Things That Matter

Finally, The US Congress Will Launch An Investigation Into The Medical Care Migrants Are Getting In Detention Centers

Even though the United States migration and legal bureaucracy was perhaps not ready to process the number of undocumented migrants and asylum seekers that have crossed the border throughout the years, there is a basic duty of care (and a basic level of humanity) towards them.

While migrants are under United State custody, particularly if this happens over extended periods of time and even more so if the housing of detainees is subcontracted to a private company, it is the State’s responsibility to provide medical care and prevention that guarantees detainee health and relative well being.

In recent years, Global North countries have taken different approaches to migrant care. Canada and some Scandinavian countries, for instance, are welcoming and refugee status is given while the person waits for a resolution on their case. But countries like Australia and the United States are now infamous for the sometimes inhumane treatment that migrants receive. In the case of Australia, undocumented migrants not even reach Australian soil as they are treated in the offshore detentions centers of Naru and Manus Island, where conditions have been describes as horrific. 

In the past four years the living conditions and medical care provided (or denied in the worst cases) to migrant detainees in the United States has worsened and stories come out every day of outbreaks, disease and mental health crisis suffered by those who tried to enter the United States without documents. Now Congress is taking a deeper look at these claims and has requested documents from ICE officials after a whistleblower’s memo claimed that the government “has systematically provided inadequate medical and mental health care and oversight to immigration detainees across the U.S.”.

There is evidently something wrong with the medical care provided to immigrant detainees and now Congress is looking into it con lupa.

The investigation was launched by The House Oversight and Reform Committee and will look into a whistleblower’s claim that the medical care given to detainees is substandard and actually endangers their lives. The investigation committee has demanded that the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials hand over documents to assess the extent of the problem.

The letters are signed by Rep. Jamie Raskin, the chair of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and addressed to Matthew Albence (acting ICE director) and Cameron Quinn (DHS officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties or CRCL). The request reads: “The Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is writing to request documents and information relating to reports of gross negligence by medical staff treating detainees in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).”

Gross negligence is a very big deal and is perhaps some of the strongest wording that Congress has used to refer to the Trump administration’s dealing of immigration detention. 

Detainee deaths have become the status quo and volunteer doctors are not allowed to administer flu shots – that is just messed up.

Credit: Salma De Los Santos / AP

The situation has gotten from bad to worse. The death of migrant children while in detention is sadly not a surprise to anyone anymore. Doctors want to provide flu shots to children in detention to prevent outbreaks and are forbidden to do so by officials. Mental health problems are running rampant and death by suicide is also increasing. By all accounts this is a health crisis.

As reported by BuzzFeed News, now Congress wants to lift every rug and examine the dirt lying underneath: “Raskin also called for documents on other allegations of improper medical care, all communications between ICE and CRCL discussing the medical care of detainees, internal death reviews, and any documents justifying personnel actions of individuals who worked for ICE and documented improper care or discussing retaliation against such an individual.”

This will surely be a lengthy and costly process as the animosity between the Democrat-led Congress and the White House reaches a boiling point post-impeachment. 

The Department of Homeland Security has already provided Congress with 5,000 pages of documents… talk about an information dump!

The whistleblower’s memo depicts a terrifying situation on which negligence, for example, led to the death of a migrant by meningitis. Others have told officials that they would kill themselves and then do that without any preventive measures taken by authorities. A man became so mentally unstable that he lacerated his own penis. DHS said in a statement: “DHS is committed to the highest standard of care. We have more than 200 medical professionals on the border and are continually updating our policies and procedures.”

The battle to prove the claims will be an uphill legal battle. In the meantime, Congress’ investigation will be a de facto validation for human rights activists who have asked for closer supervision for months. 

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