Helpers, Whistleblowers, and End-of-Week News

American and pattiot

CORRECTED 05/24/19 8:20 a.m.**

With an increasing (and welcome) focus on impeachment, the mainstream media missed some big immigration  news: on Wednesday night, the House Judiciary Committee passed the American Dream and Promise Act, which would give protection and a path to citizenship to Dreamers, people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Liberians with Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). The bill also includes protection for Venezuelans in the United States. Next stop: House Rules Committee, and then the House floor. A floor vote is expected in early June.

Also on Wednesday: for the first time, the Department of Homeland Security revealed that a 10-year-old Salvadoran girl died while in its custody back in September.

When the news feels overwhelmingly bad, Mr. Rogers told us, “look to the helpers.” Today: helpers in San Antonio, St. Paul, and California and courageous whistleblowers with stories of solitary confinement abuses and mistreatment of detained immigrant children.

Helpers

In late March, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) began dumping hundreds of people at the Greyhound station in San Antonio, Texas, often in the middle of the night. San Antonio residents stepped up, and continue to volunteer and donate to help these migrants:

Within hours of local news reports on TV and online, the bus station was overwhelmed with San Antonians donating pizza, baby clothes, diapers, snacks, and more in a spontaneous outpouring of support. …

“The city employees helping right now are either doing this as part of their already assigned duties or as volunteers. “Some of them are working a full day for the city and then volunteering for an eight-hour shift at the volunteer center, so we have people that are really tired and that are working really hard to make it a success, but we can’t do that indefinitely,” she said.

“Because of that, she would like the federal government to help cover some of the cost moving forward. Bridger told me that the city of San Antonio has had many conversations with Border Patrol that “started out as, ‘What is going on?’ and have evolved into ‘Will you please not put them on a bus at midnight because they get here at 3 a.m. and it’s really hard to process them?’” (DHS officials did not respond to requests for comment.)”

In Minnesota, Ramsey County and the City of St. Paul have hired immigration attorneys to work in the city and county attorneys’ offices, advising on immigration issues at the local level. In addition, they have allocated $250,000 city and county funds and received a matching grant of $250,000 from the Vera Institute to provide legal representation of people in immigration court proceedings. [Corrected: news accounts differ on amounts.]

Dr. J. Luis Bautista qualifies as a helper under any definition of the word. He runs two medical clinics in California’s  Central Valley, mostly serving farmworkers, many of whom are undocumented.

“The 64-year-old physician has personal insight into the struggles of these laborers: He was once one of them. As a boy, he picked fruit alongside his parents and nine siblings in Ventura County. The family made $4,000 a year back then, a little over $30,000 in today’s dollars — rarely enough to spare for doctor’s visits….

““I pledged in medical school to help these people in the farm fields,” said Bautista. “I knew how it felt not to have anything, not to have the money to go to a doctor.”

“Now he treats them whether or not they have money — or legal documents. “We never say no to patients,” he said….

“Bautista accepts as payment whatever his patients can offer: onions, handmade key chains, eggs, even live chickens.”

Whistleblowers

I wrote earlier this week about Department of Homeland Security policy adviser Ellen Gallagher, a whistleblower now going public after five years of unsuccessfully trying to get someone inside the system to listen. Gallagher is blowing the whistle on abuse of immigrant detainees through solitary confinement, including solitary confinement of “Disabled immigrants in need of a wheelchair or cane. Those who identify as gay. Those who report abuse from guards or other detainees.”

Two more whistleblowers report on abuses of children in immigration detention. Dr. Scott Allen and Dr. Pamela McPherson inspected detention facilities for DHS, and reported their findings back to DHS, under both the Obama and Trump administrations. Now they are going public:

“Children’s fingers crushed by cell doors. A boy who’d lost nearly a third of his body weight in a matter of days. Incorrect vaccine doses and missed diagnoses….

“For years, the doctors’ expert opinions, like the facilities they inspected, remained out of the spotlight — unseen by most lawmakers and unheard by members of the public.

“That changed, they say, when the Trump administration’s policies left them no choice. The doctors became whistleblowers, speaking out with a dire warning. Family detention isn’t safe, they said, and children’s lives are at stake….

Allen and McPherson say they documented their concerns numerous times in reports filed with the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration, and felt like the people in power were listening. But they say two things prompted them to speak more publicly about the matter after Trump took office: the spike in family separations at the border and moves to increase family detention rather than scale it back….

“We are not going away, and we are leaving a written and clear record that we’ve put everyone on notice that we possibly can,” Allen says. “Our goal is to protect children. But if we fail them, we sure as hell want to leave a written record for history that documents who is notified of an impending harm to children — and who did nothing about it.”

**Correction to indicate that news accounts differ on amount of St. Paul/Ramsey County fund for legal defense of immigrants.

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, www.tcdailyplanet.net, 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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