Things That Matter

The Smithsonian Is Preserving A Part Of Our Most Shameful History By Exhibiting Drawings From Children In Cages

The Smithsonian National Museum of American History is considering adding pictures drawn by immigrant children in detention centers. The images drawn by detained eight and nine-year-olds were taken and released to the public last week by members of the American Academy of Pediatrics (A.A.P.) who visited migrant children at Catholic respite center in McAllen Texas. The children who had been recently released from Texas detention centers, made drawings done in black and dark green on what appears to be white canvas. Each drawing depicts bars. In one drawing people are depicted sleeping on the floor covered in blankets (most likely rendering of the ‘solar blankets’ issued in the detention centers). In this drawing, a person with a hat, standing at a desk, is depicted in the background.

Another drawing depicts an elaborate rendering of the metal pen used to house migrants, complete with toilets, wire walls, ceiling, and a closed door.

Laura Duff, a spokesperson for the Smithsonian confirmed the museum’s interest in the drawings to NPR stating that their goal for American History collections is to tell the story of American History as it unfolds in order to document the complexities. Brent Glass, director emeritus of the museum, doesn’t believe that exploring the possibility of acquiring detained migrant children’s drawings is a political decision. He said that the American History Museum’s goal is “to inspire people to know more about American history and to hopefully create a more humane society.”

Sara Goza, the incoming president of-of A.A.P., who was invited  by custom officials to tour detention centers in Texas, reported noticing terrible conditions as soon as officials opened the door, “When they opened the door for us to go into the facility, the first thing was the smell — a mixture between urine and sweat and feces,” and she reported seeing children who looked afraid and some wearing blank expressions. One photo of a drawing made by a child at the facility depicts the described blank expressions.

Goza who asserted that the trauma of detainment can have long-lasting emotional effects on children said, “First and foremost, as pediatricians, the A.A.P. is convinced that children don’t belong in Customs and Border Control facilities.”

Still, many Twitter users have taken issue with the museum for considering an exhibit while not putting forth a greater effort to put an end to the detainment of children that is currently taking place.

On the other side of the aisle, of course, are the many Trump supporters who are using these images as an opportunity to put blame on the migrant children’s parents.

One user by the name of Gaston Olvera responded by saying that being interested in drawings won’t do anything to help detained migrant children.

Others have replied with the hope that the images will serve as a reminder.

One user suggested that the drawings should be preserved as a record of the Trump administration’s cruelty:

Others expressed their belief that the images were indulgent.

Coneja called a collection of drawings in the Smithsonian “tragedy porn.”

Sadly, many conservatives are using the display as a moment to criticize those who are most vulnerable and who are being victimized.

@Dreamladakh2 bashed migrants. Perhaps forgetting that he was talking about children, he said, “Yeah let the potential criminals and terrorists come in just because they made a sad painting.”

Many are calling the Smithsonian’s images the equivalent of “fake news.”

And while many, like user @techwiz711, have expressed a belief that the drawings were coerced, saying that “children don’t draw the same unless directed.”

However, according to the article “Child’s Psychology—What Do Your Child’s Drawings and Scribbles Mean?” there are definite patterns and similarities in children’s drawings, similarities that can be analyzed and offer insight into a child’s state of mind.

Perhaps the Smithsonian’s interest in migrant children’s drawing is a case of “too soon,” and if created without the greatest sensitivity, the exhibit could appear to exploit human suffering.  Further information about the drawings and the conditions under which they were created would be important information to provide. However, drawing as a form of therapy, or expressing feelings about harsh experiences, such as the ones detailed in the drawings by migrant children can tell us a lot about the effects of trauma and illustrate how children see and understand a lot more than most adults realize.

Latino War Veteran Files $1 Million Lawsuit Against ICE After Being Detained With American Passport In Possession

Things That Matter

Latino War Veteran Files $1 Million Lawsuit Against ICE After Being Detained With American Passport In Possession

wettoast / Instagram

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and lawyers for Jilmar Ramos-Gomez have filed a $1 million lawsuit against the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The lawsuit claims that the agencies acted in a racist manner when unlawfully detaining Ramos-Gomez, a Latino-American war veteran who had his American passport on his person at the time of his arrest. Last week, Michigan-born Ramos-Gomez won a $190k settlement against the City of Grand Rapids after its City Commission voted unanimously to pay the former marine after Grand Rapids Captain Curt VanderKooi invited an ICE officer to “please check his status.” Ramos-Gomez was then detained in ICE custody for three days, even though police body camera footage shows his American passport in the hands of the law enforcement that transferred him to ICE custody.

The new lawsuit seeks data and policies on all wrongfully detained people and policies and procedures regarding people with mental health issues or disabilities.

Jilmar Ramos-Gomez suffers from PTSD after serving in Afghanistan. 

CREDIT: @CHUCKPFARRER / TWITTER

Ramos-Gomez has received numerous medals for his service, which he served between October 2011 to August 2014 in Afghanistan. Often, Ramos-Gomez will ‘come to’ without having any recollection of what happened. During those PTSD episodes, he acts erratically. In November 2018, Ramos-Gomez allegedly set a small fire at a hospital, pulled a fire alarm and was found on the hospital’s helipad during one of those PTSD episodes. He was promptly arrested and pled guilty to a misdemeanor trespassing charge. Later, off-duty Cpt. VanderKooi saw his face on the local news and emailed an ICE officer, asking him to “please check his status.” When Ramos-Gomez was released from jail, he was transferred into the custody of ICE.

“Jilmar Ramos-Gomez fought and served our country selflessly, yet ICE tried to deport this hometown hero and blatantly disregarded his citizenship, service, and mental health challenges,” said Miriam Aukerman, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan. “Mr. Ramos-Gomez and the public deserve to know why the United States government abused its own citizen and veteran, and how many others have suffered in the same way.”

The ACLU is alleging that ICE detained and tried to deport Ramos-Gomez, even though they had documentation that proved his veteran and citizenship status.

CREDIT: @ALEXHORTONTX / TWITTER

The ACLU obtained body camera footage from the arresting officer that shows Ramos-Gomez’s United States passport in his hands. Later, footage proves that the passport was key in identifying Ramos-Gomez. One officer asked if he had been identified, to which the officer responds, “His passport is down there.” Ramos-Gomez was detained in an ICE detention facility from Dec. 14 to 17 last year. 

“This is flagrant racial discrimination against a United States citizen and decorated combat veteran simply because of the color of his skin,” said Anand Swaminathan, ACLU cooperating attorney and partner at the Chicago law firm Loevy & Loevy. “Ramos-Gomez’s own government ignored his irrefutable proof of citizenship, and cruelly detained him because of his Latinx background.”

What’s worse, Cpt. VanderKooi mocked Ramos-Gomez’s mental illness in an email chain obtained by the ACLU.

CREDIT: ACLU OF MICHIGAN

This wasn’t simply a human error. Cpt. VanderKooi forwarded the email chain to the detective assigned to Ramos-Gomez’s trespassing charge, but changed the subject line to read “Spectrum Helicopter Pad Loco,” according to documents obtained by the ACLU, mocking the veteran’s PTSD as “loco” or “crazy.” “It is not clear what mad intent was involved in this breach of hospital security but here is the report,” Cpt. VanderKooi added in the email. Another police officer forwarded the chain to a prosecutor, who replied, “I am confused. Didn’t his property have a U.S. Passport in it? And he was a veteran?!” The officer simply responded, “Who knows, not sure it was a US passport. … I am not sure about the vet thing.”

The information was there, but it seems the intent to discover the truth was less than the intent to deport this man.

Since ICE tried to deport Ramos-Gomez, he “rarely leaves his home.”

CREDIT: JILMAR RAMOS-GOMEZ / FACEBOOK

According to the ACLU, Ramos-Gomez’s mental health “severely deteriorated” while he was in ICE custody. He and his fellow detainees were “mistreated and ridiculed,” and Ramos-Gomez was hospitalized shortly after his release from custody. It’s been exactly one year to the day since that fateful day Cpt. VanderKooi saw a Latino man’s face on the local news and invited ICE to investigate.  According to the ACLU, Ramos-Gomez “now rarely leaves his home or spends time in his community.”

READ: A Latino Veteran Wins $190K Settlement After Being Detained By ICE While Carrying His US Passport

Neon Indian’s ‘Toyota Man’ Is A Pro-Immigration Anthem That Fans Are Loving And Supporting

Entertainment

Neon Indian’s ‘Toyota Man’ Is A Pro-Immigration Anthem That Fans Are Loving And Supporting

alan_palomo / Instagram

Amidst President Trump’s impeachment hearings, a new protest song is making the rounds online. Except this one sounds more like a festive, satirical and catchy tune; rather than a political critique. Just last week, Neon Indian dropped his first song in Spanish “Toyota Man” after four years of not releasing any new music. The pro-immigration anthem references classics like Selena’s “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” and Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the U.S.A.” The song talks about migrant laborers, the American dream, and DACA recipients in a catchy and witty way. 

Alan Palomo aka Neon Indian dropped his new single last week, “Toyota Man,” with a self-directed video that tells his immigration story. 

Palomo’s video for “Toyota Man” opens with himself standing at the U.S.-Mexico border flipping through cue cards. “Llegamos al apartamento cuatro de un tío después que cruzamos el río en Reynosa.”  Born in Monterrey, Mexico, the Chillwave singer tells the story of his crossing the border through Reynosa on to San Antonio and Austin. Once in ‘el otro lado’ he gets hired to wash Toyota trucks. The musician takes a rag to a red vehicle in what could be an ode to American underground experimental filmmaker, Kenneth Anger’s “Kustom Kar Kommandos,” 

Fiestas, piñatas, tacos, and abuelas, the satirical video is all about representing Alan Palomo’s Mexican culture.

Credit: Neon Indian / YouTube

At a backyard party featuring the classic taquiza and piñatas, a  Trump-shaped piñata comes to life and makes a run for it. The 45th president  duels with an abuela, and gets chased by children to the sound of the chorus “Venimos a estudiar, queremos trabajar, y aunque lo quieran negar, todos somos Americanos” Spanish for “we come to study, we want to work and even if they want to deny it, we’re all American.” There’s also a puppet show about migrant labor, a cowboy giving birth to cars and a lot more weird stuff going on before the Trump-ñata gets hits by a car and spills green cards all over the road.

The pro-immigrant anthem speaks to the American dream.

Credit: alan_palomo / Instagram

Palomo calls out Uncle Sam for all the obstacles the U.S. government has put in place to ensure that immigrants find it hard to achieve success and stability. He talks about citizenship trials, labor rights violations, ’Aquí tu no cuentas igual,’ he sings. “Though my music has always been generally apolitical,” Alan Palomo said in a statement to Pitchfork, “I realized when recording this song that it was impossible to write biographically (in the rhetorical context of the Trump administration) without being entirely that: political. The story of my family, which before felt commonly American, was suddenly politicized.”

Palomo’s first song in Spanish, “Toyota Man” takes from a variety of both Mexican and American classic tunes.

Credit: alan_palomo / Instagram

The beat of the Mexican folk song “La Cucaracha,” plays in the riff of ‘Toyota Man’. Palomo mentions “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Selena’s “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” and Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the U.S.A.” “Te tienes que aguantar hasta que no te puedan deportar, asi es este party in the U.S.A.”

But above all, ‘Toyota Man’ is a satirical pro-immigration Latino song.

Credit: alan_palomo / Instagram

“Recognizing the absurdity of it all,” said Palomo in a statement, “I thought it would be refreshing to address the social narrative around immigration through comedy — nods to Benny Hill, misremembered San Antonio car commercials, and School House Rock. My family and I had a ton of fun making this and I hope it’s equally as fun to watch.”

“Toyota Man” is Neon Indian’s first track since his 2015 album.

Credit: alan_palomo / Instagram

The track is Palomo’s first new single since his 2015 album, “VEGA INTL. Night School” and his all-star Prince tribute in 2016. The tone and sound of his new song “Toyota Man,” hints at a new direction for the indie-rock artist. He’s talked about singing in his native language for a while, and if this track is any indication, perhaps we can expect more personal, political works from Neon Indian, and hopefully, a new album is in the works.

Neon Indian is nearing the end of a fall U.S. tour that wraps up on Nov. 29 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

READ: These Drug Smugglers Left The Internet Laughing At Their Less Than Intelligent Attempts At Smuggling Drugs