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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Honduran Woman Gave Birth On Bridge Between U.S. And Mexico Border But What Will Happen To Them Next?

Things That Matter

Honduran Woman Gave Birth On Bridge Between U.S. And Mexico Border But What Will Happen To Them Next?

Julio César Aguilar / Getty Images

As the number of parents and children crossing the border continues to increase, driven by violence and poverty in Central America, many are growing desperate while being forced to wait in migrant camps in Mexico. While crossings have not reached the levels seen in previous years, facilities that hold migrants are approaching capacity, which has been reduced because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This is forcing many to check the status of their claims by crossing into the U.S. to speak to border agents. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that more and more women are being forced to give birth in less than ideal situations – putting at risk both the lives of the mother and child.

A migrant woman gave birth on a bridge between U.S.-Mexico border.

According to Mexican border authorities, a Honduran woman gave birth on the Mexican side of the border bridge between Matamoros, Mexico and Brownsville, Texas. The woman was apparently trying to reach the U.S. side, but felt unsteady when she got there and was helped by pedestrians on the Mexican side waiting to cross.

Mexico’s National Immigration Institute said the birth occurred Saturday afternoon on the Ignacio Zaragoza border bridge, also known as “Los Tomates.” It said authorities received an alert from U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials regarding “a woman trying to enter the country improperly.”

It said the woman was taken to a hospital in Matamoros, where she was given free care. Her child will have the right to Mexican citizenship.

Hernández is hardly the first woman to give birth while hoping to cross into the U.S.

Just last month, a woman gave birth along the U.S. side of the Rio Grande. She had just crossed the river and her smugglers were yelling at her to keep moving as U.S. Border Patrol agents arrived. But she couldn’t continue, fell to the ground, and began to give birth.

The mother and her her daughter are safe and in good health. “They treated me well, thank God,” said the woman, who didn’t want her name used because she fears retribution if she’s forced to leave the country, in an interview with ABC News.

“There’s so many women in great danger,” Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, told ABC News. “They must really think before they do what they do and risk the life of their unborn child.”

Like so many other women, Hernández was waiting in Mexico under Trump’s cruel immigration policies.

Hernández was reportedly among about 800 migrants sheltering in an improvised riverside camp while awaiting U.S. hearings on their claims for asylum or visas. Other migrants are waiting in Matamoros, but have rented rooms.

Thousands of other migrants are waiting in other Mexican border cities for a chance to enter the U.S. — some for years. The Trump administration has turned away tens of thousands at legal border crossings, first citing a shortage of space and then telling people to wait for court dates under its “Remain in Mexico” policy.

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This Virtual Posada Aims To Help The LGBTQ Migrant Community And They Need Your Help

Things That Matter

This Virtual Posada Aims To Help The LGBTQ Migrant Community And They Need Your Help

Juan Zanella Gonzalez / Getty Images

For many Latinos, the word posada, evokes holiday celebrations surrounded by family and friends, singing, enjoying a warm meal (of tamales and ponche, of course), and spreading holiday cheer all around. Obviously, this year’s posadas will look very different but it’s more important than ever that we continue with traditions.

Posadas are steeped in the history of Mary and Joseph’s quest for safe refuge where the Virgin Mary could safely give birth to Jesus in Bethlehem. Given our current government’s cruel and anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric, the story of Mary & Joseph rings true with many people hoping to find a safer, better home in the United States. This is especially true for LGBTQ migrants who face unique challenges in both their journeys to the U.S. and their asylum experience.

Enter the LGBTQ Center Orange County. The center has proudly stood up to help the community in powerful and life-changing ways and their annual Queer Posada is one of the most important.

The LGBTQ community faces unique challenges in their quest for asylum and settlement in the U.S.

Credit: Lino de Jesús Herrera / Getty Images

LGBTQ detainees across the country have shared harrowing experiences of being mocked or tortured for their gender identity or sexual orientation. Many others have been sexually assaulted while in ICE custody or while waiting for their asylum claims at the U.S.-Mexico border. And transgendered and HIV-positive detainees have both been denied medically necessary healthcare that has posed a risk to their lives.

Migrant advocacy groups and several lawmakers have demanded that ICE release all LGBTQ detainees and anyone with HIV in the agency’s custody, because the government has repeatedly failed to provide adequate medical and mental health care to them.

And Southern California is home to the nation’s largest undocumented community, which means organizations like the LGBTQ Center Orange County have their work cut out for them. However, the center has proudly stood up to help in powerful and life-changing ways.

Meet JB, who was detained at Adelanto Detention Center and relied on the help of the LGBTQ Center Orange County.

JB, who identifies as a transgender man, was a detainee at Adelanto Detention Center. While in custody he was denied access to his hormone therapies which had negative effects on both his physical and mental health.

JB credits the LGBTQ Center Orange County with saving his life. The Center was a consistent advocate for JB and helped provide much-needed cash and weekly visits.

You can hear more stories from LGBTQ migrants who have been helped by the LGBTQ Center Orange County’s countless programs by following our Snapchat account, which will feature more important voices.

The LGBTQ Center Orange County offers so many important programs that help migrants out in extraordinary ways.

So often, LGBTQ migrants make the journey to the U.S. alone and, therefore, don’t have the family support (neither financial or emotional) that’s so important. But that’s where the LGBTQ Center Orange County comes in to help fill that void.

Volunteers and employees of The Center do so much for the community: from attending numerous events throughout the year to educate and provide much-needed resources or sending $20 to a detainee so they can have a filling meal, to helping advocate for the end of the partnership between Santa Ana Police and the Orange County Sheriff with ICE, to providing weekly citizenship classes to those who need them.

The LGBTQ Center Orange County has also been a leader in assisting eligible residents with their DACA applications, which is a cause close to the hearts of Luis Gomez and Jonatan Gutierrez – both DACA recipients who work with the LGBTQ Center Orange County.

And now it’s our turn to give back at the LGBTQ Center Orange County’s posada.

Obviously, this year’s posada tradition looks very different but the LGBTQ Center Orange County is working to keep the tradition alive by taking it online and making it free for all to attend. However, it is a critical fundraising event that enables the center to do all that it does for the LGBTQ migrant community across Southern California. 

And the work the center does is so important because it shouldn’t just be on detainees to speak out. All of us as part of the LGBTQ and migrant communities should support those in detention and speak out about the injustices they’re suffering in detention.

Donations from the Queer Posada will go toward the center’s LGBTQ Immigrant Fund. The unrestricted funds meet multiple needs from bonds, commissary funds, airline tickets to immigration filing fees. The center has also distributed checks to LGBTQ community members who have been severely impacted by COVID-19. You can get more information and RSVP for this free, virtual event here.

Plus it’s going to be a fun and free event that you won’t want to miss.

Not only will you be able to virtually hang out with members of the community and leaders from the LGBTQ Center OC but there will also be a spirited round of lotería, a raffle, and a live performance by the LGBTQ Mariachi Arcoíris de Los Angeles.

During the Queer Posada, their will also be an exclusive screening of the nearly 15-minute Before and After Detention documentary, followed by a Q&A with the director Armando Ibañez. The film follows three trans women who were released from detention centers. Angela, Fernanda and Gladys live in Los Angeles, while their asylum status is pending. In the documentary, they talk about their lives in their home countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico and being detained in the U.S.

The LGBTQ Center Orange County’s Queer Posada is taking place this Saturday, December 12 at 6 p.m. on Zoom, and is an important event for both the LGBTQ and migrant communities, one that you do not want to miss!

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