. Mitú will publish updated stories as this accounts come to light.


READ: Here’s Why Advocates Are Concerned About The US Using DNA To Reunite Families Separated At The Border

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Report Shows That Immigration Narratives On TV Are Latinx-Focused And Over-Emphasize Crime

Entertainment

Report Shows That Immigration Narratives On TV Are Latinx-Focused And Over-Emphasize Crime

The media advocacy group Define American recently released a study that focused on the way immigrant characters are depicted on television. The second-annual study is entitled “Change the Narrative, Change the World”.

Although the study reports progress in some areas of onscreen representation, there is still a long way to go.

For example, the study reported that half of the immigrant characters depicted on television are Latino, which is consistent with reality. What is not consistent with reality, however, is how crime-related storylines are still an overrepresented theme in these storylines.

The study shows that on television 22% of immigrant characters have crime storylines show up as part of their narratives. These types of storylines further pedal the false narrative that immigrants are criminals, when in reality, they’re just everyday people who are trying to lives their best lives. Ironically, this statistic is an improvement on the previous year’s statistics in which crime themes made up 34% of immigrants’ stories on TV.

These numbers are further proof that the media feels stories of Latino immigration have to be about sadness and hardship in order to be worth watching.

According to Define American’s website, their organization believes that “powerful storytelling is the catalyst that can reshape our country’s immigration narrative and generate significant cultural change.”

They believe that changing the narratives depicted in entertainment media can “reshape our country’s immigration narrative and generate significant cultural change.” 

“We wanted to determine if seeing the specific immigration storylines influenced [viewers’] attitudes, behavior, or knowledge in the real world,” said Sarah Lowe, the associate director of research and impact at Define American to Variety. “And we were reassured and inspired to see the impact it had.” 

Define American’s founder, Jose Antonio Vargas, is relatively optimistic about the study’s outcomes, saying that the report has “some promising findings” and the numbers “provide [him] with hope”. He added that there are still “many areas in which immigrant representation can improve”.

via Getty Images

Namely, Vargas was disappointed in television’s failure to take an intersectional approach to immigration in regards to undocumented Black immigrants. 

“Black undocumented immigrants are detained and deported at higher rates than other ethnic groups,” Vargas told Variety. “But their stories are largely left off-screen and left out of the larger narrative around immigration.” 

“Change the Narrative, Change the World” also showed that Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants are also under-represented on television compared with reality. Also worth noting, male immigrants were over-represented on television compared to reality, while immigrants with disabilities were also under-represented.

The study also showed that when viewers are exposed to TV storylines that humanize immigrants, they’re more likely to take action on immigration issues themselves. 

The effect that fictional entertainment narratives have on viewers further proves that representation does, indeed, matter. What we watch as entertainment changes the way we think about other people’s lived experiences. And that, in turn, can change the world.

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ICE Just Deported A Key Witness in A Sexual Assault Investigation Against Them

Things That Matter

ICE Just Deported A Key Witness in A Sexual Assault Investigation Against Them

According to the Texas Tribune, the key witness in the ongoing sexual assault investigation at an ICE detention center has been deported. She was previously being held at a Customs Enforcement detention center in El Paso, Texas.

While the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General initially forbid ICE from deporting her, the office apparently reversed their decision on Monday. According to reports, the office determined that “further interviews could be done over the phone”.

via Getty Images

According to previous reports, the unidentified 35-year-old woman alleged that guards had “forcibly kissed” her and touched her on the private parts.

Documents, which were extensively reported on by ProPublica, described the harassment as a “pattern and practice” at this particular detention center.

The woman also alleges that the guards would attempt to extort sexual favors from her and other detainees when they were returning from the medical unit back to her barrack. One guard allegedly told her that he would help get her released “if she behaved”.

The unnamed woman reported the harrasment to her lawyers who then filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General. The DHS then opened an investigation into the ICE Detention Center in El Paso.

The FBI has, since then, interviewed the woman extensively. According to documents, the woman gave investigators a tour of the facility where she showed them where the alleged harassment took place–in what were identified as security camera “blind spots”.

According to her, the guard told her that if she reported him, “No one would believe her”.

via Getty Images

Since the woman made these accusations, at least two other women at the same detention center came forward with similar claims. One of these women has already been deported.

According to previous reports, the unnamed woman accusing ICE officials of sexual assault was being held at the El Paso detention center for a drug-related crime and illegally entering the country. She claims she initially fled Mexico after a cartel member sexually assaulted and threatened her.

While ICE says that they have “zero tolerance for any form of sexual abuse or assault against individuals in the agency’s custody”, the reality is much bleaker.

According to the advocacy group Freedom for Immigrants, ICE has had 14,700 complaints filed against them between 2010 and 2016 alleging sexual and/or physical abuse.

In the most recent statistics available, ICE reported 374 formal accusations of sexual assault in 2018. Forty-eight of those were substantiated by the agency and 29 were still pending an investigation. According to Freedom for Immigrants, only a fraction of these complaints are investigated by the Office of Inspector General.

The woman’s lawyer, Linda Corchado, has not been shy about expressing her displeasure over her client’s deportation.

“[The government] allowed their most powerful witness to be deported,” Corchado said. “How can we possibly take this investigation seriously now or ever pretend that it ever was from the outset?”

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