Things That Matter

Another Migrant Tragically Died In US Custody Leaving Behind An 11-Year-Old Daughter

The recent geopolitical crisis derived from migration to the United States and how detainees are treated by the U.S. authorities at detention centers and in courts has produced some really harrowing stories. Journalistic narratives of the U.S. southern border are full of despair, some slivers of hope and plenty of solidarity from activists and some voices in Washington. Yet, migrants keep dying under U.S. custody at a fast rate. The number of casualties is increasing and some point to the conditions of detention and provision of basic services for migrants.

A 32-year-old man from El Salvador died in front of his 11-year-old daughter.

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The first question that pops into our heads is whether these deaths are preventable. Reports from U.S. detention facilities are increasingly Dantesque and speak of a true humanitarian catastrophe. The most recent death is horrific. As The Independent reported on August 2, 2019: “A 32-year-old Salvadoran man who was travelling with his 11-year-old daughter has died at a border detention center in New Mexico.” Rest in peace Marvin Antonio González from El Salvador. 

Marvin Antonio González had been taken by the U.S. Border Patrol.

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Like many of his compatriotas, González was fleeing unprecedented levels of violence in El Salvador, where the Maras and other gangs rule under an iron, bloody fist. USA Today reports: “The man had been taken into custody by Border Patrol agents at about 9 p. m. Wednesday and was being processed at the Lordsburg station Thursday morning ‘when he fell into medical distress,’ U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement”

Back in July Mexican Pedro Arriago-Santoya also died while in custody.

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González’s death echoes far too many similar cases in recent months. As Kristin Lam wrote in USA Today: “In custody since April, Arriago-Santoya told immigration authorities he felt stomach pain on July 20, leading a nurse practitioner to send him via ambulance to a hospital in Cuthbert. Medical staff suspected he had gall bladder disease, ICE said, and, the next day, sent him to the hospital where he died for surgery consultation”. 

And also a Nicaraguan man, and a Honduran, and a Cuban have died in U.S. custody.

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After a terrible and dangerous journey, and in dire conditions in detention facilities, some migrants’ bodies simply give up. A 52-year-old man from Nicaragua died in a Border Patrol facility in Tucson back in July. This is the same fate suffered by a Honduran 30-year-old on June 30. As reported by CNN: “Yimi Alexis Balderramos-Torres entered ICE custody on June 6 and less than two weeks later was transferred to the Houston Contract Detention Facility in Houston, Texas. On June 30, he was found unresponsive in his dormitory and attempts to revive him were unsuccessful, ICE said”. 

Casualties tell stories of despair from around the world.

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But Mexico and Central America are not the only places where migrants are being mourned. Other detainees to die in ICE custody since November 2018 include a 58-year-old Cuban man; two Russians, a 40-year-old man and a 56-year-old man; a 54-year-old Mexican man; and a 21-year-old Indian national. Also a 25-year-old Salvadoran transgender woman, Jonathan Alberto “Johana” Medina Leon, who died in the agency’s custody in early June.

This was ICE’s response: se lavan las manos, como quien dice.

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Even though some members of Congress and a few journalists have witnessed the conditions of these detention facilities, ICE tends to be hermetic. ICE released a statement upon Arriago-Santoya’s death, saying: “ICE is firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody and is undertaking a comprehensive agency-wide review of this incident, as it does in all such cases. Fatalities in ICE custody, statistically, are exceedingly rare and occur at a small fraction of the rate of the U. S. detained population as a whole”. Still, one death is a death too many!

Some minors have also died, and this is just not okay.

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Let’s get this straight: for many, illegal migration is the last attempt at keeping oneself and one’s family safe. CNN reported on another sad, painful death back on July 18: “One of the migrants was a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy who died while being held in custody by US Customs and Border Protection. He was diagnosed with the flu after complaining about feeling poorly. An official with the agency said that Border Patrol agents picked up Tamiflu, the prescribed treatment. But later he was found unresponsive at the Weslaco Border Patrol Station in Texas, although his cause of death is still unknown”. 

Critics have slammed the current administration for the condition in which migrants are kept in detention centers.

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Migrant deaths are a thorny political issue and will surely influence the 2020 presidential elections. Members of the media are blasting the Trump administration over the crisis. Renee Graham wrote for The Boston Globe on July 10: “It’s well documented how hard life is in these camps, but his base doesn’t care how cruelly children and their families are treated because they refuse to see them as human. When a child in US custody dies — and at least seven have on Trump’s watch — the typical response is: ‘Well, they had no business coming here.'”

President Donald Trump claims that reports are greatly exaggerated.

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As reported by Katelyn Caralle over at Mail Online: “Donald Trump claims the media is over exaggerating the overcrowding and poor conditions at migrant detention centers on the U.S.-Mexico border.’The Fake News Media, in particular, the Failing @nytimes, is writing phony and exaggerated accounts of the Border Detention Centers,’ Trump posted in a thread of three tweets Sunday afternoon. ‘First of all, people should not be entering our Country illegally, only for us to then have to care for them. We should be allowed to focus on United States Citizens first.'” What do you think, mi gente?

Particular populations, such as transgender individuals from Central America, are particularly vulnerable, and legislators are urging ICE to protect them.

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The unprecedented levels of violence in Central America have led some transgender women to try to settle in the United States, and so far authorities have not been able to cater to their specific needs. Sires wrote in a statement: “I am deeply disturbed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s policies and treatment toward transgender asylum-seekers. Transgender individuals fleeing the Northern Triangle do so as a last resort to escape the violence and persecution they face back home. Those who seek asylum deserve to have their requests taken seriously and to be treated humanely and fairly by U.S. authorities.” Further, in a letter to ICE Acting Director Mark Morgan, Sires wrote: “In El Salvador, at least seven transgender women were killed in a five-month period in 2017. In Honduras, at least 97 transgender people have been murdered since 2009. And in Guatemala, five transgender women were killed in a two-month span in 2016. In such precarious situations, many transgender people are left with no other options but to flee their countries”.  Sires was joined by Representative Frank Pallone, Jr., Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and 32 other members of Congress in signing the letter.

READ: Migrant Mother Details The Death of Her Daughter After ICE Detention In Emotional Testimony

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