Things That Matter

Trump Administration Will Stop Treating Sick Migrants Deporting Them Back To Their Home Countries

Last year, the Trump administration stunned the world by announcing an unprecedented “zero-tolerance” immigration policy. Prior to this, families entering the United States without documentation were held together while awaiting their hearing. The new and inhumane policy forcefully separated children from their parents with no exception and led to overcrowding at detention centers.

The Trump administration has a documented record of not caring for migrants’ health and wellbeing.

Credit: @NBCInvestigates / Twitter

Slowly and surely, the Trump administration is finding ways to dismantle and remove protections for the undocumented community. This week, another unprecedented and inhumane restriction was announced. The federal government is now ending the “medical deferred action” policy, which allowed immigrants – who have a serious medical condition, such as cancer – to remain protected in the United States without risk of deportation.

Under the policy, the patient and immediate caregiver/parent were able to apply for medical stay with proof that treatment was unavailable in the country of origin. Stay was then granted for two-years at a time, which included a work permit for the family member that accompanied the patient.

Now, the Trump administration is reversing a policy that offered migrants a stay from deportation for medical issues.

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Earlier this month, without warning, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office (a division of the United States Department of Homeland Security) began sending out rejection letters to families protected under this program who had sent in their renewal applications, notifying them they have 33 days to leave the country or face deportation. In addition, the USCIS claims they will no longer be accepting new applications either.

The only exceptions to the new policy change are for those in the military and those protected under DACA.

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This could be the difference between life and death for many. Like the case of 16-year Jonathan Sanchez, who is receiving treatment for cystic fibrosis. He and his family are from Honduras, where his parents lost a daughter to the same illness. When Jonathan was a baby, his parents sent in blood samples to the United States in hopes of receiving medical treatment and saving his life. In 2016 they were able to apply and were granted permission to enter the United States under the medical deferral program. Jonathan has now been receiving treatment over the last three years. He is waiting to hear news of his renewal.

WBUR-FM, Boston’s NPR affiliate was the first to break the story a few days ago when the Irish International Immigrant Center began receiving the rejection letters.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, the USCIS department has announced that all applications will now be rerouted and processed through Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) whose mission is to deport immigrants. 

Now attorneys are unsure of which way to advise clients because an attempt to fight this change in order to save the life of your child, will now put you and your child in direct risk of possible deportation.

The current acting director of USCIS is Ken Cuccinelli, who was quoted as wanting to alter the words on the Statue of Liberty to instead read “Give me your tired and your poor… who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.” Cuccinelli is dedicated to “keeping Trump’s promises” and is currently hard at work finding ways to make life more difficult by denying green cards and visas to immigrants that, currently have or will need, public assistance including food stamps, housing vouchers, and Medicaid. Which implies that only wealthy immigrants would be “welcome.”

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of USCIS, is standing by Trump’s policies.

Credit: @USCISCuccinelli / Twitter

“If they don’t have future prospects of being legal permanent residents without welfare, that will be counted against them,” Cuccinelli has stated.

So I guess he’s just going to ignore that whole “give me your tired, you POOR…” part of the Statue of Liberty and American history.

But applications are now being routed to ICE and the man behind that department is, Matthew Albence, the newly appointed Acting Director.

Albence has made controversial statements, like doubling down on his comments during his testimony in 2018, where he stated that the experience in the detention centers – that children are being held in – was comparable to summer camp.

One year later, we now know the truth of the horrific and inhumane conditions the camps are actually in.

But what is most concerning about the man behind ICE, is that in 2017, when he was part of Homeland Security and reported to Secretary John Kelly, Albence actually went a step further than the new Trump administration had instructed. At the time, the directive was to pretty much the same as the original purpose of the organization to “focus on apprehending illegal immigrants that had committed crimes or posed a security risk.”

Except Albenece decided to send out his own memo to agents: “Effective immediately, ERO officers will take enforcement action against all removable aliens encountered in the course of their duties.” This gave the green light for agents to hunt down anyone they “think” is undocumented, regardless of having committed a crime or not. 

The head of ACLU Massachusetts has already vowed to that they will fight the medical deferred policy change in court.

What is hopeful is that we are not in this fight alone. The ACLU and MALDEF (and many other organizations) are leading the fight against this administration. What we can do, for those of us that can, is to go out there and vote, stay engaged and follow local and state elections as well. Those that we elect on the local and state level are the people that will ultimately fight or support the current laws and restrictions sent down from the federal government, so choose wisely.

READ: Experts Are Warning The U.S. Supreme Court About The Economic Impacts Of Rescinding DACA Protections

US Immigration Policy Is Causing Scenes Like This One: A Refugee Camp Facing A Severe Humanitarian Crisis

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US Immigration Policy Is Causing Scenes Like This One: A Refugee Camp Facing A Severe Humanitarian Crisis

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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.

Credit: Erin.sheridan / Instagram

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.

Credit: lorenelliottphoto / Instagram

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.

Indigenous People In Guatemala Marched On Their Capitol In Support Of Evo Morales

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Indigenous People In Guatemala Marched On Their Capitol In Support Of Evo Morales

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South America’s poorest country, Bolivia, is in the midst of a political crisis, and Guatemala’s indigenous people are marching in solidarity with ousted Bolivian President Evo Morales. After the Guatemalan government joined the United States in recognizing extreme right self-appointed Jeanine Anez as the interim president of Bolivia, Guatemala’s indigenous people expressed their outrage in an organized protest. Hundreds of indigenous people marched in Guatemala’s capital Thursday to protest the change of government, which they view as a coup d’etat of Bolivia’s first indigenous president. With a “Brother Evo, Guatemala is with you” banner in hand, the protesters marched toward a heavily guarded US embassy. The next day, Morales announced that he won’t be “taking part in new elections.”

Before Morales rose to the presidency, he was a campesino activist, representing indigenous traditions and customs under attack by the US government. “We are repudiating the discriminatory and racist coup d’etat that took place in Bolivia,” said Mauro Vay, march organizer and head of Guatemala’s Rural Development Committee. 

Protesters proudly waved the wiphala flags, an indigenous symbol of solidarity.

CREDIT: @UKREDREVOLUTION / TWITTER

This man held an image that told the story of a thousand words. As a child, Evo Morales’ family were subsistence farmers, which allowed him to enjoy a basic education. He later moved to grow coca, the raw plant used to make cocaine. During the U.S.’ “War on Drugs,” coca farmers were under attack. Morales rose to defend the campesinos from what he called an imperialist violation of indigenous culture. His protests may have led to several arrests, but his notoriety grew to elect him to Congress as the leader of the Movement for Socialism (MAS) party. 

In Paraguay, Bolivian ex-patriates went up against the police to rehang the wiphala flag at the Bolivian embassy.

CREDIT: @WILL_J_COSTA / TWITTER

Several indigenous residents of Paraguay arrived at the Bolivian embassy to hang the Wiphala flag, which was reportedly taken down. They faced police resistance but eventually succeeded. The next day, the flag was removed. 

In 2005, Morales ran against former President Carlos Mesa and won, becoming the first indigenous president of Bolivia. 

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Then, it gets murky. By the time his first term was over, MAS rewrote their constitution to lift the one-term limit on presidents. Morales ran for a second term and won. Even though he claimed he wouldn’t run for a third term, Morales claimed the first term didn’t count because it was completed under the old constitution.  So he ran again and won for the third time. In October 2019, Morales ran for his fourth term, and won by a small margin, prompting a recount.

Just 24 hours into the recount, Morales ordered the recount to an end and declared himself president over his opponent, former president Mesa. the Organization of American States (OAS) conducted an audit that flagged the election as possibly fraudulent.

The OAS is not in the service of the people of Latin America, less so the social movements. The OAS is at the service of the North American empire,” Morales later said. Still, protests erupted across the country.

In a quickly developing government coup, military chiefs removed Morales.

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On Nov. 10, General Williams Kaliman, the commander of Bolivia’s armed forces, decided, along with other military chiefs, that Morales should step down. Morales tweeted, “I denounce to the world and the Bolivian people that a police officer publicly announced that he is instructed to execute an illegal arrest warrant against me; likewise, violent groups assaulted my home. A coup destroys the rule of law.” He added, “After looting and trying to set fire to my house in Villa Victoria, vandalism groups of the Mesa and Camacho coup docked my home in the Magisterio neighborhood of Cochabamba. I am very grateful to my neighbors, who stopped those raids. A coup destroys peace.”

Mexico offered him asylum and sent a plane to escort Morales to Mexico City.

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“This was my first night after leaving the presidency, forced by the coup of Mesa and Camacho with the help of the Police. There I remembered my times as a leader. Very grateful to my brothers from the federations of the Tropic of Cochabamba for providing security and care,” Morales tweeted. Right-wing Christian opponent, Luis Fernando Camacho, also called “Bolivia’s Bolsonaro,” led violent protests against Morales and his Indigenous supporters, burning Bolivia’s Indigenous Wiphala flag. 

Mexico, Cuba, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Argentina have maintained that his removal from office was a coup. The United States, led by a right-wing president, has recognized Bolivia’s interim right-wing president as valid.

Morales announced Friday that he won’t run for president in the reelection “for the sake of democracy.”

CREDIT: @VERSOBOOKS / TWITTER

Morales resigned Sunday after protests left four people dead. “For the sake of democracy, if they don’t want me to take part, I have no problem not taking part in new elections,” Morales told Reuters while remaining in asylum. “I just wonder why there is so much fear of Evo,” he offered.

READ: A US-Backed Opposition Leader Has Declared Herself President Of Bolivia Amid Outrage At Her Comments About Indigenous Bolivians