Good grief, there they go again.
has just about pissed off everyone in Danbury. My inbox is flooded with complaints over the paper's latest front page piece on the deportation and personally, I'm at a loss for words with some of the ways that paper operates.
Since I really don't have the time to go into my concerns with the paper, and seeing that anything I'd unleash would probably result in a really ugly situation, I'm going to do something I haven't done in some time. Instead of complaining about the Tribuna to me, I'm offering people the opportunity to air their grievances about the paper right here. Hopefully, those at the paper will read the criticisms with an open mind...
Here's the first open letter to Tribuna.
Open Letter to the Tribuna: In regard to their 4/16/08 edition.
In their 4/16/08 edition of the Tribuna News, the editorial staff published an article by J. Emilio Flores entitled “Deportation: Sent Home Empty Handed”. At first glance, judging by the title, the article might appear to be an emotional appeal to individuals regarding the harsh and cruel reality of the current system of Deportations. However, as I read on I was lead to question the intention of the editorial staff, as it appeared more and more to gloss over the topic in an effort to make it palatable to individuals unfamiliar with the Immigration System. More disturbingly, it seems to almost contradict the work of many Immigration Activists, and educational facilitators. It appears that while activists are on the street educating Immigrants on their rights and their responsibilities in an effort to curb the damaging effects of Raids and Deportations, and to prevent people from being deported unnecessarily, the Tribuna dedicated their front page to an article which almost seeks to offer false reassurances that the deportation system isn’t nearly as harsh as oft reported.
The article paints a picture of Immigrants who, while certainly facing an unsure future, and a loss of whatever small gains they have made during their time in the US, are for the most part, well treated, in fairly high spirits, and warmly received by their families back home.
While the article makes mention of the detention centers in vague terms, it hardly delves into the failings, corruption, inhumanity, and degradation which is part and parcel to the detention/deportation experience.
Perhaps it would be enough to realize that in April, 2007, and again in June of the same year, UN human rights inspectors were denied entry into two Detention Centers, the first, one of the most highly contended Detention Centers, T Don Hutto Detention Facility in Texas, and the second the Monmouth County Jail in NJ which houses over 150 immigrant men and women pursuant to a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This intentional refusal to allow transparency in its treatment of Immigrants within their care caused enough alarm for the UN inspectors that Jorge Bustamante, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants expressed deep concern that such secrecy “eliminates an avenue for detainees to register complaints about mistreatment or abuse.” (1.)
What possible conditions could exist in these detention centers that would prompt such Secrecy by a facility operated by the the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, a part of the Department of Homeland Security? In August 2007 the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against ICE on behalf of 26 Immigrant Children detained with their parents at T Don Hutto family detention center which claimed that minimum standards of treatment of the children were not met. According to a press release filed earlier in 2007 by the ACLU:
“Approximately 400 people are currently detained in Hutto, half of them children, and many of them are refugees seeking political asylum. What ICE calls a “Family Residential Facility” is in fact a converted medium-security prison that is still functionally and structurally a prison. Children are required to wear prison garb, receive only one hour of recreation a day, Monday through Friday, and some children did not go outdoors in the fresh air the whole month of December, 2006, according to legal papers filed today. They are detained in small cells for 11-12 hours each day where they cannot keep food and toys and they have no privacy, even when using the toilet.
Despite their urgent needs, many children lack access to adequate medical, dental, and mental health treatment, and are denied meaningful educational opportunities. Guards frequently discipline children by threatening to separate them permanently from their parents, and children are prohibited from having contact visits with non-detained family members.
According to 16-year-old Egle Baubonyte, a Lithuanian girl being held at Hutto with her mother and sister, “Conditions for little kids or even babies are really bad. There’s no pediatrician. Nurses don’t care about if babies are sick. They treat us like we’re nothing.” (2.) *
Treatment of prisoners in other Detention centers may be just as bad for adults. In November, 2007, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer was charged with the rape of a Jamaican woman while transporting her from a detention center in Miami Dade, to one in Broward County (3.) * While according to the Catholic Legal Immigration Network INC problems of abuse, and neglect of immigrants in detention centers is systemic. According to an indepth study of Immigration Detention Centers, CLINIC reports:
“No Social Workers exist to help identify and accommodate special religious diet needs, mental health or medical problems. ICE detainees do not have access to educational or ESL programs. Recreational and Exercise facilities are often inadequate or non-existant. Medical treatment is problematic. Physical and mental health problems often go undiagnosed or are improperly treated. There is often a reluctance on the part of ICE officials to release detainees for medical treatment. Abuse and mistreatment of ICE detainees is well documented. At times, detention officials have misused segregation against detainees, turning it from a disciplinary tool into an instrument of cruelty. Detainees are often transferred to different facilities with no notice …… the Government also fails to inform attorneys when their clients are transferred”. (4)
So, J. Emilio Flores author of the article “Deportation: Sent Home Empty-Handed”, perhaps knowing of the conditions inside many of these deportation centers, may have felt that many of the deportees felt a sense of release when they finally touched ground in their native countries, and perhaps, for some, there is a sense of release from that bondage. But, far from the almost cheerful tone in Mr. Flores’ article, the Washington post, in a similar story, paints a much more heartbreaking picture of these deportation flights. One which describes passengers being shackled at hand, feet, and waist, and sharing their heartbreaking tales without restraint. (5) However, what happens to many immigrants, once they do finally land in their mother country? According to a Seattle Times Article published April 8, 2008:
“for all the attention illegal immigrants get in the US- from those who believe they're a drain on social services to advocates who say they do the jobs Americans won't — little is known about what happens to them after they're ushered by U.S. immigration authorities through revolving doors into Mexico's border towns.
Once there, they get little help from their government. Many stay, others try to get back to their hometowns. For the most part no one tracks them — not their government, or the U.S., or their advocacy groups in the states. They become largely forgotten — along with the U.S.-born children they sometimes take with them” (6)
Often Jobless, Homeless, and Hopeless, many immigrants attempt to cross again, and again, often getting caught in a revolving door of illegal immigration, and deportation. Others find re-assimilation to be an almost impossible endeavor. Those who have been in the US the longest, obviously suffer the most difficulty.
The entire deportation system, from border crossing, to employment abuses, and racism to arrest, to detainment, to deportation, and to re-assimilation and matriculation is fraught with peril for the Millions of Undocumented Immigrants in the US. In the hands of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, and the current Justice System, immigrants do not only return without money in their pockets, but without honor, dignity, and often, without spirit from their time here in the US.
Instead of offering half hearted reprinted vignettes about the flight home for many immigrants in the US, perhaps the Tribuna staff would serve the Immigrant Community better by doing some investigative research of their own into the systemic, all pervasive corruption and heartlessness of the Deportation system as a whole, including the conditions of detention centers, and educating their readership, specifically their non immigrant readership, about the tragedy of the entire lack of justice for Immigrants, and this time, without the kid gloves.
* ICE later settled the suit, releasing a dozen immigrant children held in T. Don Hutto. And the ACLU and other watchdog groups have been heavily involved with improving treatment of detainees in T. Don Hutto detention center.
- http://www.miamiherald.com/top_stories/story/482282.html * Ex Ice Agent William Vasquez was convicted of sexual battery, and in a plea bargain has been sentenced to 7 years inside a Broward County jail.