Toothpaste and Tall Tales: Today’s Immigration Stories

toothpaste-29774_960_720.pngFlaky immigration stories keep piling up like snow in February. Detention centers charging $11 for four ounces of toothpaste. Immigration officials giving out fake court dates. And today’s big three: flagging attorneys’ passports so they can’t see asylum seekers in Mexico, force-feeding immigrant hunger strikers, and tall tales about voters from Texas. 

Targeting Attorneys and Journalists: Two attorneys from the Al Otro Lado nonprofit and two non-related journalists report being denied entry to Mexico. Their experiences were similar: all were told by Mexican officials that their passports had been flagged. At least one was told by a border official that the U.S. government had flagged their passport. Neither the U.S. government nor the Mexican government would tell them who had actually flagged their passports or why or how they could get more information. The Los Angeles Times talked to one of the Al Otro Lado who was targeted:

“I think this is retaliation,” Phillips said. “I think this is because we sued the U.S. government. I think it’s that we’re pointing out gross, flagrant human rights violations being committed by the U.S. government, and they don’t like that.”

“Pinheiro, the group’s policy and litigation director, said Mexican immigration officials turned her away under similar circumstances Monday as she sought to cross into Tijuana on foot.

“Pinheiro, a U.S. citizen who lives in Tijuana, said she was denied the chance to fetch her 10-month-old son, who has dual citizenship and was in Tijuana at the time.

Detention as Punishment: Immigrants detained while awaiting a hearing are in civil, not criminal proceedings. They are not imprisoned as punishment for crimes, but prison conditions remain brutally punitive. One example: force-feeding in El Paso.

‘The men say they stopped eating to protest verbal abuse and threats of deportation from guards. They are also upset about lengthy lock ups while awaiting legal proceedings.

“In mid-January, two weeks after they stopped eating, a federal judge authorized force-feeding of some El Paso detainees, Zamarripa said. She did not immediately address the detainees’ allegations of abuse but did say the El Paso Processing Center would follow the federal standards for care….

“The men with nasal tubes are having persistent nose bleeds, and are vomiting several times a day, said Amrit Singh, whose two nephews from the Indian state of Punjab have been on hunger strike for about a month.

“They are not well. Their bodies are really weak, they can’t talk and they have been hospitalized, back and forth,” said Singh, from California. “They want to know why they are still in the jail and want to get their rights and wake up the government immigration system.”

A retired judge writes about conditions in Lumpkin, Georgia, saying they mount to denial of the right to an attorney:

“After driving south from Atlanta for about two hours, the next 40 miles are vacant land. Then Lumpkin, with two main streets and about six side streets. At the end of a private road is Stewart, built by CoreCivic as a private prison but now operated by it to house men detained by ICE. Once there, these people are hundreds of miles and a world away from lawyers.

“Any lawyer who makes the trek will find the visiting conditions abysmal. Laptops, mobile phones, voice recorders and Spanish-English dictionaries are prohibited; counsel may only bring in a notebook, pen and one business card per client.

“The three small, dingy visiting rooms were built for a prison, so lawyers and clients are separated by thick plastic windows with communication via crackly wall phones.”

Remember—the immigrants detained at Lumpkin are entitled to attorneys, but only if they can pay for the attorneys or find attorneys, like this retired judge, who are willing to represent them pro bono.

Tall Stories in Texas: Texas is backing off from charges that non-citizens registered to vote. The secretary of state told county officials in Waco to disregard the list, that mistakes had been made. Officials in five large Texas counties reported receiving similar calls. According to the Houston Chronicle, “The sequence of events spotlights a rocky rollout that put far more emphasis on splashy numbers than accuracy.”

Is this a deliberate attempt to discourage voters and suppress voting? The League of Women Voters thinks so:

NINA PERALES: What the secretary of state is doing – and knowingly doing – is taking a list of people who have recently become U.S. citizens and registered to vote, whom the secretary of state knows got their driver’s licenses or state IDs while they were still permanent resident immigrants.

“LOPEZ: And in Texas, that’s a lot of people. Perales says every year roughly 50,000 Texans become naturalized citizens. Even though naturalized citizens have the right to vote, state officials and even President Trump say this list is a sign they need to crack down on illegal voting. Grace Chimene, with the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Texas, says they’re wrong.

“GRACE CHIMENE: They’re throwing it out everywhere. And it is very worrisome to us because we are very concerned that they are going to use this as a way to try to suppress the vote in Texas.”



About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet,, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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