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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Court Orders ICE To Release Children In Their Custody As COVID-19 Tears Through Detention Centers

Things That Matter

Court Orders ICE To Release Children In Their Custody As COVID-19 Tears Through Detention Centers

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

COVID-19 is spiking across the U.S. with 32 states watching as new cases of the virus continue to climb day after day. California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida are among states that have set daily new infection records. With this backdrop, a federal judge has ruled that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) must release children, with their parents, by July 17.

A judge ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release children in detention by a certain date.

U.S. Judge Dolly Gee ordered ICE to act quickly in response to the rampant COVID-19 spread in detention centers to protect the health of migrants. Judge Gee is giving ICE until July 17 to comply and release all children that have been in the agency’s custody.

U.S. Judge Gee ruled that the threat of the pandemic is great where the children are being held.

“Given the severity of the outbreak in the counties in which FRCs are located and the Independent Monitor and Dr. Wise’s observations of non-compliance or spotty compliance with masking and social distancing rules, renewed and more vigorous efforts must be undertaken to transfer (children) residing at the FRCs to non-congregate settings,” Judge Gee wrote in her order.

Concerned politicians and public figures are celebrating the judge’s order.

The order is aimed specifically at the Family Residential Centers (FRCs) and Office of Refugee Resettlement camps across the country. The virus has been running rampant in detention centers and prisons and, according to the judge, unsurprisingly the virus has made it to the FRCs.

She continued: “The FRCs are ‘on fire’ and there is no more time for half measures.”

National leaders are calling on ICE to follow the ruling by a federal judge.

The judge’s order is aimed at the three FRCs in the U.S. Two are in Texas and one is in Pennsylvania. Unaccompanied minors in various shelters are also included in the order.

“Although progress has been made, the Court is not surprised that [COVID-19] has arrived at both the [Family Residential Centers] and [Office of Refugee Resettlement] facilities, as health professionals have warned all along,” Judge Gee wrote.

This story is developing and we will update as new information arises.

READ: After COVID-19 Shut Down Flights, A Man Sailed Across The Atlantic Ocean All So That He Could See His Dad

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ICE Detainees Are Leading A Hunger Strike In Solidarity With George Floyd And Black Lives Matter

Things That Matter

ICE Detainees Are Leading A Hunger Strike In Solidarity With George Floyd And Black Lives Matter

Paul Wellman / Getty Images

Across the country (and, in fact, the globe) diverse communities are coming together to denounce racism, expose systemic inequality, and demand justice for Black lives which have been cut short.

The call for justice knows no borders – it doesn’t respect walls or fences. You need to look no further than migrant detention centers across the U.S., where some detainees have banded together in solidarity with George Floyd and #BlackLivesMatter by conducting a hunger strike.

Immigrants in ICE’s detention facility have staged a hunger strike in solidarity with George Floyd.

Migrants paid tribute to George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement with a hunger strike at a California migrant detention center.

However, when ICE first announced the hunger strike at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center in Bakersfield, Calif., on Friday, they tried to minimize the act of solidarity. In a statement, ICE alleged that detainees were being coerced — both internally and externally — into a hunger strike, and detainees reportedly said they were told that the purpose of the hunger strike was to protest the repetitive cycle of the menu. 

But according to new reports, the detainees began refusing meals as a show of solidarity for Floyd and the hundreds of other Black Americans killed by police. Even inside the detention center, news of Floyd’s murder – who died while being detained by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25 and whose death sparked protests against police brutality that continue across the nation – has angered detainees.

Many migrants in ICE custody are of African descent and identify with the growing calls for racial justice.

Credit: Oliver de Ros / Getty Images

Although many view the detained migrant populations as a monolith, there are several majority communities that are in detention – and the majority at several centers are of African descent. In fact, Black people from Cameroon, Mexico, Ghana, Haiti, Jamaica, Ethiopia, Brazil, and other countries, are held across ICE detention centers.

Our Prism reports, while undocumented Black immigrants represent about 7.2% of the U.S. population, in immigrant holding facilities (a statistic very similar to American prisons) people of African descent make up the majority of those detained.

Thus, those being held have a high sensitivity and support to the civil unrest that the rest of the country is participating in. In support, they have decided to protest.

Asif Qazi, a Bangladesh immigrant who has been in captivity since February, handed a guard a written statement about their strike.

We, the detained people of dormitories A, B, and C at Mesa Verde ICE Detention Facility, are protesting and on hunger strike in solidarity with the detained people at Otay Mesa Detention Center,” Qazi wrote.

“We begin our protest in memory of our comrades George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Oscar Grant, and Tony McDade. Almost all of us have also suffered through our country’s corrupt and racist criminal justice system before being pushed into the hands of ICE,” the statement read in part.

This recent hunger strike isn’t the first time migrants have stood up for their beliefs while in custody.

Just one week ago, several detainees at a Texas detention facility went on strike to protest the close conditions in a Covid-19 world. many expressed shock and concern over so many vulnerable people being crammed into tiny areas with little access to adequate healthcare.

Norma Herrera, a community organizer for the grassroots coalition Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network, told CNN that one protester had missed 21 meals during a week-long hunger strike. She says he is protesting the cramped living conditions where he fears contracting coronavirus during this ongoing pandemic.

“They feel like there’s no way to protect themselves from the virus. They’re in really crowded dorms within feet of other people. They’re sharing tablets. They’re sharing phones. When they go out to recreation they share the same equipment and they’re sharing with the same people under quarantine,” Herrera said via phone with CNN. “So they feel there’s just no way to keep themselves safe.”

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