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. 

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ICE Illegally Arrested A Man On Church Grounds After Allegedly Lying To Him To Coax Him Out

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ICE Illegally Arrested A Man On Church Grounds After Allegedly Lying To Him To Coax Him Out

Smith Gado / Getty Images

Across the country, dozens of undocumented immigrants have sought refuge at churches, where they are typically safe from immigration enforcement.

However, as ICE escalates its attacks on the immigrant community, churches and other sensitive places of refuge may no longer be the ‘safe spaces’ they once were.

ICE has allegedly arrested a man who was inside of a church and they lied to get him out.

Last week, six ICE agents entered an undocumented migrant’s home (located on church property) and now that man is in a Georgia detention center. Binsar Siahaan, 52 (from Indonesia), was told that there was a problem with the GPS monitor he had to wear and that they needed to take him to an ICE office in Silver Springs, MD.

“As soon as he stepped outside, they handcuffed him,” taking him first to Baltimore and then to Georgia. He was not given anything to eat for two days, Rev. Scroggins said through tears. She said, “He is being abused. He is not well,” adding, “The way he is being treated is absolutely appalling.”

Siahaan currently is being held in the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga. and may be deported to his native Indonesia. He has been in the United States since 1989, coming here on a visa to work as a driver for the Indonesian Embassy. He overstayed the terms of the visa and then was denied asylum, because he did not apply on time.

But in Siahaan’s case, at the time they moved into the house on church grounds in January, they had no reason to fear ICE would come after them. They moved in to help take care of the church, which they have been attending for about six years.

Siahaan’s attorney and clergy at Glenmont United Methodist are rallying to stop Siahaan’s deportation, accusing ICE of breaching its own protocol by arresting him on church property under false pretenses and while his appeals are still pending.

The church where it happened is urging ICE to release the man – who is still in custody.

Leaders of the United Methodist Church – where the arrest occurred – have called for ICE to release Siahaan. They also called on ICE to state publically that it will uphold its policy of not entering sensitive locations, which includes “churches, synagogues, mosques or other institutions of worship, such as buildings rented for the purpose of religious services,” according to an ICE 2011 memorandum

“We are gravely concerned,” said Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, general secretary of the general board of the Church and Society of the United Methodist Church. “Church grounds are sacred.” She said the government was “in complicity to sin” if it won’t protect immigrants.

Rev. Kara Scroggins, pastor of the Glenmont church where Binsar has been a member for six years, called Siahaan “one of the most devoted, loyal and generous persons I know.” He helps out at the church constantly and usually is the first to arrive and the last to leave, she said.

This is hardly the first time ICE has conducted similar operations.

Credit: Smith Gado / Getty Images

An immigrant who sought refuge from deportation in a North Carolina church, staying there for 11 months, was arrested in 2018 after arriving at an appointment with immigration officials.

The arrest led to protests and the arrest of some supporters of Samuel Oliver-Bruno, the 47-year-old Mexican national who, according to an ICE news release, was detained at a Raleigh-area immigration office.

An advocacy group, Alerta Migratoria NC, said in a statement Oliver-Bruno went to have fingerprints taken so he could apply to stay in North Carolina with his wife and son. This is when ICE stopped in to make the arrest.

He had been living in CityWell United Methodist Church in Durham since late 2017, to avoid the reach of immigration officers, who generally avoid making arrests at churches and other sensitive locations.

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Court Says That ICE Needs To Follow The Constitution When Making Arrests And Here’s Why That’s Such A Big Deal

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Court Says That ICE Needs To Follow The Constitution When Making Arrests And Here’s Why That’s Such A Big Deal

Gerald Herbert / Getty Images

In what many are calling a landmark decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals just handed a major victory to migrant’s rights advocates. Although the major ruling seems simple on paper, it has major legal implications and could truly change the way that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrest undocumented immigrants.

However, the decision is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court – where it would face an uncertain legal future given the possible future makeup of the nation’s highest court.

The 9th Circuit Court just issued a landmark legal decision that could greatly affect ICE arrests.

Credit: Eric Risberg / Getty Images

Long-standing rules for arresting migrants may soon need to change, thanks to a recent ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court says that ICE needs to align its arresting and detention procedures with those of all other law enforcement agencies in the country, which are guided by rules within the U.S. constitution. When police arrest people for suspected crimes, the constitution requires them to show probable cause to a judge within 48 hours. But ICE does not do that. When ICE arrests people, it typically holds them for weeks before any judge evaluates whether ICE had a valid legal basis to make the arrest.

But ICE’s policies may no longer be legal.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the usual constitutional rules that apply to normal police all over the country also apply to ICE. “The Fourth Amendment requires a prompt probable cause determination by a neutral and detached magistrate,” the court said. This really shouldn’t be a big deal. Prompt independent review by a judge of whether the government has a legal basis to take away a person’s freedom is an essential safeguard against tyranny.

ICE’s arrest and detention policies have long come under scrutiny for seemingly skirting constitutional rules.

Credit: Joseph Sohm / Getty Images

For almost 200 years, immigration enforcement has existed in a sort of grey area, where the usual rules never applied. For example, when ICE arrests people, individual officers have much more legal discretion than other law enforcement authorities. Detainees may be held for weeks or months before going to a judge who will ask the person how they plead to ICE’s allegations against them.

Only then, long after the initial arrest, might ICE actually be required to show a judge any evidence to back up its case. The person would have spent all of that time detained, likely at a private detention center in a remote area.

For any other person in the U.S., this procedure goes against every legal protection in the constitution. But ICE has gotten away with treating immigrants this way for generations.

The ruling comes as other courts are making it easier for ICE to abuse migrant’s constitutional rights.

The ruling by the 9th Circuit comes less than a week after the 1st Circuit overturned a ban prohibiting ICE from arresting undocumented immigrants at courthouses in Massachusetts.

In 2018, ICE created a policy of attempting to arrest undocumented immigrants when they appeared at state courthouses for judicial proceedings. However, a district court granted an injunction against the policy after migrant advocates filed a lawsuit against ICE. They claimed that ICE was in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and lacked authority to make civil arrests at courts.

Meanwhile, ICE has resumed large-scale enforcement operations, announcing roughly 2,000 arrests over several weeks amid the Coronavirus pandemic. The 9th Circuit’s decision raises an obvious question: How many of those people were detained for more than 48 hours without a review by a judge?

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