Undocumented immigrants, in essence, are living in seclusion. Since the election of Donald Trump, and the increase in detainments by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), undocumented immigrants aren’t leaving their homes, aren’t going to schools, aren’t going to visit the doctor and are not seeking any kind of help, even if their life is in danger, because of their fear of being deported.
Worried about deportation, undocumented women are holding back from reporting domestic abuse and rape. In Houston, domestic violence reports are down 16 percent among Latinos. In Los Angeles, reports of sexual assault are down 25 percent. https://t.co/2n784Mqxor
“Undocumented immigrants and even lawful immigrants are afraid to report crime,” Houston police chief, Art Acevedo, told the newspaper. “They’re seeing the headlines from across the country, where immigration agents are showing up at courthouses, trying to deport people.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), homicide is one of the leading causes of death for women aged 44 years and younger.
“He told me nobody would help me, because I don’t have papers,” a 38-year-old Latina told the New York Times. “I was with him like that for a pretty long time. I felt like there was no help for me.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) surveyed police officers on the matter and found that 22 percent said immigrants were less likely in 2017 than in 2016 to call the police to file a report.
Also, 21 percent of officers said immigrant crime survivors were less likely to help in investigations when police arrived at the scene of a crime, while another 20 percent reported that they were less likely to help in post-crime scene investigations and 18 percent said immigrant crime survivors were less willing to work with prosecutors.
Last year, Army veteran Miguel Perez was deported to Mexico, now he has finally become a United States citizen. While Perez served in the military with deployments in Afghanistan, a prior nonviolent drug conviction is why officials say the veteran was deported without warning. Perez was granted clemency by Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker and with the support of Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran herself, he was finally granted citizenship.
Perez’s nightmare makes national news.
Perez arrived in the U.S. from Mexico legally when he was 8 years old. His parents and children are citizens, and Perez lived here with a Greencard for much of his life. In 2002 and 2004, Perez served in Afghanistan, when he returned, like many soldiers, he had PTSD.
Pritzker said Perez should have had an “expedited path to citizenship” by way of an executive order by President George W. Bush, “but due to oversight, he was not afforded that opportunity.”
Perez says the experience at war overseas caused him to have PTSD and become addicted to drugs. It was this untreated addiction that would cause him to receive a felony drug conviction. He was convicted of delivering over two pounds of cocaine to an undercover cop in 2008 where he pleaded guilty.
After serving his time for 7.5 years, in 2016 he was turned over to immigration officials where his Greencard was revoked. Last year, Perez was deported to Mexico. He says he was given no warning and no chance to speak to his family.
Illinois Gov. J. N. Pritzker pardons Perez.
After a national public outcry, officials believed Perez was wrongfully deported. Pritzker granted him clemency in hopes of paving the way for the naturalization process with a clean record. “Now we believe that Miguel is eligible for naturalization because criminal conviction doesn’t render him ineligible through ‘bad moral character.’ That’s the term they use,” his lawyer, Chris Bergin told journalists in Laredo, Texas. “That’s what we’re going to argue, and I think it’s a good argument.” Bergin was sympathetic to Perez’s situation, suggesting it was a failure of the system to provide adequate support for veterans. “He served and saw serious action in Afghanistan,” Bergin said. “If we do support the troops, then we gotta support them all.”
Senator Tammy Duckworth fights on behalf of Perez and immigrants.
Senator Duckworth heard Perez’s case and went through many efforts to spare him from deportation by writing several letters of support including one directly asking U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson to personally review his case.
“Miguel Perez was willing to protect our nation in uniform and his experiences after coming home—including the great lengths he went to reform his life—show us why we should never give up on our combat Veterans. While he shouldn’t have been deported in the first place, I’m glad he’s received this parole after Governor Pritzker granted him clemency to attend his citizenship hearing, and I wish Miguel the best of luck. It will be a proud day for our country when we can call Miguel a fellow American,” Senator Duckworth said in a statement.
On the one-year anniversary of Perez’s deportation, she re-introduced three bills to support veterans and service members from deportation. The Veterans Visa and Protection Act, HOPE Act and I-VETS Act, “would prohibit the deportation of Veterans who are not violent offenders, give legal permanent residents a path to citizenship through military service and strengthen VA healthcare services for Veterans.”
Perez becomes finally becomes a citizen.
It wasn’t a call that the 41-year-old anticipated given the circumstances, but it was a welcome one nonetheless: he would be sworn in as a United States citizen.
“I was like no way. Seriously? He was like, ‘Yeah, it’s official,’ ” Perez told CNN of when his lawyer got the news.
Perez completed the naturalization oath with Green Card Veterans present. Now that he is back in the U.S. the veteran can spend time with his family and receive treatment for his health; Perez was being treated for an undisclosed issue when he received the call.
“I get to take care of my health, first and foremost,” he said. “It’s been a long … a long journey, a long battle.”
On his first day back, Perez told CNN all he plans to do is go bowling with his son. Inspired by Perez’s situation Senator Duckworth and bill co-sponsors Senator Richard Blumenthal, Senator Mazie Hirono, and Senator Ron Wyden plan to keep fighting to prevent veterans from being deported.
“Men and women willing to wear our uniform shouldn’t be deported by the same nation they risked their lives to defend,” Duckworth said.
The deaths of migrants in US government custody have sparked outrage and cast a spotlight on the treatment of immigrants detained by authorities. But, despite the outrage and grief, little seems to be being done to improve the conditions immigrants are being held in.
In fact, recent reports indicate that the Trump administration is actually moving to make life for migrants even more miserable (and dangerous) while in government custody. From not providing for basic sanitary needs to withholding critical vaccinations and even deporting migrants in need of life-saving medical care, this administration is putting countless lives at risk.
Given the administration’s contempt of migrants coming to the US to seek asylum or simply better opportunities, the deaths of migrants are not at all surprising. Although they’re largely an avoidable tragedy — until Trump took office deaths of migrants in US custody were exceedingly rare — the situation in detention centers is likely to get worse before it improves.
At least eight people have died in ICE custody at adult detention centers this year, according to information released by ICE and compiled by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Here are those who we’ve lost since January 2019:
Abel Reyes-Clemente, 54, Mexico
While in ICE custody at an Arizona corrections center, Reyes-Clemente displayed signs of the flu and was “placed into medical observation” on April 1, ICE said. Two days later, facility personnel found him around 6 a.m., unresponsive and not breathing.
This case is a particular reminder of the cruelty of the administration’s policies. Reyes-Clemente likely died of complications related to the flu yet it was just recently announced that the government will not provide flu vaccines to migrants for the upcoming flu season.
Simratpal Singh, 21, India
The Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner listed suicide as the manner of death and hanging as the primary cause of death on its website. Autopsy results have not yet been released.
Unidentified Man, 40, Mexico
The man died at Las Palmas Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, after being apprehended by CBP agents for illegal re-entry early Sunday morning, according to a CBP news release. Hours after being apprehended, the unnamed man was evaluated by medical personnel at the Border Patrol’s processing facility near Paso Del Norte Port of Entry.
CBP said the man was transported to the medical center after being diagnosed with flu-like symptoms, liver failure and renal failure. He died later that day.
Johana Medina Leon, 25, El Salvador
The cause of death for Medina Leon, the asylum seeker who died on June 1, remains unclear. Like Roxana Hernandez, a transgender woman who died in ICE custody last summer, Medina Leon was diagnosed with HIV while she was detained.
Medina Leon, known to her friends as “Joa,” became ill while detained at the Otero County Processing Center, a private detention center in New Mexico where the ACLU and the Santa Fe Dreamer Project recently alleged poor treatment of, and “unconscionable conditions,” for LGBTQ immigrants.
Unidentified Woman, 40, Honduras
The woman, who was not identified, died shortly after being apprehended after crossing the border.
The woman, who crossed the border without authorization in Eagle Pass, Texas, at about 6:20 a.m., collapsed about 25 minutes later at the Eagle Pass South Station. In a statement, Border Patrol said agents and officers administered medical care until emergency medical services arrived at 6:55 a.m. She was taken to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead.
The tragedy marked the second time in less than 36 hours that a person had died immediately following their perilous migration from their home in Central America, through Mexico and across the southwest border.
Yimi Alexis Balderramos-Torres, 30, Honduras
Balderramos-Torres had previously been apprehended by immigration officials in El Paso, Texas, on May 17, according to a statement released by ICE. The man was accompanied by his son when he was encountered by Border Patrol on May 17, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.
Balderramos-Torres had been sent back to Mexico under a Trump administration program that requires Central American immigrants to wait outside the US as their asylum cases make their way through the immigration courts. On May 27, Balderramos-Torres again crossed the border without authorization and was picked up by local police in the US during a traffic stop.
On June 30, Balderramos-Torres was found “unresponsive,” and medical officials at the facility were unable to revive him. He was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead Sunday morning. A cause of death is pending as officials conduct an autopsy.
Pedro Arriago-Santoya, 44, Mexico
Pedro Arriago-Santoya was awaiting deportation at the Stewart Detention Facility in Lumpkin prior to his death at an area hospital.
Medical staff at a hospital in Columbus determined the man’s preliminary cause of death as cardiopulmonary arrest, followed by multi-organ system failure; endocarditis, an infection in the heart’s inner lining; dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease; and respiratory failure, ICE said in a statement.
In custody since April, Arriago-Santoya told immigration authorities he felt stomach pain on July 20, leading a nurse practitioner to send him via ambulance to a hospital in Cuthbert. Medical staff suspected he had gall bladder disease, ICE said, and, the next day, sent him to the hospital where he died waiting for surgery consultation.
Marvin Antonio González, 32, El Salvador
Like many Salvadoran migrants before them, Marvin Gonzalez and his eight-year-old daughter Joselyn set off from their farm surrounded by corn and sugarcane one morning in early July with dreams of better lives in the United States.
Gonzalez, 32, planned to reunite the girl with her mother in North Carolina, and later send for his current wife from El Salvador.
The two made it across the U.S. border in late July. Then their luck turned. After they were detained in El Paso, Gonzalez died from heart-related causes that seemed to have flared up suddenly.
Norma Palacios, 23, the wife of the younger Gonzalez, said she had planned to eventually join her husband in the United States, bringing along their daughter Tifany, but had changed her mind.
“Our dream was to be together there, but now with what happened, I don’t have the courage to go alone,” she said in an interview with Reuters.
Roberto Rodriguez-Espinoza, 37, Mexico
Staff at the jail saw Rodriguez-Espinoza “acting confused” on Sept. 7 and transferred him to Northwestern Medicine Woodstock Hospital in Woodstock for evaluation, ICE said. He was transferred to Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital the next day, where he was diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage.
He was transferred to Central DuPage for a neurosurgery consultation and became unresponsive during a neurological exam, ICE said.
Many of these deaths were likely preventable. Human Rights Watch asked for an independent medical analysis of 15 recent deaths in immigration detention; in eight cases, subpar medical care contributed or led to the fatalities. The same is true for 23 of the 52 deaths in immigration detention for which we have such analysis since 2010.
ICE has dramatically expanded the number of people in its dangerous system, including particularly vulnerable people like children and pregnant women.
By locking up people who aren’t a flight risk or a threat to public safety, the US guarantees a ballooning, abusive, and expensive system, despite the existence of more cost-effective and humane alternatives to detention.
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