Things That Matter

Immigration Officials Deported Undocumented Father Of Three Because Of His HIV Status

Last summer, U.S. District Attorney Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the Trump administration to stop separating children from their parents under their “zero-tolerance” policy that had begun a few months prior. However, that order did not prevent immigration officials from separating children from their parents for myriad reasons. The reasoning for continuing to separate kids from their parents (or excuse is more like it) is because officials claimed the parent was unfit to parent, they were denied asylum, or they had prior charges in their native country. Since then, more than 900 families have been affected by Trump’s anti-immigration policy, which has caused more separations between child and parent. One such case is heartbreakingly tragic because it’s a violation on multiple levels. 

Three young girls were separated from their father without an explanation. However, their dad said it’s because immigration officials found out that he is HIV-positive.

Credit: @pritheworld / Twitter

In November 2018,  Andrea, 14, Leiliana, 13, and Sofia, 11, and their dad crossed the U.S. border in El Paso, Texas from Honduras. They, like many undocumented immigrants, were held in cold detention centers that many refer to as iceboxes. In an interview with Public Radio International, the family said that they were held in the icebox for three days, all of them together until their dad was abruptly taken away without an explanation. The dad, Jose, said he is sure that he was separated from his daughters because of his HIV-positive status. 

The father said that he brought with him two bottles of his HIV medication. When officials asked him what it was, he initially lied because “the less people know, the better.”

Credit: @WNYC / Twitter

Immigration officials tested the medicine and found out it was to treat people with HIV. That gave Jose the inclination to believe they deported him because of that. “It has to be that because there’s no other reason,” he told PRI. His assumption was correct. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found out the reason why Jose was taken away from his daughters, and it did have to do with his HIV status. 

Immigration officials told the ACLU that Jose’s HIV is a communicable disease and cannot be allowed in the country.

Credit: @danarubenstein / Twitter

By definition communicable disease is an” illnesses caused by viruses or bacteria that people spread to one another through contact with contaminated surfaces, bodily fluids, blood products, insect bites, or through the air.” 

Before 2010, undocumented people with HIV could not enter the U.S. but because HIV is now treatable with medication the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has removed the HIV infection from the definition of communicable disease of public health significance. Therefore immigration officials cannot use the excuse that undocumented people with HIV cannot be allowed in the U.S

The daughters said that their father is fine because he takes his medication, so why would his HIV status prevent him from entering the country? Jose also happened to fail his credible fear interview.

Credit: @jensalan / Twitter

Each undocumented person that enters the country and is seeking asylum status has to undergo a credible fear interview to discuss why they’re afraid to return to their country. Many undocumented people who flee Central America report they fear for their lives due to violence and persecution. Jose said police in his homeland of Honduras threatened to kill his family, but immigration officials didn’t believe him, so he was denied and deported. 

Even though Jose is back in Honduras, he could still possibly be allowed to re-enter the U.S. and see his family.

Credit: @NYCLU / Twitter

Jose’s kids are part of a class-action lawsuit by the ACLU that includes more than 900 other families that have been deported after a judge had already prohibited the separation of families. 

“It is shocking that the Trump administration continues to take babies from their parents,” Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project said according to NPR. “The administration must not be allowed to circumvent the court order over infractions like minor traffic violations.”

Just today, the same judge that forced the Trump Administration to end family separation last year ruled that 11 parents who were deported without their children can come back into the U.S. Judge Dana Sabraw said those parents were wrongfully denied asylum. According to CBS News, “The judge found that some of the migrants were probably coerced into authorizing their deportation and were given inaccurate or misleading information by immigration authorities.”

It is unclear if Jose is one of the eleven parents told they could come back and reunite with his three daughters, but we’re hoping he is. 

READ: Customs And Border Protections Chief Mark Morgan Defended The Mississippi Raids Despite Children Left Without Parents

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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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Rite Aid Refused To Give Undocumented Residents The COVID-19 Vaccine Even Though They’re Eligible

Things That Matter

Rite Aid Refused To Give Undocumented Residents The COVID-19 Vaccine Even Though They’re Eligible

As the United States ramps up its vaccination program (with more than two million people getting vaccinated each day), many Americans are eager to get that jab in the arm. But who is eligible varies from state to state and sometimes even county to county.

Despite the different eligibility thresholds in each state (depending on age group or risk factors), there is no immigration requirement whatsoever at the federal, state or local level. However, not all places are following that guideline and some undocumented residents are being incorrectly turned away.

The pharmacy chain Rite Aid is apologizing after two undocumented residents were denied vaccines.

The giant pharmacy chain Rite Aid has apologized to two undocumented immigrants who the company said were “mistakenly” denied COVID-19 vaccinations at Southern California stores. However, since then, the two women have been invited back by Rite Aid to get their vaccinations and the chain has issued an apology.

Rite Aid spokesperson Christopher Savarese described both cases as “isolated” incidents resulting from workers at the stores not following established protocols for vaccine eligibility. The employees will be re-educated on the protocols to make sure everyone is on the same page.

In a statement later sent to ABC News, Rite Aid officials said, “In such an unprecedented rollout, there are going to be mistakes and there will be always areas for providers to improve — we’re seeking out those opportunities every day.”

Savarese added, “This is very important to us that this is corrected. Both of the situations that we’re talking about have been resolved, and both of those people will be getting their vaccine at Rite Aid.”

To clarify, just who is eligible for the vaccine at this moment?

Although vaccine eligibility does vary from state to state, even county to county, there is nothing requiring that someone prove their immigration status to receive a vaccine. Rep. Tony Cárdenas, who represents Los Angeles, told ABC News that the legal immigration status of a person is not supposed to interfere with them getting vaccinated.

“That is not a requirement whatsoever at the federal, state or local level, and that organization (Rite Aid) has been told very clearly that that was wrong, and they immediately apologized for doing so, but it left the woman very distraught,” Cárdenas told KABC of Rager’s employee.

On Feb. 1, the federal Department of Homeland Security issued a statement that the agency and its “federal government partners fully support equal access to the COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine distribution sites for undocumented immigrants.”

“It is a moral and public health imperative to ensure that all individuals residing in the United States have access to the vaccine. DHS encourages all individuals, regardless of immigration status, to receive the COVID-19 vaccine once eligible under local distribution guidelines,” the DHS statement reads.

However, the confusion over whether undocumented immigrants qualify to receive vaccine has continued to occur not only in Southern California, but elsewhere in the country. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley issued an apology to at least 14 people who were rejected Feb. 20 at its vaccination site because they could not provide proof of U.S. residency.

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