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Refugees At This Mexican Border Camp Are Facing A Severe Humanitarian Crisis Thanks To US Immigration Policy

We wish we were writing to tell you that the border camps are closing down. Or at least being investigated as part of the impeachment proceedings. But no, we’re yet to see any official scrutiny into the border camps and their operation. In fact, we’re here to tell you that not only is the US operating these camps and subjecting migrants to some horrific conditions, but Mexico now has some well-established border camps, too.

The main border camp in Mexico is based in Matamoros.

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Reports peg the population of Matamoros at 2,000 migrants. As for the conditions at the camp, well. They are, let’s be honest, squalid at best. Some asylum-seekers are stuck living in tents and tarpaulins, while other sleep in bushes, or just on the streets. It’s common to see asylum seekers bathing in the Rio Grande, which carries its own set of health risks – given that it is known to be contaminated with E.Coli and other unfriendly bacteria. “This is a temporary camp, so nobody is putting infrastructure. There’s no running water … no proper sanitation. There’s no way to wash your hands after you’ve used the washrooms, which are absolutely indescribable,” said the director of Amnesty International UK, Kate Allen, in a recent interview.

Health-wise, the camp is a breeding ground for disease.

Doctors Without Borders said that in a three-week period last month, it completed 178 consultations for things such as hypertension, diabetes, diarrhoea, asthma and a bunch of psychiatric conditions. Over 50 percent of these patients were just children. And sure, health issues are just one of many problems with staying at the camp. Matamoros is known to also have its own issues with the cartels, meaning that refugees make the perfect targets for violence and sexual assaults. 

Even though this is all happening in Mexico, the core of the problem lies with US immigration policy.

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In order to solve the immigration issues happening right before our eyes, we have to first acknowledge the ways in which policy influences the situation. These migrants who are stuck in a hellish limbo in Mexico are suffering the consequences of the Trump administration’s attitudes towards asylum seekers. We’re seeing this not only in the impending Supreme Court judgment that may end the DACA program, but also the shift towards making migrants wait in a “safe third country” for their asylum applications to process.

It’s this very policy that has created what is essentially an international queue of people desperately seeking refuge from violence and natural disasters. The camp at Matamoros is a symptom of much broader issues: applications for asylum in the US need to be processed faster – and refugees should not have to literally live outside until their applications are processed.

Some experts compare the conditions to those found in massive refugee camps of Africa.

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The most stark commentary around the issue has come from Amnesty International Kenya’s executive director, Iruũgũ Houghton. “I’ve been in one of the world’s biggest camps and that’s the Dadaab camp, which is at the northern border of Kenya with Somalia and every time I’m in that space my blood boils. It really just gets to me, the level of injustice and it feels like that [in Matamoros],” said Houghton in an interview with TPR. He also pointed out that Kenya is currently playing host to 468,000 refugees – while the US, a much bigger country with considerably more wealth, has capped their refugee intake to just 18,000 people annually. Sí, amigas, none of this looks good on the international stage.

Unfortunately, this border camp business doesn’t stop at Matamoros, either.

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And no, we’re not talking about the detention centers on the US-side of the border. The migrant population is getting too big for Mexican officials to handle at Matamoros, and so they have launched a new initiative to try to get camp dwellers to move elsewhere. However, the authorities are having a hard time trying to get them to move. So much so, they have threatened to use child protection services to separate migrant families within Mexico, arguing that the current conditions in the Matamoros camp were no place for a child to live. Someone call a doctor: our eyes are rolling so far back in our heads, we’re in danger of losing them altogether.

The government is constructing a new facility nearby but it too will be too small to handle the growing crisis.

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While the new migrant shelter – a converted gymnasium – can house about 300, and is decidedly much more comfortable with its luxury of an actual roof, the migrants at Matamoros are unconvinced. The resounding fear is that, once away from Matamoros, the refugees will not have the same ease of access to aid workers, relief packages, and legal services. Whether those fears are unfounded or not remains to be seen.

ACLU Demands The US Government Come Up With A COVID-19 Response For ICE Detention Centers

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ACLU Demands The US Government Come Up With A COVID-19 Response For ICE Detention Centers

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As the novel coronavirus COVID-19 spreads across the globe, there is one population the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties (ACLUF-SDIC) is trying to protect: migrants. The virus, which is highly contagious, has infected more than 127,000 people across 6 continents. More than 68,000 people have recovered from the virus. To date, more than 4,700 people have died from the disease and the ACLU wants to make sure detained migrants don’t die because of the virus.

The ACLUF-SDIC is calling on the U.S. federal government to create a plan to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in migrant detention centers.

Credit: @ACLU_NorCal / Twitter

The novel coronavirus COVID-19 is spreading across the globe triggering strong reactions from governments seeking to limit the spread. Italy has locked down the country to tell everyone in the country to quarantine.

So far, more than 1,300 people in the U.S have tested positive for COVID-19 and 38 have died. Most of the fatalities were in Washington state where 21 deaths happened in Seattle-area long-care facilities.

The ACLUF-SDIC is calling on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to develop a detailed plan to prevent the spreading of COVID-19 in detention centers.

The ACLUF-SDIC wants a written plan to prove that immigration officials have the migrants’ health in mind.

“ICE detention facilities in San Diego and Imperial counties must act quickly to put in place a comprehensive emergency plan that protects people in their custody from COVID-19,” Monika Langarica, immigrants’ rights staff attorney for the ACLUF-SDIC, is quoted in a release. “The spread of the virus into a detention center would have devastating consequences for the people locked up inside.”

The ACLUF-SIDC is concerned about the inadequate medical care and overcrowding could lead to a serious outbreak of COVID-19 within the detained migrant population.

Other ACLU chapters are calling on ICE to work with migrants to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The ACLU of Louisiana has asked ICE to offer expedited hearings for the elderly detained migrants to preserve their health.

“Given the CDC’s warnings about avoiding confined spaces and the threat COVID-19 poses to the frail and elderly, immediate steps must be taken to safeguard the health and well-being of incarcerated people across the state,” Alanah Odoms Hebert, ACLU of Louisiana executive director is quoted in a statement. “We know that confining people in close quarters increases the risk of infection, but right now thousands of Louisianans are incarcerated based on the mere accusation of a crime and an inability to pay bail. In the interests of public health, we’re calling for expedited parole hearings for the elderly in state prisons and for the immediate release of people who are being jailed pretrial based solely on their inability to pay bail. We look forward to working with state, federal, and local officials to ensure the health and well-being of all people under correctional control in our state.”

For more information about COVID-19 and how you can prevent it, click here.

READ: What To Know About The Coronavirus And How To Prevent It

President Trump’s Border Wall Blew Over In High Winds And Landed On Mexican Territory—Yes, You Read That Right

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President Trump’s Border Wall Blew Over In High Winds And Landed On Mexican Territory—Yes, You Read That Right

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A stretch of President Trump’s infamous border wall that was newly constructed in Calexico, California, collapsed and fell into Mexicalli, Mexico due to strong winds this Wednesday. “We have a very powerful wall,” said the president in November, but judging by the photos of the toppled over structure, it doesn’t really look like it. 

Newly installed panels from the US border wall fell over in high winds Wednesday, landing on trees on the Mexican side of the border.

Agent Carlos Pitones of the Customs and Border Protection sector in El Centro, California, told CNN that the section of the wall that gave into the wind had recently been set in a new concrete foundation in Calexico, California. The concrete had not yet cured, according to Pitones, and the wall panels were unable to withstand the weather conditions.

The structure landed on trees that prevented it from hitting the ground.

Police said it happened a little before 12 p.m. local time. A portion of the wall landed on the trees, preventing it from hitting the ground. It runs about 130 feet in length.

President Trump’s prized border wall succumbed to gusts of less than 40mph.

“Luckily, Mexican authorities responded quickly and were able to divert traffic from the nearby street,” US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent Carlos Pitones said. Nobody is believed to have been injured.

The National Weather Service reported that winds in the area gusted as high as 37 mph Wednesday.

Video from CNN affiliate KYMA shows the metal panels leaning against the trees adjacent to a Mexicali, Mexico, street as the wind whips up dirt from the construction site on the other side of the border.

The fence is part of the Trump administration’s ongoing construction project to stop illegal migration across the 1,954 mile-long (3,145 km) US-Mexico border.

On Tuesday, Mr Trump declared at a campaign event in New Jersey that the wall was “going up at record speed.”A day later, the winds blew a section of newly installed panels against a road in Mexicali, on the Mexican side of the border.

When visiting a section of the wall in California last year, Mr Trump described its concrete and steel slats as “virtually impenetrable.”

Despite three years of slow progress, Trump has pledged to build 450 miles by 2021, in an attempt to boost his electoral chances later this year. While President Trump has often claimed the wall “can’t be climbed”, viral footage has shown multiple people climbing existing portions of the costly barrier, and to-scale replicas, with ease.

Even with funding, the administration will have to fight private landowners whose property may be seized to build barriers along the border.

As well as facing political and legal challenges, the Trump administration has also had to beat physical obstacles, filing three lawsuits towards the end of 2019 as part of efforts to seize US citizens’ property. The Department of Justice has said it’s preparing to file more lawsuits of the same nature, Associated Press reported in November.

The US president claimed he wasn’t familiar with a Washington Post report suggesting smugglers had cut through.

The Post’s report said that smugglers had succeeded in cutting through sections of the border wall using everyday household power tools. “I haven’t heard that. We have a very powerful wall”, President Trump said. “But no matter how powerful, you can cut through anything, in all fairness. But we have a lot of people watching.”

Customs and Border Protection says local Mexicali officials diverted traffic from the area of the accident, and the agency is working with the Mexican government on the next steps to right the wall. Pitones said it is not currently known how long the construction work in the area will need to be suspended in order to allow for cleanup.