Things That Matter

This US Citizen Was Just Released From ICE Custody Where He Was Detained For More Than Three Weeks And Like How Is This Happening?

QasimRashid / Twitter

An American teenager who was detained by U.S. immigration authorities for almost a month, despite being a citizen, was finally released on Tuesday. Francisco Erwin Galicia, 18, who was born in Dallas, Texas, spent 23 days in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection in conditions that he called “inhumane”. Galicia says he lost over 25 pounds during his time in a Texas immigrant detention center because officers there didn’t give him enough food. The conditions were so bad he reportedly almost opted to self-deport himself. 

So how did a legal U.S. citizen get detained by border officials and for this long?

Credit: @Qasimrashid / Twitter

Francisco had been traveling with a group of friends and his 17-year-old brother Marlon, who was born in Mexico and does not have legal status, from Southern Texas to Ranger College for a soccer event back on June 27th. That afternoon, the group came across a border patrol checkpoint where they were asked for documentation.

Marlon said he had passed through previous checkpoints without having to present paperwork but immigration agents handled things stricter this time around. While Marlon only had his had his school ID, Francisco had a Texas ID, a Social Security card, and his birth certificate. But that still wasn’t enough. 

According to CBS News, Francisco was detained because he did not have his passport and CBP agents suspected that his documents were forged. After collecting his fingerprints, they found out that Francisco had a U.S. tourist visa in his name that read that his birthplace was in Mexico. 

“They thought they were fake,” Francisco told ABC Dallas affiliate WFAA in an interview Tuesday. “I had all my papers, but they still didn’t believe me. I don’t know the reason why.”

His mother Sanjuana, who is an undocumented citizen, had gotten him the visa while he was still a minor and falsely listed his birthplace because she thought it was the only way he could travel to Mexico to visit family.

The brothers would eventually get separated and Francisco would be sent to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center. 

Credit: @weau13news / Twitter

Marlon would sign a voluntary deportation form after two days in detention and would be placed with his grandmother in Mexico. But his brother would stay under CBP custody for three more weeks where he would endure harsh conditions. Despite Francisco’s lawyer, Claudia Galan, bringing the necessary documentation, including his birth certificate, to border officials, he was not released. The reasoning was the conflicting paperwork he originally presented. 

At the detention facility, Francisco was not allowed to make phone calls or even shower. “I told them we had rights and asked to make a phone call. But they told us, ‘You don’t have rights to anything’,” Francisco Galicia told the Dallas News.

Things would only get worse from there for Francisco.

Credit: @marshallproject / Twitter

Francisco described to the Dallas News about the conditions in CBP detention and how bad things got during his more than three week stay there. He says he heard about the tough conditions on TV but was completely different to go through it himself. 

“It’s one thing to see these conditions on TV and in the news. It’s another to go through them,” Galicia said.

He says he was crammed into an overcrowded holding area with 60 other men and all had to sleep on the floor and were given only aluminum-foil blankets as cover. Some men even slept on the bathroom floor. They were also bitten by ticks and many got sick throughout his stay. He said that many of the men were too afraid to ask officers to see a doctor because they said they had been told their stay would “start over” if they did.

After a total of 23 days in detention in CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities, Francisco was finally released this past Tuesday. Now, many are looking for answers not only about his detention but the horrid conditions the 18-year-old described.

Credit: @lauraswift79 / Twitter

CBP and ICE officials have yet to respond to Galicia’s claims of poor conditions at the holding facility but did issue a joint statement Wednesday about detaining him. 

“Generally, situations including conflicting reports from the individual and multiple birth certificates can, and should, take more time to verify,” the statement read. “While we continue to research the facts of the situation, this individual has been released from ICE custody. Both CBP and ICE are committed to the fair treatment of migrants in our custody and continue to take appropriate steps to verify all facts of this situation.”

Many on social media were angry to find out the conditions in the detention facilities. One user on Twitter questioned how this could happen, especially to a legal U.S. citizen. 

“This is heartbreaking & ridiculous!  How can we treat other human beings this way & be okay with it?!?!?!  Makes me sick to my stomach.  #humanityFirst  Francisco Erwin Galicia says he wasn’t allowed to shower for 23 days in ICE custody.”

Despite all this, Francisco’s mother said she’s just glad to have her son back home with his family. 

“I’m just so thankful to God and to everyone who spoke up about my son’s situation. she said. “I’m glad to have him back home, but I need my other son back.”

READ: An Autopsy Reveals Harrowing New Details About A Guatemalan Teen Who Died In Border Patrol Custody

ICE Targets Immigrant Helpline After It Appears In Episode Of ‘Orange Is The New Black’ Proving The Cruelty Is The Point

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ICE Targets Immigrant Helpline After It Appears In Episode Of ‘Orange Is The New Black’ Proving The Cruelty Is The Point

@cmargalaz / Twitter

In it’s seventh and final season, Orange Is The New Black aired a storyline to shed light on the dehumanizing features of immigration detention centers. However, there was a glimmer of hope presented in the fictional Netflix series: a hotline for immigrant detainees that provided free lawyers. Best of all, the hotline existed in real life. It’s not crazy to think that the level of exposure the show provided for the hotline could literally save lives. 

But even on the show, use of the hotline came with a warning: “You have to be careful, though. Apparently, if they figure out that you’re using the hotline, Big Brother shuts it down,” Gloria warns Maritza in the seventh season. 

In a chilling twist, consistent with the Trump administration’s war against immigrants, two weeks after the series aired, the hotline was shut down. It’s nothing short of gut-wrenching. 

Immigration advocates want answers. 

The California group Freedom for Immigrants, an organization that runs visitation programs in detention centers nationally and who provides the hotline, believes ICE’s decision to shut down the hotline was a direct response to Maritza’s immigration storyline. 

On Thursday, Freedom for Immigrants responded to the shutdown with a cease and desist letter. The letter claims that termination of the hotline is a violation of free speech and is retaliation by the government. Over 100 organizations and six actors from Orange is the New Black signed the letter addressed to ICE Director Matthew Albence. 

“Even a freely given benefit such as the pro bono hotline can’t be taken away simply because the government is now unhappy with how we are sharing with the public what we know from our communications with people inside,” said Christina Fialho, co-executive director of Freedom for Immigrants.

Maritza’s story is too familiar.

Diane Guerrero who portrays Martiza in the show has been an outspoken advocate of immigration reform. Born to undocumented immigrants from Colombia, Guerrero, who is a citizen, stayed in the U.S. after her family was deported when she was 14. She told her story in the memoir In the Country We Love. Just as it is for most Latinxs living in the U.S., immigration for Guerro is clearly personal. 

When Maritza’s character is essentially left for dead at an immigration detention center, she is told about the Freedom for Immigrants hotline by Gloria. The hotline was toll-free, a pivotal detail because immigrants don’t have the right to a free phone call after they are detained. Heroically, the duo passed the hotline number to other detainees. It was a small act of liberation, as was featuring it on the show. 

Abolish ICE.

ICE told the organization that that tollfree numbers for pro bono attorneys and organizations require approval by the Executive Office for Immigration Review. Funny, it was never an issue before. Almost seems like this administration is actively seeking legal loopholes to be as cruel and callous toward immigrants as possible. Freedom for Immigrants has provided the hotline since 2013. The organization received as many as 14,000 calls a month from detainees and is run by volunteers who connect immigrants with free lawyers. Losing this service will have a cascading negative impact on immigrants and their loved ones.

The cruelty is the point.

Meanwhile, the ACLU is suing the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana for the unlawful jailing of Ramon Torres. Despite providing his passport, social security card, and driver’s license to police officers to prove his citizenship, he was jailed for four days. The Sherriff’s Office deputies told Torres that every Hispanic person was being automatically held for immigration review. Yes, they’re rounding us up. Because we know, because we been knew, this was never about immigration status. This has always been about race. 

“Ramon Torres was held in jail for four days simply because he has brown skin and a Latino name,” ACLU of Louisiana legal director Katie Schwartzmann said. “This is racial profiling, which is unconstitutional and deeply harmful to our communities. What happened to Mr. Torres is inexcusable. Locking people up based on race or ethnicity is antithetical to our most cherished American values.”

We won’t be silenced.

There’s no sugar-coating what is happening in the United States. While it has never been the American Dream we were promised, now it is increasingly dangerous to be Latinx in America. Our stories and visibility matter most of all during this time. Art has the power to enlighten and normalize experiences. Art has a way of bringing the unseen to the forefront. This usually activates its viewers for the better. However, we have an administration that lacks any and all humanity. “Now we see life mimic art in the most destructive way,” she said. “I wish this were more of a fictional situation and we were exaggerating reality, but it’s kind of the other way around,” said Laura Gomez who plays Blanca, another character who falls victim to ICE on the show.

The Homestead Detention Center Just Transferred Out All Migrants Kids But May Welcome New Ones As Soon As October

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The Homestead Detention Center Just Transferred Out All Migrants Kids But May Welcome New Ones As Soon As October

V Kilpatrick / Pinterest

You’d be forgiven for thinking that maybe the Trump administration was reconsidering the way it was treating migrant children who are crossing the boarder. Especially since earlier this month, we’d reported that the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in Miami, Florida, was to close. However, it looks like Homestead is set to reopen again – as soon as this October.

Well, that didn’t last long.

Pinterest / Jordan Malone

The beginning of the month saw the last of the children, who were detained at the facility, removed. While it’s difficult to say exactly how many children were originally housed at the detention center due to the overcrowding that’s taken place across holding facilities nationwide, it’s thought that there were between 2700 to 3000 children staying at Homestead. Part of the reason why Caliburn International, the company that runs Homestead, was instructed to reduce its detainees in the first place was due to government compliance issues. That is, the government had introduced new standards in preparation for hurricane season.

We still don’t know where the previous group of children went after leaving Homestead.

Pinterest / Chance Vintage

Even though the children were removed, it’s not clear what happened to the children once they’d left Homestead. The fact Caliburn International is a for-profit company and still required staff to show up for work, despite there being no detainees, has also clouded the issue. At the time of writing, reports say that while 1,700 employees had been dismissed due to the center officially closing, more than 2,500 kept their jobs. It’s not clear what they’re doing at Homestead while they await new inmates.

And because Homestead is an influx center, it doesn’t require a state license. 

Twitter / @marwilliamson

Typically speaking, influx centers are essentially designed to house a large number of inmates, in case the government suddenly finds itself inundated by asylum seekers. These centers are only intended for short stays, which is why they can legally hold a larger number of detainees. Otherwise, Homestead’s population would be capped at 500 children. And while we’re on the subject of numbers – temporary facilities like Homestead are actually more expensive, in the long run. They cost the government around $775 a day per child, while permanent shelters run at about $250 per day per child. Nice to know everyone’s tax dollars are being spent wisely.

Is this all starting to should kinda familiar to you? Yea, us too.

Pinterest / PolitcusUSA

If you’ve been paying attention to the news, it should. The US government recently argued in federal court that it shouldn’t have to provide things like toothbrushes and soap to detainees, since they were only being temporarily housed in the facility in Clint, Texas. Spoiler alert: the judges didn’t buy that argument, since inmates are being held for months at a time at these facilities. Again, these places that don’t provide basic necessities for inmates are more expensive to run than a more permanent facilities. 

But, we digress.

Pinterest / Chance Vintage

Oddly enough, even though Homestead is set to open again in October, Caliburn’s contract expires November 30. At this stage, it’s unclear whether the company will see the contract renewed, or whether a new contract will be opened up to competitive bidding. Apparently the original contract with Caliburn was awarded without competition, which was done so around the same time John Kelly, Trump’s ex-chief of staff, joined the company’s board of advisers. Bueno.

All of this shows that it’s still business as usual.

Pinterest / V kilpatrick

At the same time, even if the contract for Homestead was open to competitive bidding, it’s unlikely that much would change at the facility for the children who will be staying there. Companies and non-profits that promote asylum seeker’s rights and would likely provide safe and comfortable facilities have little interest in bidding for such contracts, since the very policies motivating them are diametrically opposed to the espoused values of these organizations. 

At the end of the day, this is all semantics. Because while it’s definitely important that we examine the ways that we detain migrants, and ensure that everyone receives due process, we’re not asking the most important question of all: should we even be detaining children for seeking asylum?

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