Tag Archives: border patrol

2013: New opportunities for healthy immigration reform?

9 Jan

The Curious Ostrich has big plans for 2013! We are now moving to a monthly format, providing readers with in-depth analysis and commentary on the public health impact of immigration policies and national conversations around immigration. As always, our mission is to bring attention to the ways immigration policies affect health and to provide information and resources for health and immigration advocates alike. Want regular updates on immigration issues? Like our Facebook page!TCO cover

Over the course of 2012, a number of policies and events across the country significantly, and often negatively, affected the health of immigrants and their communities. Deportations continued at an all time high, separating families and at great cost to our economy. Due to programs such as Secure Communities 1.6 million people were deported during President Obama’s first term. Our nation’s growing immigration enforcement system now receives more funding than all other federal enforcement agencies combined. This focus on enforcement and a militarized border increased border violence and resulted in many deaths, some perpetrated  by the US Border Patrol itself.

Immigrants also continue to be denied many basic rights. For example, while the Affordable Care Act (ACA) goes a long way in expanding access to health insurance, undocumented immigrants and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals-approved individuals are barred from new health insurance programs. At the state level, although the Supreme Court knocked down many of the provisions in Arizona’s immigration bill SB 1070,  the “paper’s please” provision will move forward.  Other states continue to follow Arizona’s lead in anti-immigrant legislation.

The impact of xenophobia and anti-immigrant politicking is not limited to immigrant communities. For example, in 2012 the Violence Against Women Act, a traditionally non-controversial, bi-partisan bill, failed to be reauthorized for the first time in its history. This was in part due to Republican supposed opposition to protections for immigrant women.

In 2012, we also saw promising policies and inspiring activism by undocumented immigrants, particularly youth. Influenced by ongoing activism by DREAMers, President Obama granted deferred action to “childhood arrivals” (DACA), creating the largest opening in many years for undocumented individuals to gain work permission and protection from deportation. While not a long-term solution, DACA created opportunities for many young immigrants.

Exciting grassroots mobilizations also helped raise the profile of immigrant issues and pushed forward a more progressive policy agenda. The Caravan for Peace turned attention to the human impact of border violence and the United State’s role in drug war violence; undocumented youth are using art and creativity to assert their rights; DREAMers sat-in at Obama campaign offices; the Undocubus shared stories at the Democratic National Convention; and the Campaign for the American Dream team walked from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. to raise awareness about immigration policy.

Moving into 2013

Building on this momentum, 2013 brings new opportunities for making immigration policy more just and protecting immigrant communities. President Obama’s re-election turned new attention to the power of communities of color in our political system and we now have the most diverse Congress in US history. Polling suggests that the public and elected officials are ready to consider immigration reform. President Obama has repeatedly stated that comprehensive immigration reform will be a priority early on in his second administration. However, for too long, political debates about immigration have focused on controlling immigration through the criminalization and stereotyping of immigrants.  Therefore, we hope to see these policy discussions and decisions acknowledge the importance of immigrants to our society and economy and affirm that all people, including immigrants and regardless of their immigration status, have rights as residents of this nation.  Specific policies that we would like to see from the 113th congress include:

      • Create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the US.  The increasing numbers of young immigrants applying for deferred action demonstrates that creating a process for undocumented immigrants to apply for papers is not only relatively politically non-controversial, but is feasible and has tremendous positive impacts. This is a start, but temporary status for a small portion of undocumented immigrants is not enough.  There are still roughly 11 million individuals who lack papers and a path to citizenship. This is an injustice, not only to these individuals, but to their families and communities and the nation as a whole.
      • Reduce deportations and keep families together.  Enforcement programs and deportations needlessly tear people from their jobs, communities and families, with devastating emotional and economic impacts.  A simple fix would be to end programs such as Secure Communities.  In addition, policies are needed to end the fear that deportations have caused by creating clear delineations between local police officers and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
      • Create accountability over and reform the detention system. The unregulated and unhealthy network of privatized detention centers must be reformed and regulated. This should include expanding accountability and oversight for current detention centers.  The all-historic-high number of detention beds in centers and county jails creates a gross profit motive and should be reduced.
      • End the militarization of the border.  Border fence and patrolling policies throw money into militarization, rather than the true safety of people in the United States.  There should be an end to financial support for the border fence, reduction in funding for the Border Patrol, and increased oversight over the Border Patrol, including the training and background of officers and their use of surveillance technology.
      • Increase access to education and social services for all immigrants.  Immigrants should be positively included in public policies.  This is a matter of both fairness and of effective crafting of public policies, as economic, social service and health policies ultimately have an impact on immigrant communities, such as the Affordable Care Act and the Violence Against Women Act.

The connection to health

At The Curious Ostrich, we believe that all of these policies and their resulting challenges and opportunities for immigrants are public health issues. Immigration policies, and related social and economic policies, directly impact the health of immigrants in a number of ways – from reduced access to essential services and resources to the  fear and stress that result from discrimination, criminalization and deportation. Over the course of 2013, we will continue to explore these links between immigration policies and health:

      • Access to health care— Many people are barred or have limited access to health insurance and health care services due to their immigration status. Access to regular primary care is important in preventing many diseases (e.g. diabetes), while limited emergency care services results in unnecessary deaths.
      • Diminished rights and protections— Fear of deportation diminishes the rights of undocumented individuals by shaping their decisions about accessing services such as education or police protection. For instance, many undocumented workers are victims of wage theft, yet they do not have legal recourse without risking deportation.
      • Access to resources— Diminished rights lead to reduced access to resources to lead a healthy life. For example, undocumented immigrants may choose not to access public resources, such as education or social services, because they believe they are not eligible or they are afraid of coming into contact with government officials.
      • Discrimination— There is widespread anti-immigrant sentiment embedded in our national policy and media discourses, and anti-immigrant groups continue to advocate effectively for policies that devalue and dehumanize immigrants because of their lack of legal standing. From conservative politicians campaigning on deportation policies, to widespread discriminatory commentary in the news, there is a strong national narrative that a lack of papers justifies less-than-humane treatment.

There are feasible policy solutions that can reduce the risks to and protect the health of immigrant communities. There are dynamic and mobilized advocates who will continue to fight for the rights of immigrants.  Public health advocates can play a critical role.  Therefore, in 2013, our hope is to see not a continuation of the short-term and enforcement-focused policies often associated with “comprehensive” immigration reform, but rather the promotion of healthy immigration reform.

Women Farmworkers and Sexual Violence, 5/7-5/16

17 May

Report Cover Cultivating Fear

Cultivating Fear: A Report on Farmworker Women and Sexual Violence
Human Rights Watch’s  new report details the abuses suffered by farmworker women in fields by compiling interviews with farmworker women, social service providers, health workers, police, and others in New York, California, and North Carolina. The interviews describe the toxic social environments the fields can become. These conditions are a result of weak labor protections and immigration laws. With few protections, sexual assault and sexual violence are a common experience for farmworker women.

Civil Right Organizations Oppose House GOP version of Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization
VAWA is up for its third reauthorization. It is a bill that provides money to prevent domestic violence and protect victims. One important component of VAWA is the U-Visa which gives temporary legal status to victims of certain crimes, including domestic violence. The senate version of the bill passed 68-31 with 15 Republicans voting for it. The house measure has been modified by the GOP to reduce provisions concerning confidentiality of immigrant women applying for the U-Visa, eliminating provisions for LGBT individuals, and eliminating a provision that would allow abusers to be held accountable in Native American courts. Planned Parenthood and other civil rights organizations strongly oppose the GOP version of the reauthorization for VAWA.

US Border Patrol unveils 2012-2016 Strategy
The US Border Patrol has released a new strategic plan to prevent immigrants from entering the United States. With immigration reaching a net-zero, the Border Patrol may have felt pressured to rebrand its mission. The strategy continues a policy of border militarization using sophisticated weaponry, pushing migrants into the most dangerous border crossing areas.

Immigration Reform: Auction for Work Permits
This week UC Davis economist Giovanni Peri proposed an alternative to comprehensive immigration reform by auctioning work-permits. Instead of deciding visas by family connections, the visas would be purchased by employers. Highest bidder wins the workers. There would be a set quota of visas given out every quarter. Permits would start at $1,000 for low-skilled workers (farmwork, poultry processing, etc.), and $7,000 for high-skilled workers (tech).  Peri argues “It (work permits) would certainly generate more awareness and clarity on the economic value of immigrants.” Visas given to family members, and thus, family reunification would decrease with Peri’s proposal.

Idle hands at the Border Patrol, 1/15-1/22

24 Jan
Border Fence with a  Border Patrol Agent

Photo by: Leo Ortiz

A tougher stance for the border patrol, AP, 1.17.12

A downward trend in apprehensions has left the border patrol (BP) twiddling their thumbs, but rather than scale back the 21,000 agents, the agency has new plans for its idle time. The BP will soon outline punitive measures to take against immigrants who are detained and are to be deported. Yes, they have decided that deportation isn’t punitive enough, and that they need to make the lives of undocumented immigrants even more difficult. The thought is that if the border patrol makes the process more difficult for immigrants from Mexico, then there will be overall less immigration. Of course, the US immigration will continue to avoid acknowledging the contribution of undocumented immigrants on the economy, that should go without saying.

The new rules have been given the euphemism “Consequence Delivery System.” This is just another way to make life more difficult for immigrants, not much different from what anti-immigration legislators like Lamar Smith are already doing across the country. The new system includes: longer stays in the immigration detention system, flights to Mexico City with bus ticket to home town, prosecution in the Mexican courts for smugglers, and bus rides to border-towns hundreds of miles away to disconnect migrants from their networks. Essentially, the Border Patrol is institutionalizing the culture of abuse and maltreatment as outlined in the report from No More Deaths “Culture of Cruelty.” Continue reading

Language is Powerful, Let’s Use it for Justice, 11/7-11/14

15 Nov
The Associated Press Updates Its Stylebook, Still Clings to I-Word, Colorlines, 11/10/11
Entering the US without authorization or “papers” is a misdemeanor (For comparison sake, some other misdemeanors include public intoxication, disorderly conduct or vandalism).  Yet, stereotypes of undocumented immigrants as criminals persist and the use of the word “illegal” to describe these individuals has become mainstream practice.

Colorlines has provided insightful reporting on the history and current use of the term “illegal” in US media and political discourse and how it has shaped attitudes towards immigrants.  This week, they report that the Associated Press’ style guidelines have been updated, dropping the use of “illegal aliens” or “illegals”, but endorsing the use of “illegal immigrant.”  The AP claims that this term is accurate and neutral.  Colorlines provides convincing arguments for why this term is not neutral and provides a link to the AP’s comments page.  Take a moment to urge the AP to drop “illegal immigrant.” Continue reading

Cruelty at the Border, 9/18-9/25

27 Sep
No más muerte painting

Photo by Steve and Paige

New report reveals border patrol abuse, NACLA, 9/21/11
A new report, “Culture of Cruelty,” from a humanitarian aid organization No More Deaths, outlines the abuse faced by migrants at the hands of border patrol agents. Examples of the abuse experienced by a significant proportion of border patrol detainees include: denial of water, denial of emergency aid, death threats, physical abuse, and sleep deprivation.
The dangerous conditions at the southern border represent the most concrete examples of health threats that immigrants face on their way to the United States. The last few decades has seen an increase in the militarization of the border.  This has led to more perilous crossings because migrants are going to more desolate parts of the border, or are trying riskier methods to cross.
Although the Curious Ostrich often focuses on the myriad and sometimes indirect ways our immigration policy is harmful to people’s health, the dangers at the border are perhaps the most obvious and directly endanger people’s lives. People are dying at the border because of the misguided notion that our borders need to be militarized. The report gives recommendations to reduce the health threats, such as increasing access to water and making the border patrol more accountable with civilian oversight committees. Read the report to see how you can help No More Deaths. Continue reading