The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.
This year’s global headlines concerning Vladimir Fardin, a 9-year-old child visiting San Francisco from Haiti with an active visa, resumed American deportation and policy dialogue. He was accompanied by his older brother, Christian Laporte, a 19-year-old Haitian student — who was also traveling on a U.S.-issued visa — and studying at Diablo Valley College. As reported by their lawyers, the pair returned to the states from their holiday break and would be under their godmother’s guardianship, a California resident.
Both of the youths were detained at the San Francisco International Airport by U.S. Customs and Border Protection after citing missing paperwork in Laporte’s case. The siblings’ visas were revoked, and they were held at the airport for more than 24 hours. In this period, the young people were unable to communicate with family.
Subsequently, Fardin was sent to a refugee resettlement facility with a notation that the minor did not have a “legally-acceptable and court-recognized guardian.” His teenage brother was deported separately.
Notably, these events’ timing further compounded upon the said “alien child,” who went into the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ care. As a result, the ongoing pandemic positioned new governmental quarantine regulations — which were initially expected of the 9-year-old boy — who was interrogated individually. Conclusively, separate advocate groups and the brothers’ attorney, Marc Van Der Hout, held authorities accountable throughout the media for the aforementioned. After nine days in custody and documented anxiety, the minor was reunited with his family.
Every immigrant’s experiences are contingent upon their circumstances. And this joint 2021 immigrant story, while pressing, is among innumerable others. According to research presented by the New American Economy Research Fund, the Black immigrant population in the United States increased by 30 percent between the years of 2010 through 2018. Moreover, the fund’s report brightens how the demographic exceeding 4.3 million people adds to our nation. In America, Black immigrant inhabitants honed a spending power of approximately $98 billion in this period.
And people should be respected beyond any paper they carry in their pocket. Immigrants often arrive in this country with the hope of materializing the American dream yet face atrocities. With the confirmation of immigrants’ cultural and monetary increases, decades of documentation on fronts of abuse — including psychological and physical — exist adjacent to immigration departments. Organizations have mobilized to protect these peoples to the best of their abilities.
RAICES is a San Antonio-based nonprofit agency dedicated to serving justice by eliminating all too common immigration obstructions. A part of the agency’s mission is to provide “free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees.” And through an assortment of programs, the public-service collective defends the humanity of the vulnerable.
Many of their pro-bono legal recipients are immigrant children, who may have otherwise been required to defend themselves similarly to Fardin. Backing partners at RAICES emphasize that detention centers were already widely known to deny adequate healthcare to detainees in the days ahead of the pandemic. The most considerable population immediately affected by these conditions in family detention centers and other facilities controlled by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) are Black immigrants. Over forty percent of the population braving the above are Haitians, followed by Mexicans and other Latinx persons, including Cubans, Hondurans, and El Salvadorians.
Moreover, some of these immigrants’ lands were referred to by the former commander-in-chief as “shithole countries.” The United Nations human rights office, pronounced Trump’s commentary as “racist.” Presently, what level of confidence can Americans have that these human beings are treated with respect?
Governmental social distancing mandates are issued nationwide, and our settlers in custody remain caged. More than 35,000 immigrants are inside the American detention system. The figures ensure Black and Brown immigrants are exposed to immeasurable harm. More broadly, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2020 findings, “40 million people living in the U.S. were born in another country ... The population of immigrants is also very diverse, with just about every country in the world represented among U.S. immigrants.”
Among this staggering diversity is the nation’s Coronavirus death toll. America has the highest mortality rate since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago. Against the 2.5 million global COVID-19 fatalities, our nation is poised to exceed 505,000 deaths; as claimed by John Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center. Between the Coronavirus figures confronting immigrants are those of women’s rights violations.
The country has newly elected officials in the White House, but this fact does not undo our previous administration’s continuance of immigration prejudices. A statement recently released by Jamille Fields Allsbrook, the director of the Women’s Health and Rights at the Center for American Progress, notes:
“The Trump administration has expanded the scope and cruelty of immigration detention, particularly targeting Latina and Black immigrant women, as part of a political agenda steeped in white supremacy and misogyny. And as the Coronavirus pandemic continues to disproportionately harm Black and Latinx communities in the United States, immigration detention facilities have proven incapable of protecting the health of people in detention. Unsafe conditions, lack of testing and medical care, and ongoing transfers between facilities have led to mass outbreaks of COVID-19 in detention and multiple deaths.
Reports of mass hysterectomies and medical neglect in ICE detention are horrifying but sadly not surprising. The United States has a long and sordid history of reproductive coercion and forced sterilization...”
Doubling down on these dreadful probabilities are the Physicians for Human Rights administrators. Alongside Katherine Peeler, MD, the medical director of the asylum clinic for Harvard Medical School’s chapter of Physicians for Human Rights, 50 interviews were conducted.
Between July 13 through Oct. 3 of last year, the organization’s research team spoke with immigrants who Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency previously detained. All study participants were a minimum of 18 years old. These were some of their findings:
“ICE practices did not comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance … creating unacceptable health risks which violated the constitutional and human rights of detainees. Nearly all immigrants interviewed were unable to maintain social distance throughout the detention center... Forty-two percent of participants reported not having access to soap at some point during their detention.
Interviewees reported facing prolonged wait times before being able to see a medical professional ... [These immigrants experienced] intimidation and retaliation acts after their complaints, including verbal abuse by detention facility staff, being pepper-sprayed, or actions of limiting food...”
Some immigrants come to America seeking new circumstances. Others may arrive hoping to obtain asylum or become naturalized citizens, and the process of achieving either might feel close to impossible.
The aggregation of threats against immigrants is more than evident. Time will tell what adjustments President Biden makes toward our immigration system. But, collective pain is profitable so long as federal contracts with private companies for immigration detention exist. In seasons of abundant callousness toward Black and Brown populaces, let’s remember that the most effective agents of change are us. If policies are not updated, more immigrant lives will be lost.