Things That Matter

In Another Dangerous Attack On Migrants, ICE Is Denying Women Lifesaving Medical Care At This Texas Facility

It is undeniable that the flow of migrants towards a country presents all sorts of legal and financial challenges for a host country. Yes, we acknowledge that. But it is also true that the governments of developed nations to which Global South citizens try to migrate to escape poverty and armed conflict can choose to treat migrants (many of which are legitimate refugees fleeing real attempts to their lives and futures) in an ethical, humane way.

The recent influx of migrants to the United States has placed the spotlight on the conditions in which detainees at ICE Detention Centers are kept.

Credit: web18-detentioncenter2-1160×768 (1). Digital image. ACLU

We all, of course, remember the testimony of politicians such as Alexandra Ocasio-Cortrez, who witnessed first hand the dire situation. Children sleeping on the floor, people drinking water out of basins on top of toilets… a total recipe for a humanitarian disaster.  

And healthy conditions are an exception rather than the norm.

Credit: 180618-immigration-cages-ice-01 (1). Digital image. The New York Post

There have been reported outbreaks of lice, bed bugs and upper respiratory tract infections at detention centers, and the authorities have been unable or unwilling to provide basic healthcare for detainees. There have also been a fair number of deaths by suicide. The victims are usually detainees who suffer from mental illnesses such as depression, which are unattended during detention. Since December, six minors have died while on ICE custody. Let that sink in. 

And now there are alarming reports coming out of an ICE facility in Texas that houses women.

Credit: karnes-frc. Digital image. ICE.gov

As the Huffington Post reports, interviews conducted by the advocacy group Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) reveal appalling episodes in the Karnes County Residential Center, where women are forced to stay for lengthy periods of time instead of being released on parole or bond. Some of these women face serious physical and psychological ailments. 

The interviews reveal cases of women with cancer that have not received any sort of treatment while at the facility.

Credit: _57298637.0. Digital image. VOX. 

The interviews conducted by RAICES revealed an appalling level of negligence. As HuffPost reports: “One Congolese woman who was diagnosed with cancer in her uterus said she has not been taken to a specialist for treatment since being sent to Karnes at the end of July. The pain in her back and abdomen has become so bad that she sleeps only two hours a night, according to her declaration”. Another woman from the African country (which has a bad reputation when it comes to women’s rights and that has been immersed in an on and off civil war for years) said that doctors told her she most likely had cancer (she had, they told her, a 90% chance), but she hasn’t had a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. 

Women at the facility are so desperate that advocates fear a wave of suicides.

Credit: migrant-detention-cetner (1). Digital image. WCCO

Andrea Meza, the director of family detention services at RAICES, told HuffPost: “We’ve heard so many women talk to us about wanting to kill themselves. It’s only a matter of time before someone dies at Karnes.”  They also heard stories of unattended miscarriages and psychotic episodes. 

The Karnes County Residential Center was originally built to house Central American migrants and their children, but things have changed.

Credit: port-isabel-detention-center. Digital image. Time. 

The facility was supposed to be a place where families could be kept together. But things have changed and now it is a real place of human anguish. The report by RAICES concludes that the site is being run with punitive purposes, to discourage people from crossing the border. Really, do authorities just sit around in meeting rooms plotting how to be even more inhumane? 

Now, the Trump administration announced that they will keep detaining families at this facility and Kamala Harris is against it.

Credit: download. Digital image. Politico

And Democrat lawmakers are not happy. As reported by Foreign Affairs New Zealand: “U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Tuesday sent a letter to Daniel Bible, San Antonio Field Office Director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), demanding that ICE reconsider detaining families and children at the Karnes County Residential Center in light of multiple reports of insufficient medical care and attempted suicides. Given the inhumane conditions at Karnes, Harris also pressed Bible to use his discretion to consider each eligible woman currently detained at the facility for release from ICE custody”. 

There has been an increase in the number of undocumented migrants from Africa, and the Karnes County Residential Center houses a number of them.

Credit: abuse-texas-detenttion-center-1521822550. Digital image. The Intercept

The influx of Africans to the United States has increased dramatically in the past few years due to tougher immigration laws and enforcement in Western European countries and to the increased levels of violence in the region. Time reported earlier this year: “More than 500 migrants from countries such as Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Angola have arrived at the Del Rio border station in Texas since May 30, including a group of 116 people”. Reports suggest that instead of going through Mexico directly, African migrants first go to Brazil and then continue their perilous path to the United States. 

The Supreme Court Just Decided To Allow Religious Employers To Deny Workers Birth Control

Entertainment

The Supreme Court Just Decided To Allow Religious Employers To Deny Workers Birth Control

Tim Matsui / Getty

In another battle about birth control, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the Trump administration has the right to allow employers to refuse coverage for workers seeking to obtain birth control through work insurance plans. Giving employers with religious or moral objections a pass, the Supreme Court made the ruling which is deeply concerning considering how much it infringes on women’s rights.

The decision which had a 7:2 vote marks the end of years of lawsuits over the Affordable Care Act’s “birth control mandate.”

Over a decade ago, the Obama administration made employers offer employees birth control coverage. Since the decision, religious liberty proponents and reproductive rights advocates squared off over which employers should be excluded from that requirement. According to Vice, “Over the years, the government has given churches and other houses of worship, as well as some other employers, ways to skirt that requirement.”

In 2017, the Trump administration issued a set of new rules that increased the number of organizations to refuse birth control coverage.

The change in rules gives private employers with sincerely held religious and moral objections to be exempt.

After Pennsylvania and New Jersey pursued lawsuits over the change and won in a lower court, the Trump administration and the Little Sisters of the Poor appealed to the Supreme Court for an overturned ruling. Justice Clarence Thomas ruled that the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury had the right to create such exemptions ruling “The only question we face today is what the plain language of the statute authorizes. And the plain language of the statute clearly allows the Departments to create the preventive care standards as well as the religious and moral exemptions.”

Conservative Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh agreed with Thomas’ opinion. Chief Justice John Roberts, who has sided with the liberals in various recent cases, also ruled in their favor.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Sonia Sotomayor ruled against the measure.

In her dissent, Ginsburg underlined that the government has an estimated number of 70,500 to 126,400 women who could lose their “no-cost contraceptive services” should additional employers be exempt. “This court leaves women workers to fend for themselves, to seek contraceptive coverage from sources other than their employer’s insurer, and, absent another available source of funding, to pay for contraceptive services out of their own pockets,” Ginsburg wrote.

In May, Ginsburg made history when she called into the arguments over the case from the hospital due to the coronavirus pandemic and her recovery from “non-surgical treatment.”

“You are shifting the employer’s religious beliefs — the cost of them — onto the employees,” Ginsburg told then-Solicitor General Noel Francisco. She also added that women who lose birth control coverage will most likely be forced to find coverage through government programs like Medicaid or pay for their health care out of pocket. “The women end up getting nothing.”

Protests Against ICE Detention Centers Reached New Heights As Airplanes Typed Messages In The Sky Across The U.S.

Things That Matter

Protests Against ICE Detention Centers Reached New Heights As Airplanes Typed Messages In The Sky Across The U.S.

Dee Gonzalez / In Plain Sight

A global pandemic is still gripping the United States – along with much of the world. But still many Americans headed outside over the long holiday weekend and, before the evening fireworks, were greeted by powerful anti-ICE messages written in the skies.

The skywriting campaign comes as much of the world’s attention is focused on Covid-19 and organizers hope to redirect some attention on the thousands of migrants who remain locked up in detention centers across the country.

Activists took to the skies at more than 80 sites across the country with a powerful message against U.S. immigration policy.

Over the July 4th weekend, two fleets of skytyping airplanes created artist-generated messages across the U.S. The fleet of aircraft targeted 80 different ICE detention facilities, immigration court houses, processing centers, and former internment camps. Written with water vapor, the messages are designed to be seen and read for miles.

Each message ended with #XMAP, which, when plugged into social media, directs users to an online interactive map that offers a view of the closest ICE facilities to the user.

Visitors to the event’s website are encouraged to donate to local funds like the Black Immigrant Bail Fund and join the #FreeThemAll campaign, which advocates for the release of detainees from crowded facilities, where social distancing is often impossible right now.

The ambitious project took a year to plan, and is one component of an artist-led protest against immigrant detention and America’s mass incarceration problem. With “In Plain Sight,” organizers are hoping to educate viewers—and to encourage the abolition of facilities such as these.

“I think the public is somewhat aware of what’s happening in detention centers—they’ve seen the images of kids in cages—but they don’t know the full scale,” said Cassils, in an interview with Quartz.

The team aimed to set a national record with its #XMAP campaign.

Credit: In Plain Sight

The artists reached out to the only skywriting company in the country (which owns the patent on skywriting) and learned that the largest campaign executed over U.S. soil involved about 80 sites and three fleets of planes. That established the project’s framework, and from there they went about the task of bringing on collaborators, many of whom have experiences with immigration and the detainment of oppressed minority groups.

The artists they tapped vary in age, gender identity, and nationality; some are formerly incarcerated, or are descended from the descendants of Holocaust survivors. Black, Japanese-American, First Nations and Indigenous perspectives are present, speaking to the historical intersections of xenophobia, migration, and incarceration.

The protests were seen throughout Southern California – from LA to San Diego.

Credit: In Plain Sight

In Southern California, the demonstration kicked off on the 4th of July at 9:30 a.m. above the Adelanto Detention Center, before traveling to downtown L.A., where 15-character messages will be left in the late morning airspace above immigration facilities, county and federal lockups and courthouses. The planes then traveled to the Arcadia and Pomona locations of internment camps where Japanese Americans where held prisoner during World War II.

Later in the afternoon, planes were seeing typing messages in the sky above the Terminal Island detention center, before traveling further south to Orange County and San Diego, where messages were left above courts and immigration offices.

The campaign also popped up in El Paso, TX, where a massacre last year left many Latinos dead.

Credit: In Plain Sight

Binational, El Paso-based artist Margarita Cabrera activated the El Paso-Juárez portion of the performance with her message “UPLIFT: NI UNX MAS” at the Bridge of the Americas.

“Uplift” refers to uplifting immigrant communities, as well as the border fence and other immigration detention facilities. “Ni unx más” was inspired by Mexican poet and activist Susana Chávez’s 1995 phrase “ni una muerta más,” or “not one more [woman] dead.” The phrase protests femicides in Mexico, particularly in Juárez. Cabrera used X to be gender-neutral. 

“This is a call to abolish this systematic violence and the incarceration and detention of our immigrants,” Cabrera told the El Paso Times. “We’re creating a sky activation, but we’re also grounding it with local events.”

Across the border in New Mexico, “ESTOY AQUI” and “SOBREVIVIRE” were respectively written over the Otero County Processing Center and Otero County Prison Facility. The messages draw from songs respectively by Shakira and Mexican pop star Monica Naranjo. Designed by artists Carlos Motta and Felipe Baeza, the full message, “I am here, I will survive,” is intended for both detainees and outside onlookers.

“We wanted to address those in the detention sites and acknowledge the fact that they are there, that we know they are there, and that they will be fine eventually even if their conditions are precarious and they are going through a difficult time right now,” Motta told the El Paso Times.

And in New York City, several major monuments became canvases for the activists’ message.

Credit: In Plain Sight

In New York City, the words “My pain is so big” were written over a detention center in downtown Brooklyn.

“To be human,” wappeared over Rikers Island and “Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia,” the name of the first immigrant to die from Covid-19 in detention was projected at the Statue of Liberty monument in Ellis Island.