Things That Matter

She Died In Border Patrol Custody, Now Details Are Emerging In The 7-Year-Old Guatemalan’s Death

We can’t say this enough (and no, we won’t get “over it”): the Trump administration’s hardened stance on migration has led to mass-scale suffering and individual stories that would break just about anybody’s heart. We have already discussed the living conditions in which minors are being kept in actual cages, how families are being separated sometimes permanently and the effects of an increased used of private companies to provide housing facilities for migrants and refugees detained by ICE and Border Patrol.

There have been deaths while migrants are in custody of these agencies. And recently doctors have been detained for trying to administer flu shots to migrant kids who due to weakened bodies, stress and physical proximity to each other are prone to acquire contagious diseases. The current situation in the border has brought out the best and the worst in people, from amazing acts of compassion to the most xenophobic remarks that lack any kind of nuance. 

But among all stories of despair and death, perhaps the ones that affect us the most on an emotional level are the deaths of minors while on custody of United States authorities.  

A Guatemalan girl was seven, and she died of dehydration, exhaustion and shock while in custody of Border Patrol.

The authorities have not released the girl’s name, but we know she was trying to cross the Mexican border illegally with her father. The pair were caught along with a group of undocumented migrants in a remote spot of the New Mexico desert. She was taken into the custody of the Border Patrol, which informed of her death on Thursday.

The details of her death are harrowing. As reported by The Washington Post: “the girl and her father were taken into custody about 10 p.m. Dec. 6 south of Lordsburg, N.M., as part of a group of 163 people who approached U.S. agents to turn themselves in”. 

While in custody things took a turn for the worse, her already dire condition quickly deteriorated and it is unclear whether she was given water or food.

Yes, migrants arrive to the United States in terrible physical condition after crossing the desert in possibly the worst conditions anyone could imagine. They are subject to heat, unbelievable emotional distress, wildlife threats and lack of food and water. But the humane thing to do, and not just humane but also ethical and ascribed to international law, is to provide medical care to those detained.

The Washington Post report informs: “More than eight hours later, the child began having seizures at 6:25 a.m., CBP records show. Emergency responders, who arrived soon after, measured her body temperature at 105.7 degrees, and according to a statement from CBP, she ‘reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days.” As The Washington Post argues, this could lead to further scrutiny to the processes through which migrants are processed and their health assessed. 

The child was transported by helicopter to a hospital in El Paso, Texas.

However, it was too late: less than 24 hours after arriving to El Paso. The father remains in El Paso with Guatemalan consular authorities. According to The Washington Post, Border Patrol is investigating the circumstances in which the little girl died, as “Food and water are typically provided to migrants in Border Patrol custody, and it wasn’t immediately clear Thursday if the girl received provisions and a medical exam before the onset of seizures.”

The influx of migrants seems to have outgrown the capacity of US authorities and the sociopolitical situation in Latin America, and particularly in Central America, has led to recent episodes of violence and strife that has increased the number of those who wish to find survival (not even a better life, but the possibility to remain alive) in the United States. 

Activists are furious over how long it took for authorities to release information on the case.

Cynthia Pompa, advocacy manager for the ACLU Border Rights Center, said in a statement: “The fact that it took a week for this to come to light shows the need for transparency for CBP. We call for a rigorous investigation into how this tragedy happened and serious reforms to prevent future deaths.”

The autopsy results won’t be available for several days, but facts lead to dehydration, septic shock and fever. And it seems that we will sadly have more cases like this, as apprehensions have registered record numbers in recent months. As WP reports: “In November, Border Patrol agents apprehended a record 25,172 “family unit members” on the southwest border.” There is indeed a humanitarian crisis at hand.

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Nearly 9,000 Unaccompanied Child Migrants Have Been Expelled From the U.S. Under Trump’s COVID-19 Restrictions

Things That Matter

Nearly 9,000 Unaccompanied Child Migrants Have Been Expelled From the U.S. Under Trump’s COVID-19 Restrictions

On Friday, previously undisclosed court documents revealed that almost 9,000 unaccompanied migrant children seeking refuge were denied access to the U.S. and subsequently expelled from U.S. soil. None of these children were given a chance in court.

According to reporting done by CBS News, U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials have “suspended humanitarian protections” for most migrants crossing the border, on the grounds that “public health law overrides asylum, immigration and anti-trafficking safeguards” in the era of COVID-19.

CBS news made the shocking discovery when investigating the problematic and increased practice of holding and detaining minors in unregulated, privately contracted hotel rooms.

The government is arguing that the practice is keeping the American public safe from possibly COVID-19 exposure from unauthorized migrants.

“What we’re trying to do…is remove all individuals, regardless of whether they’re children — minors — or they’re adults,” Customs and Border Patrol official Mark Morgan said in an August media briefing.

He continued: “We’re trying to remove [the migrants] as fast as we can, to not put them in our congregate settings, to not put them into our system, to not have them remain in the United States for a long period of time, therefore increasing the exposure risk of everybody they come in contact with.”

via Getty Images

But critics are claiming that the Trump Administration is using COVID-19 as an excuse to unlawfully expel as many migrants as possible–regardless of their age.

On Friday, federal Judge Dolly M. Gee ordered the administration to put an end to the practice of detaining children in hotel rooms, saying that hotels do not “adequately account for the vulnerability of unaccompanied minors in detention”. She asked the government to put an end to the practice by September 15th.

It is in the court documents regarding the above case that 8,800 expelled migrant children number was revealed.

“The numbers are stunning,” said executive director of the Immigrant Defenders Law Center, Lindsay Toczylowski, to CBS News. “…To find out that our government has literally taken children who are seeking protection and sent them back to the very places they fled in such high numbers really took my breath away.”

via Getty Images

US Border Patrol Deputy Chief Raul Ortiz has defended the unsafe hotel detainment and speedy expulsion of migrant children, saying that stopping the practice would increase risk of exposure to health and customs officials alike.

But even if the practice comes to an end, the staggering number of unaccompanied migrant and refugee children left to their own devices is sitting heavy on the soul of advocates and activists.

“It’s just completely contrary, not only to all child protection norms and standards, but also just completely contrary to our values as a nation around protecting the most vulnerable,” said vice president for international programs at Kids in Need of Defense Lisa Frydman to CNN. “Because we are just wholesale shipping them out without making sure that it’s safe for them to go.”

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ICE Continues To Disregard The Warning Signs As Another Migrant Dies Of Covid-19 While In Custody

Things That Matter

ICE Continues To Disregard The Warning Signs As Another Migrant Dies Of Covid-19 While In Custody

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The news out of 2020 continues to devastate and it’s getting harder and harder to be shocked by just how horrible things are looking. However, the level of neglect inside ICE detention centers is so shocking that it’s leading to a record number of deaths. No matter what year it is, that is shocking.

It’s been 14 years, during the presidency of George Bush, since ICE detention centers have recorded the level of deaths that they’re recording this year. Despite warnings from health and immigration experts, ICE has largely refused to release immigrants from overcrowded cells despite an ongoing and out of control global health pandemic. This blatant disregard for life has had a huge impact as at least 19 people have died while in ICE detention centers so far this fiscal year. 

ICE is responsible for the well-being of individuals in its custody and has broad discretion to release people for humanitarian reasons. The government should test everyone in its custody for COVID-19 and increase releases to prevent further deaths.

The recent death of a 5-year-old Honduran man brings the total number of ICE victims to 19 – in 2020 alone.

According to a report by Buzzfeed News, a 50-year-old Honduran man has become the latest victim of ICE’s cruel and inhumane detention policies. The man died at a Texas hospital after testing positive for Covid-19, according to the report.

The man was previously being held detention at the Joe Corley Processing Center in Texas, where, according to agency statistics, at least 50 people have tested positive for the virus. The preliminary cause of death, according to the source, was respiratory failure due to Covid-19.

He becomes the 19th victim of reckless ICE detention policies during the 2020 fiscal year – which ends on September 30. So far this year, there have been at least 19 confirmed deaths of migrants in ICE custody – the highest total since 2006.

And some how, despite a significant drop in the detainee population, the number of deaths this year is more than double that of 2019. Last fall, there were more than 55,000 people in ICE custody per day. As of Aug. 1, that number had dropped to about 21,500 per day.

Many deaths have been attributed to Covid-19 but that’s not the complete picture.

Coronavirus has swept through ICE detention centers like wildfire and this has had a major impact on the health and welfare of detainees, the community, and even ICE employees.

So far this year, more than twice as many people have died in ICE custody over last year. And, unfortunately, there are at least 1,065 active Covid-19 cases in ICE detention centers, meaning more people are likely to get sick and die before the year ends.

The number of deaths is especially alarming considering the average number of people detained has been significantly lower this year than in recent years.

Farmville, an ICE detention center in Virgina, has the largest COVID-19 outbreak in immigration detention. As of August 6, over 97% of people held in this ICE facility had contracted COVID-19. The outbreak began as a super-spreader event caused by a transfer of 74 people from Florida and Arizona.

Advocates have consistently criticized ICE for failing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among the people it detains.

For months, several major organizations have called for an orderly, coordinated release of detainees in ICE and CBP detention facilities.

Credit: Gregory Bull / Getty Images

Court challenges in multiple states seek to compel ICE to release detainees in order to reduce the spread of the virus. The Otay Mesa center southeast of San Diego is the subject of such a lawsuit filed last month by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The San Diego facility has 132 COVID-19 cases, the most patients by far of the 41 detention centers where the virus has been reported. There have also been 10 employees at the facility who have contracted the virus, according to ICE.

The facility has also been the target of protesters who, on April 11, drove up in vehicles and honked to bring attention to the health conditions.

“Despite unwavering calls to prevent this, Trump’s immigration system took another life,” Paola Luisi, co-director of the immigrant advocacy group Families Belong Together said in a statement Wednesday.

“You cannot cage a virus, and it is impossible to safely physically distance behind bars,” she said. “We fear this tragic death will be the first.”

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