Things That Matter

Amid Accusations Of Detained Women Drinking From Toilets And Sexual Abuse, Trump Says His Guards ‘Love’ Detainees

There are now multiple reports on the conditions in migrant detention centers housing children and adults: overcrowding, people sleeping on floors using ‘solar blankets’ for warmth in centers that were only designed for adult men staying from just a few hours to no more than seventy-two hours, not weeks and months on end.

The drinking water fountains in these facilities are a standard-issue, combination drinking-fountain, and toilet unit. 

The fountain makes up the top portion of the toilet where people urinate and defecate.

This way anyone in need of drinking water must lean over the top of the toilet to reach the fountain in a cell designed for one or two.

This morning in a press conference on the White House lawn, the president accused Alexandra Ocasio Cortez, who visited detention centers in Clint and El Paso Texas last week of lying about conditions. His accusation was made in response to claims AOC made about migrants drinking from toilets at detention centers in her testimony to the Senate Oversight Committee.

‘To have Ocasio say that they’re drinking out of toilets? She made that up, okay?’

‘That’s a phony story. She made it up,’ said the president to reporters.

Trump also stated that ICE agents ‘love’ migrants.

‘I have been with ICE and I’ve been with border patrol a lot,’ he said. ‘They love those people coming across the border. They love them, and I’ve seen it. They love them.’ 

While some are citing inconsistencies in AOC’s Tweets about detention center access to clean drinking water, it is clear that the combination drinking-fountain toilet, and use of the word “toilet” to describe it, could mean that both the president, who has not visited the detention centers, and AOC’s war of words is a matter of semantics.

On July 1, after leaving one detention center, AOC, did report that she was told by detainees that on occasions when the sinks do not work guards have told them to drink from the toilet bowl itself.

Congresswoman Madeline Dean who also toured the migrant detention centers reported similar conditions: “15 women in their 50s-60s sleeping in a small concrete cell, no running water. Weeks without showers. All of them separated from their families.”

As did Congresswoman Judy Chu who reported that women were told by guards to drink from the toilet.

In an interview that aired on NPR’s Fresh Air Tuesday, national immigration reporter for the New York Times, Catilin Dickerson, did not discuss drinking water but she did detail the unsanitary conditions in the centers, or hieleras, as they are referred to by migrants, for their uncomfortably cold temperatures inside.

In the interview with WHYY’s Dave Davies, she discussed how she was told that the temperatures are kept low to prevent the spread of communicable diseases, but Dickerson believes there’s another reason for the low temperatures has to do with the smell created by bad conditions and overcrowding:

“I know that one other factor the agents consider is the smell. These facilities tend to smell really, really bad, and they smell even worse when the temperatures are higher because people aren’t showering. And so their body odor gets worse, and I think that’s a factor as well. And we’re not talking about your standard-issue body odor. I mean, again, it’s emanating from people who haven’t been allowed to shower for weeks, and so agents describe the smell actually seeping into their clothes so that when they go home or they go out into the community, people don’t want to stand near them because that’s how powerful it is.”

It remains unclear whether the president’s attack on AOC is a matter of semantics regarding the combination drinking-fountain toilet.

Or, whether his reasons for accusing AOC of lying is a tactic designed to distract from the undeniably terrible conditions and overcrowding in the detention centers. What is clear is how this issue and AOC have become a Twitter lightning rod.

Brian Tyler Cohen responded to AOC’s  Congress Oversight Committee testimony by quoting her, and at least one hundred people responded in just a couple of hours.

 “@AOC: “I believe these women. I believed the canker sores that I saw in their mouths. I believed when they said they were sleeping on concrete floors. And what was worse was the fact that there were American flags hanging all over these facilities.”

Aaron Brodock responded, “That’s what happens when you break the law and enter the country illegally you get held in a detention center not a 5-star hotel! Don’t break the law, don’t enter our country illegally = no detention center it’s really quite simple.”

Many have responded to the situation saying that it’s not illegal to seek asylum.

This, however, women drinking out of toilets, is an absolute disgrace.

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