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The (Lack of) Medical Treatment Received by ICE Detainees

Last week, Miss Sarajevo left a comment with a link to this series of articles in The Washington Post, and I’m just finally getting around to writing about it. The series, “Careless Detention,” is about the terrifying, unethical and downright inhumane medical treatment of immigrants imprisoned by ICE, generally while fighting or awaiting deportation for infractions that are usually non-violent and in fact so mild as to verge on the ridiculous. Since 9/11, Bush and his buddies have really stepped up anti-immigrant measures (which were already largely poor and in place), broadened definitions of who could be deported, increased raids and decided that those seeking asylum must do so while behind bars. Our government is imprisoning both documented and undocumented men and women (and though not mentioned in this series, also children), often without due process, and then, quite simply, killing them with medical neglect, or otherwise abusing/torturing them with inappropriate or an outright lack of medical treatment.

If you think that the medical treatment of some immigrants who are not in trouble with ICE is appalling (and it is), be prepared to learn a new definition of the word.

Excerpts from the articles after the jump.

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Update: Iscoa Will Remain in U.S.

Good news, folks: Sonia del Cid Iscoa will not be forcibly (or apparently otherwise) deported to Honduras. Even better, her condition has improved markedly and at an exceptional rate. (Thanks to Lindsay for the update.)

St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center on Tuesday reached agreement with lawyers representing Sonia del Cid Iscoa, ending an international legal drama over whether a legal immigrant could be forcibly transported from the country by a medical facility.

Iscoa, 34, did not have sufficient medical insurance to cover long-term care, St. Joseph’s could not offer it, and there were no apparent programs that could take her.

The hospital planned to fly her to a government hospital in Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Iscoa’s family went to Maricopa County Superior Court to get a temporary restraining order, and all parties were scheduled to appear before a judge on Friday.

But Iscoa’s condition has improved so markedly in the past several days that the discussion has changed.

“She has begun to take semisolid food. She is on room air, as opposed to supplemental oxygen. And she’s not had dialysis for a week, which is a huge improvement,” said attorney John Curtain. “Because of this the hospital at present is not contemplating sending her to Honduras.”

Of course, I find it odd that St. Joseph’s is no longer contemplating forced deportation now that Iscoa is seemingly doing well without dialysis, but was more than willing to deport her to a hospital that had no dialysis equipment back when she did need it. There’s some ethics for ya. One almost has to wonder if the decision came out of newfound financial ability, a moral revelation, or just some really shitty publicity that needed to be plugged up.

Though not entirely clear from the article, it does seem like Iscoa’s family is still going to need money to pay off medical bills, and since she’s still in recovery, her struggle is far from over.

The fact that Iscoa’s immediate crisis has been resolved is also no reason to stop discussing the issue and go back to our happy lives like it didn’t happen. Because this isn’t and never was just about one woman — it’s also about the approximately 8 immigrant patients that this one hospital forcibly deports each month, and who knows how many others that are deported by other hospitals across the nation.

Breathe a sigh of relief for Iscoa, but don’t stop talking.

Hospital Attempts Deportation of Woman With Inadequate Insurance

An immigrant woman from Honduras who has very recently awakened from a coma is being threatened with what can effectively be called deportation, because she does not have the insurance needed to cover her medical bills. (Don’t read the comments in these articles unless you want to lose your lunch.) But here is the real kicker: while it would be repulsive and incredibly inhumane to deport an uninsured/under-insured person with a serious medical condition because of their undocumented status, despite the lack of adequate facilities for their care in their nations of citizenship, it isn’t even the case here. Sonia del Cid Iscoa has a current visa and in the U.S. legally. (All emphasis in quoted text is mine.)

A gravely ill woman at risk of being removed from the country for lack of adequate insurance coverage awoke from a coma Tuesday.

The hospital has been seeking to return her to her native Honduras; her family took the hospital to court.

[. . .]

Iscoa, 34, has a valid visa and has lived in the United States for more than 17 years. She has no family in Honduras.

But St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center sought to have her sent to Honduras when she went into a coma April 20 after giving birth to a daughter about 8 weeks premature. Iscoa has an amended version of Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System coverage that does not cover long-term care, Curtin said. But her family worried that the move would seriously harm her, or, at the very least, prevent her from ever returning to the United States.

Iscoa’s mother, Joaquina del Cid Plasecea, obtained a temporary restraining order to keep her from being moved. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Carey Hyatt also ordered that the family post a $20,000 bond by Tuesday to cover St. Joseph’s costs of postponing the transfer.

However, Curtin said that the hospital gave the family three more days to come up with the money before a hearing Friday.

If the family can prove that Iscoa would suffer irreparable injury by a move, the bond will be refunded and Iscoa will not be transferred. But if Hyatt determines that Iscoa is not in imminent danger by a move, the family will forfeit the bond.

A stipulation to a court order issued by Hyatt Tuesday evening said that the parties were “actively exploring alternative sources of securing payment for the medical bills of Sonia Iscoa.”

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INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence has a new website

Stop Police Brutality Against Women of Color & Trans People of Color! Let's Organize Safe & Sustainable Communities!

INCITE! is one of my favorite feminist organizing projects and I’m excited to spread the word about their gorgeous new website. If you don’t already know about their amazing anthology, The Color of Violence, I highly recommend picking it up (especially since I helped craft the chapter that intersects with trans issues, toot toot.) Even if you don’t have a copy, the website is right at your fingertips, right now. Go check it out!

I especially want to draw your attention to one of the centerpieces of their website launch, the Organizing Toolkit To Stop Law Enforcement Violence Against Women of Color & Trans People of Color. If you have any doubts as to whether police brutality is a feminist issue, their analysis does a much better job of explaining than I have recently. Their toolkit highlights the fact that law enforcement violence against women and trans people often becomes invisible, while at the same time stressing the need to work in coalition with other organizations that struggle against the police state, institutionalized violence against people of color, immigrant rights, and so forth. (See in particular the joint statement put out by INCITE! and Critical Resistance, the prison abolitionist organization founded by Angela Davis and others.) They’re simultaneously working to integrate a gender analysis into conversations about police brutality, and also raise awareness that this isn’t just a problem that happens to young, straight black men.

INCITE!’s toolkit addresses everything from law enforcement violence against marginalized women and trans folks on the streets to violence in immigration practices and against native communities, police brutality against sex workers, and strategies for community accountability — which could be an alternative to calling the police, especially for people and communities who can’t always do that. I’ll quote a couple of my favorite sections after the jump.

Also, check out this sweet poster version.

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I Blame the Kyriarchy

Happy May Day. As people around the world celebrate the struggles of laborers, and as many immigrants and supporters of immigrant rights set off on protest marches around this country, I wanted to link you to one of my favorite blog posts of the last week: Sudy’s explanation of kyriarchy, a concept coined by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza.

It’s a useful neologism for an idea that comes up a lot: multiple, overlapping, shifting pyramids of power. Try to focus too hard on just one, try to figure out with some kind of precision exactly which individuals are at the top, and you lose sight of the entire awful kyriarchy, that has any number of ways to crush people. It’s another trick that power structures play to distract you. I’ve heard this kind of concept discussed before — some people I know just use the word “hierarchies” to talk about this, and in some feminist writing this is what “patriarchy” means. But I like the word kyriarchy, not least because it doesn’t just focus on “fathers” as the top of the pyramid.

For me the word summons up a bizzare image of holographic, floating, disappearing and reappearing ancient step pyramids. Because that’s how complex the overlapping of power can be, and how surreal. Sometimes we talk about this stuff like patriarchy, white supremacy, or homophobia is a bunch of craggy old white guys having a meeting down the street where we can kick the doors in and turn over the table piled high with money and blood. Too bad that the history of oppressive cultural attitudes, social enforcement, the accumulation of religion and greed and control and security is never that simple. But don’t think I mean it’s all ideology either. Kyriarchy kills. Don’t let it slip behind you when you’re not looking — or under your feet.

This has not been a good week for woman of color blogging

It’s too bad, because two weeks ago felt like an awesome time, a high point. Jill and I were in a room in Cambridge that was chock-full of smart, amazing women of color bloggers, filled with energy for their writing and for each other. The true soldiers of WOC blogging, sharing wishes for the world, for sisters and mothers and grandmothers and loved ones. Sharing strategies and anger and hope.

That group included one of the most important feminist bloggers in the history of the web — who has now taken her blog down. As I’m writing, that link goes nowhere. Perhaps permanently — I don’t know if she will return, though like many others I dearly hope she will. This space we all coexist in needs brownfemipower’s words, her insight, her focus on women of color and her willingness to step up and talk about practically every issue that comes her way, no matter how brutal. She’s inspired dozens of women of color to start blogging, including me. Without her, there would be a conspicuous hush in the blogosphere… or at least, conspicuous to those of us who listen for certain kinds of voices.

Half of you have read about this already and I’m the other half would really like to know what happened. (Hat tip to belledame for pointing me to a good summary… and be sure to follow the other links from that post. And also these more recent ones.) From what I understand, BFP does not want to be at the center of this maelstrom; that’s part of why she’s removed herself, and I respect that. But this is out there now, it touches on many things that need discussion badly, and the silence of a blog like Feministe saying nothing is a little too loud of a statement for my gut. So here we are.

I understand BFP closing down. Shit, there is a reason I only rarely muster up the courage to write about racism on Feministe. Compared to many radical WOC bloggers out there, I am a wuss who would rather toss out softballs about weird little video games and there’s a reason for that. I would have quit the blogosphere months ago if I tackled race issues at a tenth of the rate that BFP did, because it is a painful, fraught, easily misunderstood subject to write about as a woman of color. And the brave ones do it anyway — because someone has to speak. I am fortunate that I have other outlets in the real world to do work for racial and social justice with other POCs. I trust BFP does as well… I just wish we could continue to benefit from her online too.

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sex (with a married woman) = greencard

No wonder immigrants fear immigration officials. Apparently a US immigration agent, after interviewing the 22 year old Colombian wife of an American citizen, began to contact the woman requesting sexual favors in return for her green card. The clearly intelligent woman recorded the request on her cell phone and then went to the New York Times.

The agent insisted that she had to trust him. “I wouldn’t ask you to do something for me if I can’t do something for you, right?” he said, and reasoned, “Nobody going to help you for nothing,” noting that she had no money.

Apparently the US government does not pay him to properly and legally HELP immigrants to gain citizenship for nothing?

Oh, wait, they do pay him $50,000 a year “to be part of a larger pattern”.

“Mr. Maxwell, the immigration agency’s former chief investigator, told Congress in 2006 that internal corruption was “rampant,” and that employees faced constant temptations to commit crime.”

[The agency] stopped posting an e-mail address and phone number for such complaints last year, said Jan Lane, chief of security and integrity, because it lacks the staff to cull the thousands of mostly irrelevant messages that resulted. Immigrants, she advised, should report wrongdoing to any law enforcement agency they trust.

Yes, because after an official US immigration officer threatens your citizenship, suggests you will be sent back to your country, you should report it to another US agency that you trust… trust??

A commentary on our attitude towards immigrants… read the full article for all of the sad details.

Human Being or Illegal Immigrant?

That seems to be the question that anti-immigrant racists ask themselves when dealing with people who abuse “illegals.” Take this story:

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A bailiff who forgot about a woman locked in a courthouse holding cell and left her there for four days without food, water or access to a bathroom has been suspended for 30 days but will keep his job, officials said Wednesday.

If it’s your job to care for a human being and you leave them locked in a cell for four days without food, water or access to the bathroom, you should face more serious consequences than a 30-day suspension. Unless, I suppose, your charge is less than human — and in this case, she’s being treated that way because she’s here illegally.

I’ll just second what Vox says. Consequences would be much more serious if this had happened to a nice white lady. And “immigrants are only people if they have the documents to prove it in today’s America, I guess.”

Judicial nominees, prison exploitation and discriminatory country clubs

Belle Mead Country Club

These are the kind of people that President Bush is nominating to the bench — for lifetime appointments.

Gus Puryear is a well-connected Republican attorney who, after working for Bill Frist, went on to serve as general counsel for Corrections Corporation of America, a huge corporation that feeds off of the American prison system. CCA made $1.5 billion in 2004, and is the fifth largest prison system in the U.S. — behind the federal government and three states. CCA also runs the notorious Hutto detention center in Texas, which detains immigrants and their children in prison conditions.

But it isn’t Gusyear’s CCA employment that’s drawing criticism; it’s his membership in a discriminatory country club.

Yes, it is true that the club does not allow women to vote. In fact, women have their own class of membership—they’re called “lady members”—and lady members can’t vote or hold office, even Martha Ingram, who is listed on the club’s membership rolls. The only people who can vote are the club’s resident members and, lo and behold, all of them are men. The club’s “constitution,” which Puryear, as a judicial candidate essentially completing a take-home test, must have reviewed before answering Kennedy’s questions, notes the following about resident members: “They alone, to the exclusion of all other classes of membership, shall have the right to control, manage, vote and hold office in the club.” So that means that non-resident members, associate resident members (younger members like Puryear) and, of course, lady members can’t have any say in the governance of the club.

The club technically allows people of all races to join, but they only have one black member. And he lives in another state.

While I think it’s fairly clear that Puryear’s club membership should disqualify him, it’s his work on behalf of CCA that I find more damning. According to Wikipedia:

CCA is the largest private prison “provider” in the United States, with meteoric stock growth, more than doubling in the first eight months of 2006. Among other facilities, CCA runs T Don Hutto, a former medium-security prison in Taylor, TX which, since 2006, has held non-criminal, immigrant “detainees,” against their will, under a pass-through contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of Homeland Security. The basic contract pays CCA approximately $2.8 million monthly, for a maximum incarceration of 512 individuals. (Minimum = $5,000+ per prisoner.) Approximately half the prisoners are children, many of them born in this country. No prisoner held is charged with a crime, nor are they deemed to be a danger to national security; it is simply their immigration/amnesty request status that has marked them for imprisonment. This is the first (and only other) time since the interment of Japanese during WWII that children have been imprisoned by the United States. A recent lawsuit asserted that the children were being held in inhumane conditions. The resulting settlement (September 2007) gained on-site pediatric service for the children being incarcerated, as well as a requirement that the toilets in their open cells be made private with the addition of a shower curtain. Additional visitation hours, schooling, and recreational opportunities were also agreed upon. The facility continues to be the site of vigils and protests by various human rights groups.

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