Things That Matter

Even Though We’re In The Midst Of A Pandemic, ICE Just Conducted The Largest Immigration Sweep In Months

Although communities across the country – particularly the Latinx community – continue to be ravaged by Coronavirus, U.S. immigration officials are still enforcing inhumane immigration policies.

In cities across the U.S., Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials made thousands of arrests over recent weeks. These arrests are part of the largest immigration sweep since the pandemic began and mean that more people will be put in danger as they’re forced into detention centers which have become a hotbed of Coronavirus infections.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers took thousands of people into custody in 24 cities across the country.

A six-week ICE operation resulted in more than 2,000 arrests of undocumented immigrants, in 24 cities across the U.S. The operation, which ran from July to August, led to arrests in communities across the country, CBS News reports.

Officials charge that the enforcement efforts were focused on those with criminal convictions and charges, but they admit that there were also arrests of some undocumented immigrants with clean records.

As part of the operation, ICE agents made “at-large” arrests, which could take place at residences, worksites and traffic stops, across the country, including in large metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, where the ICE field office apprehended the most immigrants. ICE said the operation targeted undocumented immigrants and others subject to deportation who had been charged or convicted of a crime involving a victim.

Asked by CBS News how the recent arrests of immigrants without convictions or charges conformed with that announcement, Henry Lucero, ICE’s executive associate director, offered a clarification of the so-called “enforcement posture.”

“We never said we were going to stop arresting individuals,” Lucero said in a call with reporters. “We said we were going to prioritize and focus on those that are public safety threats. And that’s exactly what we did during this operation.”

He added, “We never stated we’re … going to stop arresting any type of immigration violator. We continue to arrest immigration violators. We use discretion when appropriate. That will remain in effect until further notice.”

Although ICE says it’s limited its enforcement activities because of the pandemic, this is the largest sweep in months.

Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

It took awhile for ICE to finally adjust its enforcement posture once the pandemic hit, but ICE did finally announce certain changes. The agency said it’s limited its operations to avoid outbreaks among detainees – and the hard numbers to paint this picture. So far this fiscal year, ICE has made 94,5000 arrests inside communities, compared to 143,000 at this time last year.

In March, ICE announced that it would focus its enforcement efforts on those with certain criminal records and those deemed a public threat.

ICE and its enforcement priorities under President Trump have become a focal point of the nation’s broader debate around immigration, with some Democratic lawmakers calling for the agency to be abolished. Advocates for immigrants have also criticized ICE’s response to the spread of the coronavirus inside its sprawling immigration detention system, which is the largest in the world. 

Meanwhile, many of these migrants will be forced into detention centers that are becoming hubs of Covid-19 infections.

Credit: Gregory Bull / Getty Images

Already the 2020 fiscal year (which ends September 30) is tied with 2006 for the highest number of migrant deaths in ICE custody – the vast majority of whom have died of Covid-19 related complications. Just this week, a 50-year-old man from Honduras became the system’s latest victim and the 19th to die so far.

Meanwhile, more than 5,300 immigrants have tested for the Coronavirus while in custody. That number doesn’t take into account the risks fro communities and employees.

ICE says that they’re making adjustments, pointing out that the agency’s detainee population has plummeted during the pandemic, declining to roughly 21,000 this week. However, raids like the ones over the last few weeks will likely increase that population.

“There is still a pandemic raging,” Reichlin-Melnick told CBS News. “ICE should not be engaging in large-scale enforcement actions that send people to detention centers where the virus is rampant.”

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Biden Is Counting On Mexico’s President To Help With Immigration But That’s A Risky Move

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Biden Is Counting On Mexico’s President To Help With Immigration But That’s A Risky Move

ALFREDO ESTRELLA,SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

One of the stranger things to happen during the Trump presidency was the unlikely alliance between Trump and Mexico’s President Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). The former frequently spoke disparaging of Mexicans and pursued cruel and inhumane immigration policies that directly targeted the constituents of the latter. Yet AMLO was a major supporter of Trump’s most severe immigration policies and, in fact, helped bring them to fruition.

Now, with a new president in the White House, AMLO is being asked again to recalibrate his approach to immigration but having once been a major ally of Trump, how will he work alongside a President Biden?

Presidents Biden and AMLO host a virtual meeting to discuss a wide range of topics.

President Biden is hoping that Mexico’s President AMLO can help him avert another crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. However, given AMLO’s close alliance with Trump and support of his harsh immigration policies, Biden may face an uphill battle.

But as the administration faces an uptick in migrants attempting to cross into the U.S., Biden is hoping that AMLO can become a partner in preventing another cycle of out-of-control migration from Central America. The Mexican president appeared open to collaboration, issuing a joint statement committing to address climate change, the pandemic and migration north.

Their first head to head meeting comes after a rocky start for the two leaders. Mexico’s President was one of the last leaders in the world to congratulate Biden on his election victory, with many saying AMLO fears a Biden administration as potentially more interested in pressuring Mexico on its own domestic matters.

President AMLO was a key player in Trump’s harsh and inhumane immigration tactics.

Despite his racist rhetoric directly targeting Mexicans and his cruel and hardline immigration policies that largely shifted the pressure to Mexico, AMLO largely accepted Trump’s worst policies with little resistance.

As migrant caravans formed in Central America and attempted to make their way to the U.S. passing through Mexico, AMLO unleashed his newly formed Guardia Nacional to stop them in their tracks. His agents arrested and deported thousands of migrants back to their home countries, often using tear gas and other extreme tactics to do so.

And President AMLO said nothing as Trump implemented the “Remain in Mexico” policy which forced thousands of refugees and asylum seekers to await their claims on the Mexican side of the border, amid a global health pandemic, shifting the burden to Mexican officials.

Biden looks to continue many of Trump’s policies.

Although Biden campaigned against Trump’s harsh immigration policies, the president wants many of the same things from AMLO that Trump asked for: help in keeping Central American migrants from immediately surging north toward the United States through Mexico. And although Biden declared he would break sharply with Trump on immigration, he’s only abandoned some of his predecessors policies.

The Biden administration has formed a task force to unite parents separated from their children Trump’s family separations policy. He’s also begun welcoming back a limited number of asylum seekers who were exposed to violence and kidnappings in dangerous areas of Mexico under a Trump-era program. But the Biden administration has kept in place a separate Trump policy that empowers agents to rapidly expel new arrivals at the border to Mexican authorities as Biden hopes to avoid a crisis that challenged his predecessors.

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He Gave Away Free Oxygen To Those Who Needed It, Then People Burned Down His Home

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He Gave Away Free Oxygen To Those Who Needed It, Then People Burned Down His Home

CESAR VON BANCELS/AFP via Getty Images

Peru is being ravaged by a deadly second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic. Few parts of the country are as badly affected as the remote Amazonian villages in the northeast of the country and cities like Iquitos.

The country has been one of the worst hit by the pandemic. For several months last year, it topped the per capita death charts. Officially, 1.2 million have been infected here while 43,880 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.

One man’s effort to help those who have been most impacted, has nearly cost him his life.

As Peru now faces a daily oxygen shortage of 100 tons, Peruvians are becoming desperate for whatever oxygen they can get their hands on. Oxygen mafias are rising up to steal oxygen products and sell them on the black market for obscene prices.

Juan Torres Baldeón is a good samaritan who has, by his own estiamte, donated free oxygen to 8,000 desperate families in the jungle city of Iquitos. With his generosity, he’s likely saved hundreds if not thousands of lives in the process. But his generosity has also come with risks.

It began with crooks infiltrating the long lines outside Baldeón’s warehouse. The problem became so severe that the police and the military had to be called in to maintain order.

“We only give oxygen to those with prescriptions,” Baldeón told VICE News. “Normally, just half a tank, unless the patient is really sick, because we have to ration what we have. But we kept finding people in the queue who didn’t have a prescription, and when you asked them the name of the patient, they didn’t know what to say.”

Then he began receiving threatening phone calls, demanding he surrender his entire lifesaving supply of oxygen or leave his city behind.

That was when the criminals, who Baldeón believes are a local cocaine cartel, made their move.

In late January, Baldeón had left his home to go to the gym but quickly had to return. When he got back home, his office/home and four others alongside it were on fire.

“They probably thought I was inside,” he told VICE. “There’s nothing left now, just ashes. I feel for my neighbors. They didn’t even have anything to do with the oxygen.”

Thanks to Covid-19, oxygen has become a necessity for so many.

From Lima to Mexico City, residents have been forced to stand in line for hours on end and search far-flung neighborhoods to refill their oxygen tanks.

Normally, refilling a 10,000 liter tank of oxygen would cost around 100 Sols ($27). But with Covid-19 forcing so many to seek care at home with supplemental oxygen, some are paying more than $1,000.

Baldeón isn’t the only person to be threatened over oxygen supplies.

In Peru’s capital city of Lima, a district mayor was forced to send his family abroad following death threats that he received after setting up a municipal oxygen plant and distributing the essential gas to needy families, including to those from outside his district.

Yet even outside of Peru, his family remain unsafe, and they have had to change hotels after their whereabouts were discovered by the criminals, who also threw a grenade at his house.

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