Things That Matter

Doctors Are Calling On Immigration Officials To Respect Sensitive Sites And Allow Undocumented Immigrants To Get Medical Attention

Physicians and health care providers at the LAC + USC Medical Center in East Los Angeles gathered on Tuesday to show solidarity with the undocumented community. These medical providers are calling for sensitive spaces to be respected by immigration officials.

Doctors in East L.A. are taking a stand for their undocumented patients and those with Temporary Protective Status (TPS).

“Many of our patients are undocumented and many are living in fear so we kind of see how that’s affected their health over the long term,” says Dr. Mohamad Raad, a physician taking part in the protest. “For us, it’s important to express solidarity with the community, to express our outrage, so people know that even the physicians and the providers here have the same feelings of anger that many of us have.”

Part of the fight for undocumented and TPS patients is getting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to respect sensitive sites, which include hospitals, schools and churches.

ICE claims to respect these sites, but recent activity by immigration officials has many politicians, attorneys, educators, faith leaders and health care providers calling for more restraint.

Undocumented immigrants have recently been detained while leaving courthouses when reporting domestic violence, as they made their way to a hospital for emergency procedures and while dropping their children off at school. Even law abiding DACA recipients have been detained.

In the case of Rosa Maria Hernandez, the 10-year-old who was being transported by ambulance from Laredo, Texas, to a children’s hospital in Corpus Christi for an emergency surgery. On the way, the ambulance had to pass through a border checkpoint. Border agents followed the ambulance to wait for the child to recover from surgery so she could be detained. Her parents had to agree to be detained in order to pass and be with their daughter. Hernandez is the second case this year of a family seeking emergency medical attention for a child and being caught in the same border checkpoint on the way to Corpus Christi.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) joined LAC + USC Medical Center to declare clinics, ambulances and hospitals safe zones for undocumented immigrants.

“It’s very clear how fear and anxiety affect human health in general. They have long lasting negative health outcomes,” says Dr. Raad. “Not just in the acute moment. If there is an acute trauma, like a deportation or a detention or a disruption of a family, that isn’t just a singular event. Those things have far reaching consequences and not just for the lifetime of the person or the people who are effected but for generations. Those things are passed down through genetic memory. Through narratives of a community. Those things have devastating consequences and you can’t recover from them. Yes, we are being reactionary in terms of our outrage, but when those things happen to people of certain segments of the community, it’s very difficult to get true justice and for them to recover from them. It’s very important for us to be proactive.”

Dr. Raad says that immigration officials have already proven they won’t respect their self-imposed restrictions on sensitive sites.

“We have to rethink our approach to a more ground approach,” he adds. “What can we as providers do? What can we as community do? What have community leaders been doing and how can we use their guidance to help us create different strategies?”

Physicians at the medical center want patients, especially undocumented and TPS patients, to know they are safe there.

Dr. Raad assures that physicians at LAC + USC consider the center a place where undocumented immigrants should feel safe, and are willing to fight for their undocumented patients’ right to access health care without fear of deportation.

“I think we have to use whatever power we have on the day-to-day to prevent the risks of detentions and deportation at our facilities,” he says.

According to Dr. Raad, Tuesday’s protest is a good first step in speaking truth to power and showing that medical professionals are willing to stand up for their patients.


READ: Childcare Providers Are Fighting For Their Livelihoods And A Seat At The Table

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2020 Has Been A Tragic Year As A Record Number Of Migrants Die In ICE Custody

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2020 Has Been A Tragic Year As A Record Number Of Migrants Die In ICE Custody

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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 18 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.

Three recent deaths in ICE detention centers bring 2020’s total to the second highest since 2006.

The death toll for immigrants in ICE custody reached the highest level since 2006 after three more people died this week.

Last week, it was reported that two men died while in ICE detention on August 5. One of the men who died last week was James Thomas Hill, a 72-year-old Canadian citizen who tested positive for COVID-19 about a month before his death. He was detained for three months at Farmville Detention Center in Virginia, despite being high-risk due to his age.

A 51-year-old man from Taiwan, Kuan Hui Lee, also died on August 5. Lee had been detained at Krome Detention Center in Florida for 7 months because he had overstayed a visa 16 years ago. While further details of his medical condition and death have not been reported, ICE has a long history of medical neglect of people in its custody with serious health conditions.

Then on August 11, Buzzfeed News reported that a 70-year-old Costa Rican man died in ICE custody at a Georgia Hospital on August 10, 2020, after testing positive for COVID-19. The man had been detained at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia. According to AJC.com, the detainee suffered from diabetes and hypertension and had been hospitalized since August 4, 2020. ICE officials confirmed the death to BuzzFeed News, but have not released any additional details yet.

These tragedies increased the total deaths in ICE custody this fiscal year to 18, the highest number since 2006. Many—if not all—of the deaths that occur in ICE custody are avoidable.

“Many of these deaths were avoidable, unnecessary, and a direct result of the Trump administration’s refusal to take basic steps to protect the health and safety of detainees,” John Sandweg, a former ICE director during the Obama administration, told BuzzFeed News.

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.

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ICE Is Offering A Master Class To The Public On How To Handle Weapons And Arrest Immigrants

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ICE Is Offering A Master Class To The Public On How To Handle Weapons And Arrest Immigrants

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By mid-October, there could be professionally trained armies of ordinary citizens patrolling the streets looking to arrest immigrants. And they’d be doing the dirty work of ICE – which has launched a program in Chicago specifically to help train and equip the public on the skills and knowledge needed to do it effectively.

According to ICE, the program is little more than a chance to educate and enlighten the public on the challenges the agency faces on a daily basis. They claim that their work is grossly misunderstood. Yet the description of the six-week-long program literally describes familiarizing recruits with firearms and how to make targeted arrests.

Chicago’s ICE office announced a “citizen’s academy” to teach the public on how to arrest immigrants.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency is launching a class for private citizens in Chicago on how to arrest undocumented immigrants.

The course, which begins on September 15 and will run one class a week for six weeks, will train non-agents in firearms, defensive training and how to make ‘targeted arrests.’ ICE plan to roll out the program to cities across the country.

The Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Chicago Citizens Academy is a six-week program modeled after similar trainings held by other law enforcement agencies. ICE will select 10 to 12 participants for the training, which is set to start in September.

Many Chicagoans have received letters inviting them to apply. During the program, according to the letter, “participants will gain insight into the many facets and responsibilities of ICE/ERO operations, and hopefully an awareness and appreciation of the issues our officers face every day in the performance of their duties.”

But immigration activists aren’t buying the story ICE wants to tell.

Several of Chicago’s elected officials have come out strongly against the program, saying there is no room for this academy in the city of Chicago.

“I think it’s outrageous that they are trying to do this in Chicago. This is a sanctuary city that we’ve fought so hard for,” said Alderwoman Rossana Rodriguez, in an interview with Fox 11.

Rodriguez read the letter and said she was concerned about the language in the letter, which reads, in part, “attendees will participate in scenario-based training and exercises conducted in a safe and positive environment, including, but not limited to defensive tactics, firearms familiarization, and targeted arrests.”

“What it sounds like to me is a vigilante academy,” Rodriguez said. “We need to be educating the community so that they don’t sign up for it. I think the city needs to speak out against this programming. This isn’t welcomed in Chicago.”

Congressman Jesús ‘Chuy’ García, wonders if the course is part of ICE’s plan to have neighbors spy on others to see if they’re undocumented and report back to the agency.

Although the program is outrageous, it’s been taking place in Los Angeles for years.

The program was just announced in Chicago last week but it has been in operation for several years in other cities across the country. In fact, Los Angeles – another sanctuary city – has had a similar academy in place since 2016. However, unlike Chicago’s program which will be run by the ERO, LA’s program is managed by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division.

Regardless of who is running the program, many are rightfully worried about its implications. Silky Shah, executive director of Detention Watch Network, said in a statement, “ICE is recruiting an army of ‘citizens’ to fuel its propaganda machine and forge hatred in our communities. The outcome of this program will be more terror unleashed upon immigrant communities and people of color.”

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