The case of Jason Ng and his abuse, neglect and death at the Donald D. Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls, Rhode Island described in my previous post here this week and my post last August was not an isolated incident. A consistent pattern of delays of or a lack of adequate health care and mistreatment of persons held in federal detention is widespread, throughout the country. In an article titled: “Report Faults Treatment of Women Held at Detention Centers”, Dan Frosh writes in the New York Times:
Some 300 women held at immigration detention centers in Arizona face dangerous delays in health care and widespread mistreatment, according to a new study by the University of Arizona, the latest report to criticize conditions at such centers throughout the United States…
Researchers examined the conditions facing women in the process of deportation proceedings at three federal immigration centers in Arizona. An estimated 3,000 women are being held nationwide.
The study concluded that immigration authorities were too aggressive in detaining the women, who rarely posed a flight risk, and that as a result, they experienced severe hardships, including a lack of prenatal care, treatment for cancer, ovarian cysts and other serious medical conditions, and, in some cases, being mixed in with federal prisoners.
True to form for any bureaucratic functionary caught apparently sanctioning (by allowing it to occur on her watch) the abusive practices, Katrina S. Kane, the local director of detention and removal operations for ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in Arizona tried to deflect the truth in a statement she made:
Katrina S. Kane, who directs Arizona detention and removal operations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, dismissed the study as unsubstantiated accounts from a limited number of detainees and their advocates.
“Reports such as this, while alleging to be unbiased, do great harm to the public’s understanding of the complex issues involved in immigration law enforcement,” Ms. Kane said.
Ms. Kane’s blatant stone walling does not hide the truth, nor does it offset incidents of abuse of immigrants at the hands of our government such as that suffered by one West African woman as reported by Dan Frosch:
In one of several cases documented in the study, a woman being held at the Central Arizona Detention Center in Florence who experienced excruciating abdominal pain for months after she had been forced to undergo female genital mutilation in West Africa was told by the center’s staff to “exercise and watch her diet,” her lawyer at the time, Raha Jorjani, said. After nearly six months, the woman, who had been convicted of a nonviolent crime, was taken to a hospital where an ultrasound revealed a cyst the size of a five-month-old fetus, Ms. Jorjani said.
Immigration officials then suddenly released the woman with no money or health insurance to treat the cyst, Ms. Jorjani said.
The three detention centers that the University of Arizona report focused on, like the Wyatt detention facility, are operated by contractors for the feds, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Department and the Corrections Corporation of America. This has been the pattern in various cases of abuse of individuals detained by ICE throughout the country ever since the Bush administration began reacting to the 9/11 attacks.
This is the kind of human rights abuse that we are used to reading about occuring in third world countries, but instead, over zealous, some could say, sadistic, low and middle level government functionaries, with the tacit encouragement of the former corrupt administration have made our own country a Hellish pit of human misery. In many cases, people who looked to the United States as a beacon of freedom, as a place where they might be able to make a safe and productive life for themselves and their families, have instead become victims of a callous government, that at least for the past eight years, had seemed unaccountable to the laws and moral values of its people.
Let us not be complacent though. Do not think that just because we have spoken and have seen a new administration that is committed to following the rule of law, and responding to the majority of the people, that the pockets of abuse, incompetence and mismangement throughout the federal bureaucracy will automatically self-correct. It is incumbent upon all of us to still raise the alarms when these issues are uncovered, and make our voices heard, to keep the pressure on our representatives and leaders to always respond appropriately to these issues.