Things That Matter

More Than 700 Women Have Disappeared From A Texas ICE Detention Center And Their Lawyers Don’t Know Where They Are

Across a network of more than 200 migrant prisons and municipal migrant jails, the US government is detaining roughly 18,000 people at any given moment. And that’s not including the more than 12,000 minors who are held in other facilities under the supervision of the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s.

And amid this network of for-profit private prisons and government-ran detention centers, migrants are constantly being shuffled around – often without little notice to their lawyers and even family.

This time, the agency is accused of moving more than 700 women without notifying their lawyers, family, or anyone else.

According to attorneys from the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), ICE has moved more than 700 women out of a Texas detention center. And ICE gave their lawyers zero way of locating them, which is especially damning considering many of the women face serious medical conditions.

Starting on Sept. 20, the women being held at the Karnes County Residential Center were sent to other centers around the country so that the facility could be used to detain families. More than two weeks later, their lawyers from RAICES have no idea where the majority of these women are being held, and they can’t find any updated information in ICE’s online detainee tracking system.

Many of these women have serious medical conditions and not being able to advocate for their health could have fatal consequences.

“I’m really fearful that their conditions could worsen,” Meza said. “I don’t want them to be in another ICE press release about death in detention.” 

The situation highlights a common problem for migrants in ICE custody: They can be transferred between facilities with little notice and yet their new locations are not promptly updated in the system. If their existing lawyers and family members can’t find them, they may have to go through their cases without legal representation, especially in remote areas where legal counsel is sparse. And those with serious health issues could die if advocates who don’t know where their clients were transferred are unable to fight for their right to medical treatment. 

According to ICE, advocates shouldn’t worry because “adequate medical care is being provided to all detainees.”

An ICE official told HuffPost that “Comprehensive medical care is provided to all individuals in ICE custody” adding that staffing includes registered nurses, licensed mental health providers, a physician and access to 24-hour emergency care. The official acknowledged that the women at Karnes had been transferred to other facilities, but did not explain why their locations were not showing up in the online system.

But given the deaths that have occurred in ICE facilities and the overall cruelty towards people in their custody, few people trust ICE’s ability to care for migrants.

At Karnes, some of the immigrants were allegedly being denied lifesaving care, such as cancer and HIV treatment, and that suicidal patients were not receiving psychiatric counseling. One woman with cancer in her uterus said she had not received medical treatment for more than two months. Another immigrant, who is HIV positive, said she was not getting her medication or being evaluated by a doctor, even as her symptoms worsened.

The lack of medical care in immigrant detention facilities is well-established. Eight immigrants have died in ICE detention centers this year, and six minors have died in Border Patrol centers, in many cases because they didn’t receive proper medical help for their illnesses. 

Technically there’s no legal requirement for ICE to inform detainees’ lawyers that they are being transferred. 

According to Andrea Meza, Director of Family Detention Services for RAICES, ICE is not at all required to inform anyone when a detainee is transferred to a new location.

There is one exception: ICE is mandated to provide notice of transfer for Salvadorans, per the Orantes Settlement Agreement — but only Salvadorans.) Otherwise, Meza says, “There’s not really anything that requires them to give us notice as to where our clients are.” 

But even if ICE did update the platform used to track migrants in their custody, lawyers said it’s rarely that reliable.

It can take up to a few weeks for someone who is transferred to a new facility to show up in the system, which means families are often left wondering whether their loved ones have been deported back to life-threatening situations in their home countries.

“I think FedEx does a better job of tracking its packages than ICE does of tracking the people it detains,” Lincoln-Goldfinch, an immigrant rights attorney told HuffPo.  

Of the women RAICES has been able to locate, some are being housed at a private prison in Mississippi that the Justice Department found so poorly-managed it issued a scathing 65-page report detailing its problems. The Federal Bureau of Prisons to ended its contract with the prison earlier this year, but now immigrant women are being sent there. 

Mexico Is Doing Trump’s Dirty Work: More Than 800 Migrants Are Detained, Most Of Whom Could Be Deported

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Mexico Is Doing Trump’s Dirty Work: More Than 800 Migrants Are Detained, Most Of Whom Could Be Deported

Alfredo Estrella / Getty

Mexico’s immigration policy is coming under increased scrutiny as another caravan of Central American migrants cross into the country. Mexico’s response has been condemned by many international migrant right’s organizations, as the country has come down hard on people attempting to seek asylum in the United States.

Mexico’s response included the use of tear gas and pepper spray to repel migrants who had attempted cross several bridges from Guatemala. The response left parents scrambling to find their terrified children, many of whom were lost in the crowds.

Mexico’s hardline approach is blamed on Trump’s pressure of Mexico to enact immigration policies that will prevent asylum seekers from ever reaching the US-Mexico border. Many are accusing Mexico’s President AMLO of being a coward as he bows to pressure from the United States.

Its been reported that more than 800 people from the migrant caravan have been detained by Mexican immigration authorities.

Credit: Alfredo Estrella / Getty

Immigration authorities have taken a tough stance against Central American migrants as they attempt to enter the country on their journey to the United States. So far, the country says that it has detained more than 800 migrants who have entered the country illegally from Guatemala.

The National Migration Institute (INM) said it had transferred 800 migrants, some of them unaccompanied minors, to immigration centers where they would be given food, medical attention and shelter. If their legal status cannot be resolved, they will be returned to their home countries.

Mexico is under intense pressure from President Donald Trump to contain migrants before they reach the border.

Credit: Salvador Herrera / Flickr

Trump has threatened to punish Mexico and Central American countries economically if they fail to rein in migrant flows. Tariffs and other economic penalties could be used according to Trump.

The current caravan is the largest surge of people to cross into Mexico since its president reached agreements with Trump and some central American governments to reduce pressure on the US border. It’s also the first group to test the new ‘Safe Third Country’ agreements that the US has signed with several Central American countries. So far, it’s not sure how those agreements will affect asylum claims by migrants.

Mexico says all detentions and deportations are being done according to law and with full respect for human rights, but many organizations disagree.

Credit: Alfredo Estrella / Getty

Migrant advocates dispute the government’s claims and say they’re worried about Mexico’s new hardline policies. However, the toughness of these new immigration policies aren’t always reflected in the language used by government officials, many of whom use sugarcoated language to describe the policies.

In his daily morning press conferences, the president describes the mass deportations of Central Americans as “assisted returns.” 

While last week, just one day after troops had arrested more than 800 migrants who crossed a river into Mexico, the country’s Foreign Minster interrupted a reporter who asked how many migrants had been detained, saying “They are not detained,” Ebrard insisted. “They are in migration stations.” That’s the euphemism the government uses to refer to migrant detention centers.

According to Ebrard and the National Migration Institute, migrants are not arrested or detained — they are “rescued.” Deportations are “assisted returns,” which most of the time — officials say — are voluntary.

Meanwhile, the mass detentions come amid news that nonprofit groups and advocate organizations are being denied access to detained migrants.

Credit: Gobierno de Mexico

Mexico’s immigration agency announced Tuesday that it has temporarily suspended visits by civic, activist and religious groups to migrant detention centers.

Such visits have long served as a safeguard to check on the treatment of migrants, some of whom have complained in the past of crowding, prolonged detention and unsatisfactory conditions. The National Immigration Institute did not give a reason for suspending visits, saying only that “rescheduling the visits will depend on the work load of each migrant center, with the goal of providing services to the migrants to continue without interruption.”

Even Mexico’s President, came out against the announcement made by his own government saying that it’s not the right move and that he would look into the reason for the policy change.

There Is Chaos At The Mexico-Guatemala Border As The Next Migrant Caravan Tries To Enter Mexico And AMLO Pushes Back

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There Is Chaos At The Mexico-Guatemala Border As The Next Migrant Caravan Tries To Enter Mexico And AMLO Pushes Back

Jose Torres / Getty

Last week news broke that another migrant caravan was forming in Honduras, in an attempt to safely cross Guatemala and Mexico on the way to the United States. Immediately, the reports were met with a mix of panic and indignity among Central American leaders who vowed to stop the caravan before reaching the US-Mexican border.

And it looks like that plan has been put into motion. Although Guatemala allowed many migrants through its territory, upon reaching the border with Mexico, many migrants were turned away, or worse.

A caravan of nearly 3,000 people has been met with force as they’ve tried to cross into Mexico from Guatemala.

Credit: Jose Torres / Getty

According to Guatemala, at least 4,000 people entered from Honduras since Wednesday, making for one of the biggest surges since three Central American governments signed agreements with the Trump administration giving them more of the responsibility for dealing with migrants. Even though these exact same countries are ill-equipped to handle the influx of migrants – let alone fight back against their country’s own poverty, violence, and corruption that force many migrants to flee in the first place.

Mexican government officials ordered them to block entry into the country. 

Mexico’s National Immigration Institute issued a statement saying it would detain any migrants without legal status, and deport them if they couldn’t legalize their status. 

Video footage showed scattered groups of migrants throwing rocks at a few members of the National Guard militarized police who were on the banks of the river attempting to thwart illegal crossings, while hundreds of others ran past into Mexico.

Hopes were raised on Friday after Mexican President AMLO announced that there were 4,000 jobs along the southern border available to migrants.

The day after AMLO’s statement regarding possible job opportunities, more than 1,000 migrants attempted to cross into Mexico. According to the country’s National Institute of Migration (INM), each migrant was interviewed and told about opportunities with two government development programs. which will be implemented along the southern border and in both El Salvador and Honduras.

Meanwhile, as migrants waited to be processed for entry into Mexico, a loudspeakers warned migrants against applying for asylum in the US. However, many migrants are doubtful when it comes to Mexico’s offer of work.

“I don’t believe that. It is a lie,” one migrant told Al Jazeera. “They are just trying to find a means trap us and to debilitate the caravan.”

The violence at the Mexico-Guatemala border has left children separated from their families as crowds were sent fleeing from pepper spray.

Credit: Jeff Abbott / Flickr

As Mexican security forces launched tear gas and pepper spray into a crowd of migrants attempting to enter the country – hundreds were forced to flee. The ensuing chaos left children lost without their parents and mothers and fathers desperately searching for their children.

A Reuters witness spoke to at least two mothers said their children went missing amid the chaos, as the migrants on Mexican soil scattered in an attempt to avoid being detained by Mexican officials.

“We didn’t come to stay here. We just want to cross to the other side,” said Ingrid, 18, a Honduran migrant. “I don’t want to go back to my country because there is nothing there, just hunger.”

Many have harsh words for Mexico’s President AMLO – calling him a puppet and a coward.

Although most agree that every country has the right to enforce its own immigration laws, many are upset with AMLO for the way his administration has cracked down on Central American migrants. Many see the crackdown as little more than bowing to pressure from Trump – turning him into a puppet of the US.

So what should AMLO do when dealing with unauthorized migrants and pressure from a US President?

First, violence and attacks on migrants simply crossing territory should never be on the table. Second, AMLO’s administration should let the caravan reach the US-border and let the asylum process play out as it was meant to do under international law. Just because Trump wants AMLO to join him in breaking international norms, doesn’t mean he should.

But many doubt that will ever happen. Neither of these presidents, Trump nor AMLO, will change course to support legal asylum claims.

So what’s next? Will Mexico relent and agree to pay for Trump’s border wall? Don’t dismiss the idea, not when the Mexican president has so far carried out Trump’s every whim.