Things That Matter

Another Migrant Tragically Died In US Custody Leaving Behind An 11-Year-Old Daughter

The recent geopolitical crisis derived from migration to the United States and how detainees are treated by the U.S. authorities at detention centers and in courts has produced some really harrowing stories. Journalistic narratives of the U.S. southern border are full of despair, some slivers of hope and plenty of solidarity from activists and some voices in Washington. Yet, migrants keep dying under U.S. custody at a fast rate. The number of casualties is increasing and some point to the conditions of detention and provision of basic services for migrants.

A 32-year-old man from El Salvador died in front of his 11-year-old daughter.

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The first question that pops into our heads is whether these deaths are preventable. Reports from U.S. detention facilities are increasingly Dantesque and speak of a true humanitarian catastrophe. The most recent death is horrific. As The Independent reported on August 2, 2019: “A 32-year-old Salvadoran man who was travelling with his 11-year-old daughter has died at a border detention center in New Mexico.” Rest in peace Marvin Antonio González from El Salvador. 

Marvin Antonio González had been taken by the U.S. Border Patrol.

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Like many of his compatriotas, González was fleeing unprecedented levels of violence in El Salvador, where the Maras and other gangs rule under an iron, bloody fist. USA Today reports: “The man had been taken into custody by Border Patrol agents at about 9 p. m. Wednesday and was being processed at the Lordsburg station Thursday morning ‘when he fell into medical distress,’ U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement”

Back in July Mexican Pedro Arriago-Santoya also died while in custody.

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González’s death echoes far too many similar cases in recent months. As Kristin Lam wrote in USA Today: “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 for surgery consultation”. 

And also a Nicaraguan man, and a Honduran, and a Cuban have died in U.S. custody.

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After a terrible and dangerous journey, and in dire conditions in detention facilities, some migrants’ bodies simply give up. A 52-year-old man from Nicaragua died in a Border Patrol facility in Tucson back in July. This is the same fate suffered by a Honduran 30-year-old on June 30. As reported by CNN: “Yimi Alexis Balderramos-Torres entered ICE custody on June 6 and less than two weeks later was transferred to the Houston Contract Detention Facility in Houston, Texas. On June 30, he was found unresponsive in his dormitory and attempts to revive him were unsuccessful, ICE said”. 

Casualties tell stories of despair from around the world.

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But Mexico and Central America are not the only places where migrants are being mourned. Other detainees to die in ICE custody since November 2018 include a 58-year-old Cuban man; two Russians, a 40-year-old man and a 56-year-old man; a 54-year-old Mexican man; and a 21-year-old Indian national. Also a 25-year-old Salvadoran transgender woman, Jonathan Alberto “Johana” Medina Leon, who died in the agency’s custody in early June.

This was ICE’s response: se lavan las manos, como quien dice.

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Even though some members of Congress and a few journalists have witnessed the conditions of these detention facilities, ICE tends to be hermetic. ICE released a statement upon Arriago-Santoya’s death, saying: “ICE is firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody and is undertaking a comprehensive agency-wide review of this incident, as it does in all such cases. Fatalities in ICE custody, statistically, are exceedingly rare and occur at a small fraction of the rate of the U. S. detained population as a whole”. Still, one death is a death too many!

Some minors have also died, and this is just not okay.

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Let’s get this straight: for many, illegal migration is the last attempt at keeping oneself and one’s family safe. CNN reported on another sad, painful death back on July 18: “One of the migrants was a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy who died while being held in custody by US Customs and Border Protection. He was diagnosed with the flu after complaining about feeling poorly. An official with the agency said that Border Patrol agents picked up Tamiflu, the prescribed treatment. But later he was found unresponsive at the Weslaco Border Patrol Station in Texas, although his cause of death is still unknown”. 

Critics have slammed the current administration for the condition in which migrants are kept in detention centers.

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Migrant deaths are a thorny political issue and will surely influence the 2020 presidential elections. Members of the media are blasting the Trump administration over the crisis. Renee Graham wrote for The Boston Globe on July 10: “It’s well documented how hard life is in these camps, but his base doesn’t care how cruelly children and their families are treated because they refuse to see them as human. When a child in US custody dies — and at least seven have on Trump’s watch — the typical response is: ‘Well, they had no business coming here.'”

President Donald Trump claims that reports are greatly exaggerated.

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As reported by Katelyn Caralle over at Mail Online: “Donald Trump claims the media is over exaggerating the overcrowding and poor conditions at migrant detention centers on the U.S.-Mexico border.’The Fake News Media, in particular, the Failing @nytimes, is writing phony and exaggerated accounts of the Border Detention Centers,’ Trump posted in a thread of three tweets Sunday afternoon. ‘First of all, people should not be entering our Country illegally, only for us to then have to care for them. We should be allowed to focus on United States Citizens first.'” What do you think, mi gente?

Particular populations, such as transgender individuals from Central America, are particularly vulnerable, and legislators are urging ICE to protect them.

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The unprecedented levels of violence in Central America have led some transgender women to try to settle in the United States, and so far authorities have not been able to cater to their specific needs. Sires wrote in a statement: “I am deeply disturbed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s policies and treatment toward transgender asylum-seekers. Transgender individuals fleeing the Northern Triangle do so as a last resort to escape the violence and persecution they face back home. Those who seek asylum deserve to have their requests taken seriously and to be treated humanely and fairly by U.S. authorities.” Further, in a letter to ICE Acting Director Mark Morgan, Sires wrote: “In El Salvador, at least seven transgender women were killed in a five-month period in 2017. In Honduras, at least 97 transgender people have been murdered since 2009. And in Guatemala, five transgender women were killed in a two-month span in 2016. In such precarious situations, many transgender people are left with no other options but to flee their countries”.  Sires was joined by Representative Frank Pallone, Jr., Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and 32 other members of Congress in signing the letter.

READ: Migrant Mother Details The Death of Her Daughter After ICE Detention In Emotional Testimony

A Group Of Women At A Migrant Detention Center Demanded Information About Covid-19, Then They Were Pepper Sprayed

Things That Matter

A Group Of Women At A Migrant Detention Center Demanded Information About Covid-19, Then They Were Pepper Sprayed

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As the Coronavirus spreads throughout communities across the United States, one group of people are at particular risk for contracting the virus: migrant detainees.

Tens of thousands of migrants are packed into crowded detention centers with little access to proper sanitation or medical treatment. Even before the outbreak of Covid19, migrants were facing outbreaks of measles and influenza at greater numbers than the general public.

Now, as they demand information on the risk this new virus poses them, they’re being met with violence.

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, so have confrontations between detainees and guards.

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On Monday, migrants clashed with guards over a lack of safe conditions and demanded to be released from the South Texas Processing Center. The melee led to a standoff and the guards shot pepper spray at the detainees, which ended with nine of the migrants now held for disciplinary charges. The detainees had raised concerns about the lack of screening measures for new arrivals to the complex.

Then, a day later in Louisiana, an ICE spokesman said seven people were pepper-sprayed at the Pine Prairie detention center. Earlier, an ICE detainee in New Jersey described harrowing conditions and said migrants went on a hunger strike for soap. ProPublica obtained an audio recording in which the detainee said that guards, in response to the strike for hygiene products in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, told the detainees that they “have to die of something.”

The threat faced by detainees in ICE custody is real.

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Four people — two correctional officers and two detainees — tested positive for COVID-19 at New Jersey detention facilities.

According to ICE’s guidance, new detainees who arrive at facilities are screened and isolated for a certain period of time if they have a fever or respiratory symptoms. The staff is also consulting with local health departments to determine whether there’s a need for testing.

For ICE’s part, they’re defending the use of chemicals against detainees as a necessary tool.

ICE spokesperson Bryan Cox told Mother Jones that pepper spray was used because “four persons became confrontational.” The rest of his statement said:

“The facility was conducting an informational briefing on COVID-19 preparations and safety measures in a detainee housing area to ensure persons in custody have accurate, timely information about the situation,”

As far as the use of force against migrants, he goes on to say: “ICE is tasked with providing safe and secure detention facilities for individuals in its custody. On March 25, at the LaSalle ICE Processing Center in Louisiana, a group of ICE detainees became disruptive and confrontational with facility staff in their housing area. Detainees refused to comply with directives from facility staff and four attempted to force their way out of the housing area, at which time facility staff deployed oleoresin capsicum, commonly referred to as ‘OC’ spray. Upon deployment of OC, the detainees became compliant and facility staff was able to mitigate further risk of injury to both detainees and staff. This immediate use of force was conducted consistent with agency protocol. Medical staff evaluated all individuals who came in contact with the pepper spray; no detainee or staff injuries were reported.”

Even before the outbreak, ICE was using pepper spray against migrants in its facilities.

Last summer, over 100 immigrants were pepper-sprayed at a Louisiana Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center. The incident happened after a group of detainees began to protest the conditions they were being forced to endure.

ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said that a “group of ICE detainees refused to depart the outdoor recreation area at the Pine Prairie facility Friday evening,” adding that “after repeated attempts by facility staff and ICE personnel to disperse the group and restore orderly operation of the facility, a brief, calculated use of pepper spray was employed Saturday morning.”

And this incident came just a day after 30 migrants were sprayed at a separate Louisiana facility. It’s obvious ICE is eager to use pepper spray against detainees in their care.

Rihanna Revealed A Childhood Experience That She Says Connects Her To Mexican Migrants In The U.S.

Entertainment

Rihanna Revealed A Childhood Experience That She Says Connects Her To Mexican Migrants In The U.S.

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Rihanna has never been afraid to speak her mind. She’s a woman who speaks up for issues she cares about and people listen to her. That’s why so many love her – present company included.

The ‘Umbrella’ singer, how has been kind of off the musical radar as of late, spoke out in a new interview with British Vogue and she had a few things to say about her upcoming music, where she’s been living, and her relationship with migrant communities.

Rihanna continues to use her platform and reach of over 200 million followers across social media to bring awareness to social issues that are important to her.

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In an interview with Vogue, the creator of “Fenty Beauty” explained feeling empathy with Mexicans and Latinos who are discriminated against in the United States, since she says that she knows how it feels to be on the end of discriminatory policies.

“The Guyanese are like the Mexicans of Barbados,” she said. “So I identify—and that’s why I really relate and empathize with Mexican people or Latino people, who are discriminated against in America. I know what it feels like to have the immigration come into your home in the middle of the night and drag people out.”

Similarly, she recalled the times in which she suffered and the difficulties her and mother experienced when they emigrated from Barbados.

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Rihanna was born Robyn Rihanna Fenty in St. Michael, Barbados to a Guyanese mother and Barbadian father.

In the Vogue interview, she added: “Let’s say I know what that fight is like. I have witnessed it, I have been there. I think I was eight years old when I had to live that in the middle of the night. So I know how daunting it is for a child, and if my father had been dragged out of my house, I can guarantee you that my life would have been a disaster.”

In that same Vogue interview, Rihanna confessed to something that few people outsider her inner circle even knew.

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She explained that in recent years she has become a bit of a nomad, having a house in London, Paris, Barbados and Mexico, where she feels more relaxed.

“I just love Mexico. I really need to do my DNA test,” she jokingly told Afua Hirsch of Vogue. Perhaps she was an agave plant, in a past life, she pondered.

Rihanna has been vocal about immigrant rights in the past and takes great pride in her origins.

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The Grammy Award winning singer and entrepreneur has very publicly thrown shade at President Trump over his cruel immigration policies.

Rihanna, who’s been appointed as the ambassador of her native country Barbados, is no stranger to political matters. She sent a cease-and-desist letter to President Donald Trump in early November after he played her music at one of his rallies. She also rejected the opportunity to perform during the Super Bowl LIII in February 2019 out of protest for Colin Kaepernick.

Plus, in an interview with The Cut last year about the word ‘immigrant’, she said: “For me, it’s a prideful word. To know that you can come from humble beginnings and just take over whatever you want to, dominate at whatever you put your mind to. The world becomes your oyster, and there’s no limit. Wherever I go, except for Barbados, I’m an immigrant. I think people forget that a lot of times.”