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

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Court Says That ICE Needs To Follow The Constitution When Making Arrests And Here’s Why That’s Such A Big Deal

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Court Says That ICE Needs To Follow The Constitution When Making Arrests And Here’s Why That’s Such A Big Deal

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In what many are calling a landmark decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals just handed a major victory to migrant’s rights advocates. Although the major ruling seems simple on paper, it has major legal implications and could truly change the way that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrest undocumented immigrants.

However, the decision is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court – where it would face an uncertain legal future given the possible future makeup of the nation’s highest court.

The 9th Circuit Court just issued a landmark legal decision that could greatly affect ICE arrests.

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Long-standing rules for arresting migrants may soon need to change, thanks to a recent ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court says that ICE needs to align its arresting and detention procedures with those of all other law enforcement agencies in the country, which are guided by rules within the U.S. constitution. When police arrest people for suspected crimes, the constitution requires them to show probable cause to a judge within 48 hours. But ICE does not do that. When ICE arrests people, it typically holds them for weeks before any judge evaluates whether ICE had a valid legal basis to make the arrest.

But ICE’s policies may no longer be legal.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the usual constitutional rules that apply to normal police all over the country also apply to ICE. “The Fourth Amendment requires a prompt probable cause determination by a neutral and detached magistrate,” the court said. This really shouldn’t be a big deal. Prompt independent review by a judge of whether the government has a legal basis to take away a person’s freedom is an essential safeguard against tyranny.

ICE’s arrest and detention policies have long come under scrutiny for seemingly skirting constitutional rules.

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For almost 200 years, immigration enforcement has existed in a sort of grey area, where the usual rules never applied. For example, when ICE arrests people, individual officers have much more legal discretion than other law enforcement authorities. Detainees may be held for weeks or months before going to a judge who will ask the person how they plead to ICE’s allegations against them.

Only then, long after the initial arrest, might ICE actually be required to show a judge any evidence to back up its case. The person would have spent all of that time detained, likely at a private detention center in a remote area.

For any other person in the U.S., this procedure goes against every legal protection in the constitution. But ICE has gotten away with treating immigrants this way for generations.

The ruling comes as other courts are making it easier for ICE to abuse migrant’s constitutional rights.

The ruling by the 9th Circuit comes less than a week after the 1st Circuit overturned a ban prohibiting ICE from arresting undocumented immigrants at courthouses in Massachusetts.

In 2018, ICE created a policy of attempting to arrest undocumented immigrants when they appeared at state courthouses for judicial proceedings. However, a district court granted an injunction against the policy after migrant advocates filed a lawsuit against ICE. They claimed that ICE was in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and lacked authority to make civil arrests at courts.

Meanwhile, ICE has resumed large-scale enforcement operations, announcing roughly 2,000 arrests over several weeks amid the Coronavirus pandemic. The 9th Circuit’s decision raises an obvious question: How many of those people were detained for more than 48 hours without a review by a judge?

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With Immigration Fees Set To Increase, Advocacy Groups Are Hosting “Citizenship Weeks” To Help People Get Their Documents In On Time

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With Immigration Fees Set To Increase, Advocacy Groups Are Hosting “Citizenship Weeks” To Help People Get Their Documents In On Time

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Becoming a U.S. resident or citizen has never been an easy process. The country’s immigration system is a convoluted mess that sharply leans in favor of high-wealth individuals and under the Trump administration that is becoming more apparent than ever.

But 2020 has been an especially challenging year for immigrants seeking to complete their citizenship process.

Although it’s common for interest in naturalization to spike in the months leading up to presidential elections, the Coronavirus pandemic forced the citizenship process to a grinding halt in March. The outbreak shut offices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) all across the country. And although many of these offices reopened in July, there is a widening backlog of applications.

Meanwhile, on October 2, looming fee increases could leave applications and citizenship out of reach for tens of thousands of immigrants, as the process becomes significantly more costly.

Many migrant advocacy groups are hosting events meant to help immigrants complete their applications before prices are set to rise.

In South Florida, the Office of New Americans (ONA) — a public-private partnership between Miami-Dade County and non-profit legal service providers — launched its second Miami Citizenship Week on Sept. 11. This 10-day event is designed to help immigrants with free legal support so participants can beat the October 2 deadline.

In addition, the event will host a mix of celebrations meant to highlight the social and economic contributions of South Florida’s large immigrant communities.

“I think in Miami we talk about how we are diverse and how we are adjacent to Latin America, but we never take a moment to celebrate immigrants and the amazing work that they do whether it’s the nurses in our hospitals, the drivers that drive our buses, small business owners,” said Krystina François, ONA’s executive director. “We need to reclaim the narrative around immigrants and around our communities because it’s what makes us great.”

However, thanks to Covid-19 restrictions, the events will all be hosted online.

Much like any other event, Covid-19 has greatly impacted this year’s “Citizenship Week.” Therefore, the event will be hosted virtually. That includes the Mega Citizenship Clinic, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 16-20. At the event, pro-bono lawyers from the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Americans for Immigrant Justice and other groups will connect with attendees one-on-one on Zoom and walk them through the process of filling out the 20-page citizenship application form. 

The clinic is open to immigrants eligible to become naturalized citizens, meaning permanent residents who have had a green card for at least five years.

Cities like Dallas are also getting in on similar events, meant to welcome new residents and citizens into the city.

Dallas’ Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs is hosting a series of virtual events from Sept. 12 to Sept. 20 in honor of Welcoming Week. The virtual events aim to promote Dallas’ diverse communities and to unite all residents, including immigrants and refugees.

According to the City of Dallas, this year’s theme is Creating Home Together, and it emphasizes the importance of coming together as a community to build a more inclusive city for everyone.

Participants will be able to learn about the voting process and what will be on the next ballot during the “Vontando Por Mi Familia: Enterate para que vas a votar” event. The event, hosted in partnership with Mi Familia, will be presented in Spanish.

A Council Member, Jaime Resendez, will host a virtual program on Tuesday at 11 a.m. that celebrates Latinx art and culture. The event will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Mayor Eric Johnson will read the Welcoming Week Proclamation, and the event will feature art exhibitions and performances showcasing the talents of performers and artists across Dallas.

Attendees will also have a chance to learn more about the availability of DACA and a citizenship workshop will take place where articipants will learn how to complete their N-400 application for citizenship. Volunteer immigration attorneys and accredited representatives from the Department of Justice will be there for assistance.

The events come as fees for several immigration proceedings are set to rise by dramatic amounts come October 1.

Starting on October 2, the financial barrier will grow even taller for many immigrants as fees are set to increase. The fee to apply for U.S. citizenship will increase from $640 to $1,160 if filed online, or $ 1,170 in paper filing, a more than 80% increase in cost. 

“In the middle of an economic downturn, an increase of $520 is a really big amount,” François told the Miami-Herald.

Aside from the fee increase, many non-citizen immigrants never truly felt the need to become citizens. That was until the Coronavirus pandemic hit and had many questioning their status in the country.

“There are people who up until this COVID crisis, their status as a permanent resident didn’t impact their day-to-day life … but then the pandemic has given them another reason of why it’s important to take that extra step and become a citizen, because of the additional rights and protections that are afforded to you, but also to just have a sense of security and stability in a crisis.”

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