ICE and Janet Napolitano's Gulag Archipelago for Women

I've gotta give a shout out to our sister paper Miami New Times' Riptide blog for this disturbing post about the medieval health care female immigrant detainees receive in ICE's countrywide gulag archipelago. In it, reporter Tim Elfrink covers a news conference in Miami where the results of two studies condemning the health care available to illegal immigrants in ICE custody were released. There, Marlene Jaggernauth, "a legal U.S. resident for 27 years," gave her testimony:

"[ICE] arrested the Trinidad native on a shoplifting charge from six years earlier, took her from her four young children, and moved her from county jail to county jail around Florida for a full year while her case was adjudicated.

"Her situation was terrible enough, but she couldn't believe what she saw during her time in Florida's ICE prisons: mentally ill women denied medicine for weeks and mocked by guards as they suffered terrifying visions; women routinely denied basic supplies like sanitary pads; medical service for seriously ill prisoners maliciously denied. `I saw a great deal of suffering and it was heartbreaking,' Jaggernauth, a slight, well-dressed 43-year-old said today."

Also at the presser was Haitian-born author Edwidge Danticat whose elderly uncle died in ICE captivity in 2004 after being denied medical care. Her 2007 book Brother, I'm Dying is in part inspired by her uncle's death.

One of the reports announced at the media event was produced by the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, and titled, Dying for Decent Care. The other study, done by the NGO Human Rights Watch, is titled, Detained and Dismissed: Women's Struggles to Obtain Health Care in United States Immigration Detention. The Human Rights Watch study opens with a gruesome account of a detainee being held by the Pinal County Jail in Florence, Arizona. Read it for yourself:

"Medical care that is provided to us is very minimal and general.... If you do not speak English, you cannot fuss, the only thing you can do is go to bed & suffer.... We have no privacy when our health record is being discussed.... When we've complained to the nurses, we get ridiculed with replies like: `You should have made better choices ... ICE is not here to make you feel comfortable ... our hands are [tied] ... Well, we can't do much you're getting deported anyway ... learn English before you cross the border ... Mi casa no es su casa.'.... Our living situation is degrading and inhuman."

The HRW report states that, "The detained population [of illegal immigrants] on any given day is now over 29,000 nationwide, up almost 50 percent from 2005." And it notes that these people are being "held as a result of administrative, rather than criminal, infractions," nevertheless, "the medical treatment they receive can be worse than that of convicted criminals in the US prison system."

These studies reveal that the misery resulting from ICE's denial of proper medical care is a national problem. Locally, it reminds you of the recent case of Maria del Carmen Garcia-Martinez, whose arm was broken in MCSO custody as Joe Arpaio's thugs tried to force her to give fingerprints on ICE documents. After this physical abuse, she relented, with a 287(g) officer by the name of A. Reese signing off on the paperwork.

Ultimately, it's up to Department of Homeland Security honcho Janet Napolitano to fix this mess, and end the inhumane treatment of these women. Reporter Elfrink contacted ICE for a response, and got one indicating that Nappy's longtime crony Dora Schriro, former director of the Arizona Department of Corrections, is on the job, and will serve as the Napster's, "special advisor on detention and removal." In other words, activists, better stay on their heels. This pair of political snugglebunnies need a forest fire under their fannies for motivation, so get your kindling ready to go.

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