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¡No Se Deje!
The intense national debate about immigration law and possible Immigration Law Reform is important and necessary. Comprehensive Immigration Reform with a process for earning U. S. citizenship by undocumented immigrants has many supporters and opponents. Even those of us that support Comprehensive Immigration Reform understand that people have a right to oppose reform and to work to defeat it.
Some acts however, are universally considered wrong. All decent people should agree that mistreating, abusing or neglecting people in custody or denying needed medical attention is wrong and should be punished. In this country it is said that “NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW”. This means that EVERYONE who violates the law must be treated the same. Government officials are no exception.
The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and the NEW YORK TIMES took legal action to force Immigration Officials to disclose information about the deaths of immigrants in custody pending deportation. Official documents, records and reports reveal that since 2003 there have been at least 107 such deaths. Prior to 2003, the deaths of immigrants in immigration jails were not counted nor the victims identified. This is outrageous and impossible to justify. In 2008, newspaper reporters were told that very little information was available about who the victims were or how they died.
Newspaper reporters and ACLU attorneys that reviewed the government files and records indicate that it is clear that government officials acted to avoid outside investigations. A New York Times report states that “documents show how officials-some still in key positions-used their roles as overseers to cover up evidence of mistreatment (of immigrants), deflect scrutiny by the news media or prepare exculpatory public statements after gathering facts that pointed to substandard care or abuse”. They reported one case in which jail medical employees falsified the medical report to indicate that one Latino immigrant had been given Motrin. In fact, the immigrant had died before the date the Motrin was reported given.
To make matters worse, the investigation reveals that immigration officials developed several deceptive tactics and procedures to avoid detection and publicity about their misconduct. These officials privately discussed sending dying immigrants back to their native countries or releasing them to family members in this country to avoid the cost of providing medical treatment. This is especially offensive since the illnesses and injuries were contracted or suffered while in immigration jails. Space limitations do not permit me to reveal the sickening details of so many more disgraceful, unnecessary and unjustified deaths at the hands of government officials and employees. One such death involved a 62 year old barber who came to this country in 1972 and had been a legal permanent resident for 33 years. He was arrested by immigration officials for a 1979 conviction for a minor battery offense and petty theft. He was a diabetic and had high blood pressure. He died in immigration jail.
The details of each of these deaths must be thoroughly investigated. The Civil law provides for “Just Compensation” for wrongful death. And, many of the improper acts revealed may also constitute crimes. NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW. ¡NO SE DEJE! ®
JESS J. ARAUJO, ESQ.