Things That Matter

Finally, The US Congress Will Launch An Investigation Into The Medical Care Migrants Are Getting In Detention Centers

Even though the United States migration and legal bureaucracy was perhaps not ready to process the number of undocumented migrants and asylum seekers that have crossed the border throughout the years, there is a basic duty of care (and a basic level of humanity) towards them.

While migrants are under United State custody, particularly if this happens over extended periods of time and even more so if the housing of detainees is subcontracted to a private company, it is the State’s responsibility to provide medical care and prevention that guarantees detainee health and relative well being.

In recent years, Global North countries have taken different approaches to migrant care. Canada and some Scandinavian countries, for instance, are welcoming and refugee status is given while the person waits for a resolution on their case. But countries like Australia and the United States are now infamous for the sometimes inhumane treatment that migrants receive. In the case of Australia, undocumented migrants not even reach Australian soil as they are treated in the offshore detentions centers of Naru and Manus Island, where conditions have been describes as horrific. 

In the past four years the living conditions and medical care provided (or denied in the worst cases) to migrant detainees in the United States has worsened and stories come out every day of outbreaks, disease and mental health crisis suffered by those who tried to enter the United States without documents. Now Congress is taking a deeper look at these claims and has requested documents from ICE officials after a whistleblower’s memo claimed that the government “has systematically provided inadequate medical and mental health care and oversight to immigration detainees across the U.S.”.

There is evidently something wrong with the medical care provided to immigrant detainees and now Congress is looking into it con lupa.

The investigation was launched by The House Oversight and Reform Committee and will look into a whistleblower’s claim that the medical care given to detainees is substandard and actually endangers their lives. The investigation committee has demanded that the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials hand over documents to assess the extent of the problem.

The letters are signed by Rep. Jamie Raskin, the chair of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and addressed to Matthew Albence (acting ICE director) and Cameron Quinn (DHS officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties or CRCL). The request reads: “The Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is writing to request documents and information relating to reports of gross negligence by medical staff treating detainees in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).”

Gross negligence is a very big deal and is perhaps some of the strongest wording that Congress has used to refer to the Trump administration’s dealing of immigration detention. 

Detainee deaths have become the status quo and volunteer doctors are not allowed to administer flu shots – that is just messed up.

Credit: Salma De Los Santos / AP

The situation has gotten from bad to worse. The death of migrant children while in detention is sadly not a surprise to anyone anymore. Doctors want to provide flu shots to children in detention to prevent outbreaks and are forbidden to do so by officials. Mental health problems are running rampant and death by suicide is also increasing. By all accounts this is a health crisis.

As reported by BuzzFeed News, now Congress wants to lift every rug and examine the dirt lying underneath: “Raskin also called for documents on other allegations of improper medical care, all communications between ICE and CRCL discussing the medical care of detainees, internal death reviews, and any documents justifying personnel actions of individuals who worked for ICE and documented improper care or discussing retaliation against such an individual.”

This will surely be a lengthy and costly process as the animosity between the Democrat-led Congress and the White House reaches a boiling point post-impeachment. 

The Department of Homeland Security has already provided Congress with 5,000 pages of documents… talk about an information dump!

The whistleblower’s memo depicts a terrifying situation on which negligence, for example, led to the death of a migrant by meningitis. Others have told officials that they would kill themselves and then do that without any preventive measures taken by authorities. A man became so mentally unstable that he lacerated his own penis. DHS said in a statement: “DHS is committed to the highest standard of care. We have more than 200 medical professionals on the border and are continually updating our policies and procedures.”

The battle to prove the claims will be an uphill legal battle. In the meantime, Congress’ investigation will be a de facto validation for human rights activists who have asked for closer supervision for months. 

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

Things That Matter

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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Despite Promises, President Biden Looks To Reopen A Child Migrant Center Facing Sexual Assault Allegations

Things That Matter

Despite Promises, President Biden Looks To Reopen A Child Migrant Center Facing Sexual Assault Allegations

Since taking office in January, President Biden has been hard at work addressing everything from the nation’s COVID vaccine program and economic response to comprehensive immigration reform. However, several of his planned changes have hit major roadblocks as federal judges (many appointed by Trump) strike down his new policies.

But despite much of his administration’s progress on issues that affect the Latino and immigration communities, the administration is seriously considering reopening one of the country’s largest child migrant detention centers.

The Biden administration looks to reopen the Homestead facility for children.

The Biden administration is facing a sharp increase of unaccompanied child migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border and they’re considering reopening one of the nation’s most controversial detention centers.

The Miami Herald reported that the feds might reopen the Homestead site under the name Biscayne Influx Care Facility, an announcement that has caused outrage among advocates working towards ending the detention of children altogether.

“That place has a history of all kinds of abuse and profiting off the lock-up of children,” said Lis-Marie Alvarado, program director of the Miami-based organization American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), which led the call for Homestead’s closure in 2019. A move to reopen the facility is “appalling and a slap to our faces,” she said.

The center has a troubling history of sexual assault allegations.

The facility was in the news in 2019 following shocking allegations of sexual abuse and prison-like conditions, which drew the condemnation of several Democratic candidates for president, including current Vice President Kamala Harris.

Detaining children, particularly in such dire conditions, “is a human rights abuse being committed by the United States government,” she told a small crowd. Harris later described seeing “children lined up like prisoners” as heartbreaking. 

Homestead first opened as a temporary shelter in 2016 under President Barack Obama, closed the following year, and was reactivated in 2018. Between March 2018 and August 2019, it housed more than 14,300 unaccompanied minors ranging from 13 to 17 years old, including dozens who had been torn from their parents under Trump’s policy of separating families. The average length of stay in the facility was 52 days by March 2019, with some minors spending almost four times as long.

The hypocrisy of the administration is truly frustrating.

Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In June 2019, then-Senator Kamala Harris (and candidate for president) visited the Homestead facility demanding that it be shut down. She, along with several other Democratic lawmakers, joined a series of rallies at the center to denounce Trump’s cruel immigration policies. The facility was subsequently shut down just a month later after mounting public pressure.

But now, a year and half later, the facility might be reopened under the Biden-Harris administration.

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