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.

Credit: ms_marie_photography / Instagram

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.

Credit: nikkolas_smith / Instagram

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.

Credit: 24x7ntw / Instagram

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.

Credit: broloelcordero / Instagram

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.

Credit: nicholasnkor / Instagram

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.

Credit: sew_mysterious / Instagram

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.

Credit: equalityequation / Instagram

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.

Credit: texasmonthly / Instagram

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.

Credit: courtneyclift / Instagram

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.

Credit: isahiahthegreat / Instagram

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

Trump Tried To Stop Migrants From Receiving Important Public Health Benefits, These Three Judges Just Blocked Him

Things That Matter

Trump Tried To Stop Migrants From Receiving Important Public Health Benefits, These Three Judges Just Blocked Him

Equality Action Network

Federal judges in three states — New York, California and Washington — have issued temporary injunctions against the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule, preventing it from taking effect on Oct. 15.

The controversial rule would make it more difficult for immigrants to get green cards if it looks as though they might need public assistance. Titled “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” the rule sparked several legal challenges.

Federal courts moved to protect immigrants from a Trump rule that would of affected millions of people.

The rule was scheduled to take effect on October 15, but federal judges in New York, California, and Washington state temporarily blocked it on Friday.

On Tuesday, judges in Maryland and Illinois joined in halting the policy. Judge George Daniels of the Southern District of New York found that the government failed to justify the need for a stricter definition of public charge and called the rule “repugnant to the American Dream.” Nine lawsuits have been filed so far challenging the rule, arguing that it will result in poorer health outcomes and increased food and housing insecurity for potentially millions of people. 

“This rule is a deliberate attempt to exclude poor people from the citizenship pool,” said Cheasty Anderson, senior policy associate with the Texas Children’s Defense Fund. “They sanctimoniously call this merit-based immigration, but they’re imagining merit as only a dollar sign.” 

The rule imposed by Trump would severely limit migrants’ rights to claim food or medical assistance.

In the fall of 2018, the Trump administration proposed changes to a longstanding immigration policy known as the public charge rule, making it harder for low-income immigrants to become permanent residents or enter the country. Currently, immigrants applying for green cards and visas can be denied if immigration officers find them likely to receive more than half of their income from cash assistance programs or require long-term care.

The new regulation would dramatically expand the criteria to decide if someone is a “public charge,” allowing immigration officials to consider the use of other public benefits like Medicaid, SNAP, and housing programs. Lacking English proficiency, having a medical condition, and being low-income could also hurt immigrants’ applications.

Department of Homeland Security estimates the final rule would directly impact around 382,000 people annually.

According to DHS, the final rule would only apply to green card and visa applicants; it exempts asylum-seekers, refugees, and some victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. But confusion around the rule has led many to unnecessarily refuse or unenroll from assistance programs that they or their children are eligible to receive. The government warned of this risk as early as 1999, when it issued a guidance acknowledging that similar confusion had stopped eligible immigrants from getting help, leading to “an adverse impact not just on the potential recipients, but on public health and the general welfare.”

But the chilling effect extends far beyond immigrants directly subject to the rule.

According to a Manatt Health analysis, more than 13 million people nationwide are at risk of unenrolling from Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) as a result of the rule, including 8.8 million U.S. citizens with noncitizen family members.

In states like Texas, where more than one out of four children in Texas have a noncitizen parent, many migrant parents are now taking their children off of health care programs like Medicaid, wrongly assuming that if their family members receive public assistance it will impact their own ability to obtain a green card in the future.

“Adoption of the rule will worsen Texas’ sky-high rate of uninsured, already the highest in the country, and immeasurably harm the health and well-being of Texas and Texans,” wrote Douglas Curran, former president of the Texas Medical Association, in a letter opposing the rule. 

Migrants across the country have been forgoing important food and medical care assistance for fear of being denied green cards or even deportation.

More than 13 million people nationwide are at risk of unenrolling from Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program as a result of the rule.

Last month, Elizabeth Hasse, an immigration attorney with the Tahirih Justice Center in Houston, spoke to a client about renewing her work permit. Hasse asked her client to bring in her tax returns, paychecks, and proof that three of her four children, all U.S. citizens, were enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid. But the client told Hasse she had decided not to renew their benefits this time.

In an interview with the Texas Observer, Hasse said: “I was surprised because she’s a client who really needs those benefits and her children have consistently received them for many years. And out of fear, without even asking me about it, she just decided on her own that she was going to try to make it without.” The reason? The woman was afraid that receiving benefits like SNAP could be held against her in the future, possibly leading to the denial of a green card.

Border Patrol Gave This Woman Zero Privacy As She Waited In An Emergency Room

Things That Matter

Border Patrol Gave This Woman Zero Privacy As She Waited In An Emergency Room

Jeff Greenberg / Getty

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has sparked outrage after Border Patrol agents were spotted waiting outside a patient’s room in the emergency unit of a Florida hospital before taking the patient into custody.

Video and images posted to social media on Sunday appeared to show at least one Border Patrol agent waiting outside a room at the Aventura Hospital and Medical Center in Aventura, Florida, with later footage appearing to show officers escorting the patient, a woman, into the back of a Border Patrol vehicle.

The ordeal started as the family was headed home after a day at the beach.

During a traffic stop, Border Patrol agents detained an undocumented woman who was on her way home from a family outing at Haulover Beach. It wasn’t long after the Border Patrol car pulled her over that she entered into a panic attack, vomiting and then eventually fainting. The officers took her to a Miami-area hospital, where she was treated by emergency-room doctors.

On the side of a road in Miami Beach, the federal agents had repeatedly told her, “We just need you to come with us.” Her kids, both teenagers, were crying, begging the agents not to take away their mother. But that appears like it’s exactly what happened. A family’s day at the beach ending with life long trauma for two teenagers who didn’t want to lose their mother and a woman fearful for her future.

Once she arrived to the emergency room, Border Patrol agents refused to leave the woman alone.

In fact, they wouldn’t leave her at all for nearly five hours. Officers waited either inside her actual room, affording her zero privacy, or they were waiting for her outside an open door. Agents refused to budge even as doctors and nurses came to ask her questions and give her medication.

When the woman was discharged shortly thereafter, a uniformed Border Patrol agent escorted her to a patrol vehicle and drove away. Immigrant-rights activists, who captured the incident on video, say the woman’s detention showed callous disregard for a person undergoing medical treatment.

Migrant rights activists were quick to condemn the agency’s actions and some even caught the drama on film.

Thomas Kennedy, who filmed a series of videos documenting the incident, told The Washington Post that the incident raises questions about the line – or lack thereof – between immigration enforcement and emergency medical care. He declined to name the woman out of concern for her safety.

“A hospital should be a place where a patient is protected from interrogation,” Kennedy, the political director at the Florida Immigrant Coalition, said in an interview. “You shouldn’t have a Border Patrol agent right there with you while you’re getting treatment.”

“It’s truly embarrassing as a country that this is a place where we are — that this is how business is being conducted, when we have a woman with children in the midst of a medical emergency being detained,” says Alexandra Audate, a lawyer and rapid-response volunteer with the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC), who was present at the hospital.

Sadly, this is hardly the first time Border Patrol has harassed people in hospitals.

High-profile incidents in recent years have drawn attention to Border Patrol’s role in hospitals along the U.S.-Mexico border, where agents have allegedly handcuffed asylum seekers to their beds or rushed migrants to the emergency room after they’ve gotten sick in detention.

Less has been documented about Border Patrol’s place in hospitals elsewhere in the 100-mile “border zone,” where the agency can operate with a heightened kind of authority. That area, which encompasses a majority of the U.S. population, includes any point in the country that’s within 100 miles of a coastline, Canada or Mexico – including the entirety of states like Florida, Michigan and Massachusetts.

In the border zone, agents can stop, question, and detain anyone they suspect of having committed immigration violations – as they seem to have done on Sunday.