Tag Archives: Detention

Death in Detention: Details of a Life Lost


Yesterday’s New York Times covers the story of an immigrant detained in 2005 who then died three weeks later, captive of a broken system. Until February of this year, the government refused to acknowledge the existence of Tanveer Ahmad.

Tanveer Ahmad, it turns out, was a longtime New York City cabdriver who had paid thousands of dollars in taxes and immigration application fees. Whether out of love, loneliness or the quest for a green card, he had twice married American women after entering the country on a visitor’s visa in 1993. His only trouble with the law was a $200 fine for disorderly conduct in 1997: While working at a Houston gas station, he had displayed the business’s unlicensed gun to stop a robbery.

After September 11th, this small misdemeanor was enough to get Ahmad arrested, under new and stricter laws.

It would come back to haunt him. For if Mr. Ahmad’s overlooked death showed how immigrants could vanish in detention, his overlooked American life shows how 9/11 changed the stakes for those caught in the nation’s tangle of immigration laws.

In the end, his body went back in a box to his native village, to be buried by his Pakistani widow and their two children, conceived on his only two trips home in a dozen years. He had always hoped to bring them all to the United States, his widow, Rafia Perveen, said in a tearful telephone interview through a translator.

“He said America is very good,” she recalled. “When it comes to the treatment of Muslims in the U.S., he had faith in the rule of law. He said, ‘In America, they don’t bother anyone just for no reason.’ ”

When immigration agents burst into Mr. Ahmad’s two-room Flatbush apartment on Aug. 2, 2005, they were looking for someone else, his friends say — a roommate suspected of violating his student visa by working. But they ordered Mr. Ahmad to report to immigration headquarters in Manhattan on Aug. 11.

Ahmad is the poster child of the almost impossibly complicated legal paths immigrants must walk in order to gain documents to back up their presence in this country.

Though he had overstayed his first visa, he had repeatedly been authorized to work while his applications for “adjustment of status” were pending. Twice before 9/11 he had been allowed back into the country after visits to Pakistan.

While the DHS cover-up of Ahmad’s death (and even his existence) are shocking, it is evident that this situation is not isolated. The backlogs and complications of the immigration bureaucracy in this country are driving away some of the best and the brightest in the country, while others die, locked up for a questionable reason and unacknowledged except for statistics used to bolster the very forces that killed them.

Yet if his death was not counted, his arrest was — it had been added to the agency’s anti-terrorism statistics, according to government documents showing he was termed a “collateral” apprehension in Operation Secure Commute, raids seeking visa violators after the London transit bombings.

I find this to be the worst kind of hypocrisy.

Another Death in Detention


It seems like the stories of inadequate healthcare for immigrant detainees never cease. Last week, there was a report of yet another immigrant death in Detention, this time in Colombus, Georgia.

Roberto Martinez Medina, a 39-year-old Mexican national being held on immigration violations passed away at the St. Francis Hospital in Columbus, Georgia, of apparent natural causes. An autopsy will be performed.

ICE officials have notified Martinez’s next of kin and the Mexican consulate of his passing. In addition, consistent with ICE protocol, the appropriate state health and local law enforcement agencies have been notified.

For more on the neglect faced by immigrant detainees, check out RaceWire’s most recent analysis of Health in Detention.  Here’s a brief synopsis:

Part of the problem is that the mission of ICE’s Division of Immigration Health Services isn’t really to ensure that all detainees receive the care they need, but rather, to keep people essentially well enough to be kicked out of the country before they die. (Though occasionally, the process gets a little mixed up.)

I think that pretty much sums it up. My heart goes out to the Martinez Medina family.

Widow Sues after Husbands Death in Detention

As some of you know, I have been following the story of Hiu Liu “Jason” Ng, a 34 year old Chinese immigrant who died while in custody, after being denied access to medical care. Last month a report was released that documented the cruel and inhumane treatment that Ng received at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, NY.

Now, Ng’s widow, Lin Li Qu is filing a lawsuit against both the detention facility and ICE.

“They treated him like he was a piece of furniture. They treated him like an animal,” said Jack McConnell, a volunteer lawyer for the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Ng’s widow.

Let’s hope that this lawsuit allows more light to be shed on the appalling conditions of immigrant detention in this country.

Opportunity to Fix Shameful Detention System

From Alternet:

Members of the U.S. Congress have a significant opportunity to restore decency and end the human rights violations inside immigrant detention centers in the United States by supporting the Secure and Safe Detention and Asylum Act, S. 3114, reintroduced today by Senators Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and Chuck Hagel, R-Nebraska.

The National Immigrant Justice Center has joined a broad coalition of 54 faith-based, human rights, and community organizations in a letter of support.

In the past month, several media outlets have detailed the dismal state of the immigrant detention system in the United States. From government documents and interviews with former detainees and their families, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and 60 Minutes have reported stories of medical neglect, unreported deaths and suicides, forced sedation of detainees by immigration officers, and a severe lack of resources for doctors and nurses working inside immigrant detention facilities

Click here to read full article.

The Common Thread that Binds Us

From the Sanctuary today, a powerful post that speaks to the humanity of us all.

What follows are seven news stories, all from different places and times. Some happened only weeks ago … some years. Some are well known … others obscure. But a common thread runs through them all.

Click here to read the seven stories, from the original post on the Sanctuary.

From Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez dying from a lack of water, to Francisco Castaneda of neglect and cancer, to Luz Dominguez losing a job for having the audacity to ask for fair wages and treatment, to Adriana Torres-Flores left in a holding cell for days without food and water… they share a common thread that binds them.

They are part of the silent and forgotten, living in the shadows, unprotected by laws and regulations most take for granted. It matters not if they toiled in fields to put food on our tables, supplied the weapons of war, or cleaned the rooms we sleep in. Nor does it matter if they ran afoul of the law … they share a common thread that binds them.

They are the other.

They are those who go unseen even in the light of day.

We don’t want to know their names or their stories. We don’t want to hear of their suffering, or know about their dreams and aspirations. We don’t want to have to look them in the eye and see their humanity.

Because if we did for only just one moment, then we might be forced to see not only them …but us …for what we really are.

So hide your eyes, walk quickly as you pass. Don’t acknowledge their presence.

Don’t look at the mother holding her child and see the love between them. Don’t admire the workers, laboring to supply the goods and services on which you rely, for their industriousness. Don’t stop for a moment to smile or even nod a quick hello.

Because if you did, for only just one a moment, you might be forced to see …. the common thread that binds us.

On Thin ICE

By Jacqueline Stevens, The Nation. Posted June 10, 2008.

“I documented thirty-one cases from across the country of US citizens, eight born here, incarcerated as aliens for one month to five years. Fourteen were deported. Five remain in detention.”

A headline in the San Francisco Chronicle screams, 900 Nabbed in State on Immigration Charges. The Seattle Times reports, Feds Combing Jails for Illegal Immigrants. An AP article declares, Immigration Raid in Iowa Largest Ever in US and reports 390 arrests. In 2007, more than 276,912 US residents were deported. Thanks to a recent Bush Administration crackdown, the net cast by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) is wide–so wide, it turns out, that some of those being deported are US citizens.

Is ICE an efficient law enforcement agency? Or, in the words of Robert, 38, a US citizen twice deported to Mexico, is ICE “just throwing us out for nothing”?

Consider what happened to Peter Guzman. Last year Guzman, a US citizen born in Los Angeles in 1977, drove onto the tarmac of a regional airport in his hometown of Lancaster, about eighty miles northeast of Los Angeles, boarded a charter plane without a ticket and refused to get off. Guzman was arrested and sentenced, and served forty-one days in a Los Angeles County jail. According to his lawyer, Mark Rosenbaum of the Southern California ACLU, Guzman was excited about being released in time for his brother’s July wedding in Las Vegas. “It was a big deal to Peter. He was going to be the best man.” It never occurred to Guzman that in July he’d be eating garbage and bathing in the Tijuana River.

But on May 11, 2007, he called his family and said he’d been deported. According to the ACLU lawsuit, before his sister-in-law could find out exactly where he was and give him instructions, the line was cut. She overheard him ask, “Where am I?”

Read the full article here.

VIDEO: US System of Deportation and Detention Inhumane!

Over 30,000 people are housed within detention centers across the United States and last year, over 276,000 immigrants were deported.

Since the American government has failed to comprehensively reform the failed immigration system, it has placed pressure on ICE to ramp up its deportation activities. This is being played out in the rash of recent raids terrorizing communities.

Among the many prisons where immigrant families are housed is the T. Don Hutto “residential center”. Many families (including women, children and infants) are subjected to inhumane conditions during detention. Check out this video from The Real News Network detailing detention and its impact thousands of families and their loved ones.