Things That Matter

One Woman’s Investigation Revealed That Hundreds Of Migrant Teens Are Being Held In Prison-Like Conditions

One of the most criticized government agencies during the Trump presidency has been the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, which is in charge of putting immigration laws into practice. With the current administration’s hard stance on undocumented migrants, ICE has terrorized (believe us, we don’t use this word lightly) hundreds of undocumented migrants and their families with protocols that are veiled in secrecy and that seem to be punitive. From families being separated to migrant women being transferred to undisclosed facilities, ICE’s policies seem to want to set an example and trigger discouragement in migrants and those who want to escape perilous and life-threatening conditions in their home countries. 

Angelina Godoy, a human rights researcher, was about to find a VERY uncomfortable truth: why young undocumented migrants are being sent to facilities run like jails.

CNN revealed that Godoy, , director of the Center for Human Rights at the University of Washington,  dug deep into the ICE system to find out the location of young migrants who had been detained. She had heard that the authorities had been conducting raids where they swept up kids and took them to juvenile detention facilities. According to government documents accessed by CNN, the facilities were the government is authorized to detain a minor for more than 72 hours are: the Cowlitz County Youth Services Center in Washington state, Abraxas Academy in Pennsylvania (managed by GEO Group, a private company), and the Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility’s juvenile division (NORCOR).  One of these facilities was close to Godoy’s home in Seattle, so she filed a public record request to understand why young people were being sent to this jail-like places and not to detention centers for migrant children. The facility was being cooperative, but then something happened. 

But ICE blocked her access to information.

Credit: Instagram. @amrsweetpea77

Yes, como lo leen, when Godoy was about to find the truth the facility withheld the info, directed by ICE. The county determined that Godoy and her team had the right to access that information, but the powers that be determined the opposite. Yes, like in a Hollywood movie where the protagonists gets dangerously close to la puritita verdad. The federal government went as far as going to court to keep the information from Godoy. 

This is why this is a thorny issue for the authorities: young migrants can basically be sent to jail.

Credit: Anderson Cooper Full Circle / CNN

Godoy found out that ICE has been taking minors who they deem as dangerous away from their families. The practice has been going on for about a decade. In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Godoy said: “I may not object to the fact they are being held. But I object to the fact that nobody can even know who they are (and) why”. There is a loophole in the system whereby youth who are detained when already living in United States territory can be put in facilities with other US youth. This means they can basically be put in juvenile detention centers that ICE has a contract with. 

There is basically zero information about these facilities, and families are left in the shadows regarding their loved ones’ fate.

Credit: Anderson Cooper Full Circle / CNN

Godoy revealed that there is a total lack of transparency surrounding these centers. They don’t show on the map of facilities provided by ICE, the agency does not provide information or reports on the condition of the facilities and families cannot find their loved ones through a detainee search because the database only accounts for adults. Once a young person is sent to these centers, it is como si la Tierra se los hubiera tragado. The detainees have limited access to lawyers who could help them understand immigration law and make a case for themselves. ICE says that the youth detained under these circumstances have “a serious criminal history” and it would be irresponsible to  but did not disclose what the parameters to determine the status are. 

Imagine being a mother and not knowing where your child is… quite traumatic right?

Credit: Anderson Cooper Full Circle / CNN

Stories are surfacing about mothers whose kids were taken by ICE to an undisclosed location. CNN reports, for example, on the case of an Honduran woman who escaped violence in her home country and established in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her son was taken to a private detention center in Pennsylvania. He was 16-years-old but looked younger, and had no criminal record. The mother is a cancer patient and the stress of ignoring her child’s whereabouts has worsened her health. The legal basis on which ICE is enforcing these detentions remains a mystery. 

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9-Year-Old Migrant Girl Drowns While Trying to Cross the Rio Grande in the U.S.

Things That Matter

9-Year-Old Migrant Girl Drowns While Trying to Cross the Rio Grande in the U.S.

Photo via Getty Images

On March 20th, U.S. Border Patrol agents found a 9-year-old migrant girl unresponsive along with her mother and sibling on an island in the Rio Grande.

U.S. Border Patrol agents attempted to resuscitate the family. The agents were able to revive the mother and her younger, 3-year-old child. The Border Patrol agents transferred the 9-year-old migrant girl to emergency medics in emergency medics in Eagle Pass, Texas, but she remained unresponsive.

In the end, the 9-year-old migrant girl died–the cause of death being drowning.

The mother of the two children was Guatemalan while the two children were born in Mexico.

The death of the 9-year-old migrant girl is notable because this is the first migrant child death recorded in this current migration surge. And experts worry that it won’t be the last.

And while this is the first child death, it is not the only migrant who has died trying to make it across the border. On Wednesday, a Cuban man drowned while trying to swim across the border between Tijuana and San Diego. He was the second migrant to drown in just a two-week period.

Why is this happening?

According to some reports, the reason so many migrants are heading towards the U.S. right now is “because President Trump is gone”. They believe they have a better chance of claiming asylum in the U.S.

Another factor to take into consideration is that a large number of these migrants are unaccompanied minors. According to migrant services volunteer Ruben Garcia, Title 42 is actually having the opposite effect of its intent. President Trump enacted Title 42 to prevent immigration during COVID-19 for “safety reasons”.

“Families that have been expelled multiple times that are traveling with children,” Garcia told PBS News Hour. “Some of them are making the decision to send their children in by themselves, because they have families someplace in the U.S., and they know their children will be released to them.”

Is there a “border crisis”?

That depends on who you ask. According to some experts, the numbers of migrants heading to the U.S./Mexico border aren’t out-of-the-ordinary considering the time of year and the fact that COVID-19 made traveling last year virtually impossible.

According to Tom Wong of the University of California at San Diego’s U.S. Immigration Policy Center, there is no “border crisis”. “This year looks like the usual seasonal increase, plus migrants who would have come last year but could not,” Wong says.

As the Washington Post explained: “What we’re seeing right now is a predictable seasonal shift. When the numbers drop again in June and July, policymakers may be tempted to claim that their deterrence policies succeeded.”

What is the Biden Administration planning on doing about it?

As of now, it is pretty evident that the Biden Administration has not been handling this migrant surge well, despite ample warning from experts. As of now, President Biden has put Vice President Harris in charge of handling the issues at the border.

As of now, the game plan is still very vague. But in the past, the Biden Administration has stated that they plan to fix the migrant surge at the source. That means providing more aid to Central America in order to prevent further corruption of elected officials.

They also want to put in place a plan that processes children and minors as refugees in their own countries before they travel to the U.S. The government had not tested these plans and they may take years to implement. Here’s to hoping that these changes will prevent a case like the death of the 9-year-old migrant girl.

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This Migrant Mother Spent Three Years In Church Sanctuary But Now She’s Free

Things That Matter

This Migrant Mother Spent Three Years In Church Sanctuary But Now She’s Free

Lawyers are working hard to get a deportation order removed against a woman who just left a church sanctuary after three years in the refuge. Although she was previously denied asylum in the U.S., advocates are hoping that under new direction from the Biden administration, her case will be reviewed and she’ll be able to stay with her family in Ohio – where she’s lived for more than twenty years.

A mother of three is back with her family after living three years inside a church.

A mother of three who sought refugee inside an Ohio church from immigration authorities has finally been able to leave three years later. Edith Espinal, who herself is an immigrant rights advocate, had been living at the Columbus Mennonite Church since October 2017 to avoid being deported to Mexico. She’s now out of the church and back with her family following a meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, who have agreed that she’s not an immediate priority for deportation.

“Finally, I can go home,” Espinal told reporters after meeting with the officials. With tears of relief, she celebrated the small victory in the presence of dozens of supporters who accompanied her to the ICE building.

“But it is not the end of her case. We’re still going to have to fight,” her attorney Lizbeth Mateo said.

ICE has agreed to hold off on her deportation proceedings pending her asylum request.

Espinal was released under an order of supervision, meaning that while she’s not considered an immediate priority for deportation, she must periodically check in with ICE officials to inform them about her whereabouts.

She has lived in Columbus for more than two decades and had previously applied for asylum, citing rising violence in her home state of Michoacán. But she eventually was ordered to leave the country, which is when she sought refuge inside the Columbus, Ohio church.

“We’re going to continue pressing the Biden administration to do the right thing, and try to get rid of that order of deportation against Edith, so she can walk freely like everyone else does without fear,” Mateo said during the press conference.

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