Things That Matter

ICE Detention Centers Are Allegedly Using Dangerous Disinfectants That Cause Burns And Bleeding

As soon as the Coronavirus pandemic began to ravage the globe, ICE detainees and migrant rights groups have all worried about a potentially devastating outbreak inside ICE detention centers.

And in fact, dozens of migrants have become infected with the virus while in ICE custody – and so far two men have died. Despite this, ICE still refuses to mass release detainees to ensure their safety and well-being. Instead, ICE has doubled down on migrant detention amid a global pandemic and they are using potentially deadly chemicals to ensure a sanitized environment.

Immigrant detainees say ICE is using Coronavirus disinfectant sprays that cause bleeding, burns and pain.

Credit: David McNew / Getty

Two immigrant advocacy organizations have filed a complaint against ICE detention centers ran by the GEO Group, alleging that the center is using a Covid-19 disinfectant on the facility over 50 times per day.

The spray the center is allegedly using is called HDQ Neutral. On the bottle, according to detainees, it says “that it can cause ‘irreversible eye damage and skin burns. Avoid breathing in. Do not get in eyes or on skin. Wear goggles and face shields. Wash thoroughly after using.”

According to the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice and Freedom for Immigrants, the disinfectant is being used inside un-ventilated areas – causing direct danger to detainees. In fact, the company that manufactures HDQ Neutral – Spartan Chemical – warns that it is harmful and can cause skin burns and serious injuries when inhaled.

Several groups of migrants have spoken out about the harm and danger they’re facing.

Detainees who have been interviewed by the migrant rights organizations have said that many migrants have become severely ill, with at least nine requiring medical attention since May 11. One detainee told Insider, “When I blow my nose, blood comes out. They are treating us like animals. One person fainted and was taken out, I don’t know what happened to them. There is no fresh air.”

According to another detained migrant, the guards have started spraying the chemical everywhere, all over surfaces that are used by detainees, all the time.

Another inmate said he started profusely bleeding after coming into contact with the bathroom, which an official sprayed with disinfectant. They said the official told them it was HDQ Neutral. 

GEO Group Inc. — the company that runs the detention center — has also come under fire for not doing enough to protect detainees from Covid-19 infection.

Credit: Chris Carlson / Getty

The GEO Group, which runs many of ICE’s detention centers, has frequently come under fire for its treatment of detainees. In fact, the Adelanto Detention Center – where several have complained about the chemicals use – has previously had complained filed against it and its staff.

Throughout the course of the coronavirus pandemic, GEO facilities have been criticized for not taking the spread of the novel coronavirus seriously — leading to a massive number of COVID-19 cases among those imprisoned 

And in New York City, where GEO Group runs the city’s only private prison, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez tweeted her outrage at the conditions of the facility where at least 38 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19. 

“Conditions at these detention centers are so poor that this man contracted #COVID19 TWICE,” Velázquez tweeted. “These institutions are not a safe place for inmates or those detained. We need compassionate release of vulnerable populations who present no public safety risk.”

News of the incidents have started circulating on social media and people are demanding action.

Thousands have taken to social media to share their outrage and demand action. Some have even likened the poor ventilation and exposure to toxic chemicals to the gas chambers used to kills Jews, homosexuals, and other targeted groups during the Holocaust.

The immigration detention centers have also been frequently called concentration camps, especially after a wave of unaccompanied minors from Central America arrived in the US in the summer of 2018. Many of them were swiftly locked in detention facilities, shocking the world with images of small children locked in cages. 

A Change.org petition has gathered more than 250,000 signatures demanding ICE stop using the dangerous chemicals.

People are also demanding action. A Change.org petition has more than 259,000 signatures demanding that the facilities immediately stop using the dangerous chemicals.

For their part, ICE has responded saying it’s “committed to maintaining the highest facility standards of cleanliness and sanitation, safe work practices, and control of hazardous substances and equipment to ensure the environmental health and safety of detainees, staff, volunteers and contractors from injury and illness.”

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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

WENDELL ESCOTO/AFP via Getty Images

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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Tourists To Mexico Are Getting COVID And Are Shocked They Can’t Return To U.S.

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Tourists To Mexico Are Getting COVID And Are Shocked They Can’t Return To U.S.

Since late-January, the United States has required a negative COVID test from anyone traveling to the U.S., including tourists returning from vacation in Mexico. So, what happens when you test positive while in a foreign country?

Well, many U.S. tourists are finding out the dark side of traveling during a global pandemic as those who test positive for the virus aren’t being allowed back into the country. And they are outraged.

U.S. tourists shocked they can’t return to the U.S. with a positive COVID test.

Even though the government has made it very clear that anyone traveling to the U.S. will require a negative COVID-19 test (at least anyone over the age of 2), many U.S. tourists abroad are shocked they’re not able to return to their home country once they’ve caught the virus.

Korey Mudd, who was on vacation in Cancun when he tested positive, told USA Today, he couldn’t believe this was happening. “It would have been better just to stay home, for sure, unfortunately,” he said.

The hotel initially told him he had to stay until he tested negative, which freaked Mudd out since people who get the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can test positive long after they’ve recovered from the virus. The resort they stayed at, which covers the cost of the extended stay for travelers stranded by COVID-19, eventually settled on 10 days after his first test if he had no symptoms.

The U.S. implemented the testing requirement shortly after President Biden took office.

Since late January, anyone traveling to the United States is required to provide a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination or recovery from the virus. However, this new requirement hasn’t stemmed the flow of tourists from the U.S. traveling to Mexico amid the pandemic, hoping to escape the tighter lockdowns that exist in some parts of the U.S.

But if you’re abroad and test positive, you can’t fly home until you are cleared by a doctor or provide proof of a negative test. Hotel and airline interpretations of the CDC rules vary, but travelers who’ve been stuck say they were told between 10 and 14 days in isolation.

When the requirement was announced on Jan. 12, travelers rushed to cancel plans or shift their vacation plans to U.S. vacation spots that don’t require COVID-19 tests. But the bookings rebounded as some hotels announced free testing and a free quarantine stay if they tested positive and vaccination rates have increased.

Do you need a test to fly?

Travelers don’t need a COVID-19 test to fly to Mexico, but they can’t board a flight back to the United States from the country or any international destination without showing a negative test taken no more than three days before departure or proof of recovery from COVID-19.

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