A Pattern of Medical Neglect in ICE Detention Centers Has Immigrants and Advocates on Alert
Nooses constructed from bedsheets hanging in cells. Tooth decay. Inadequate, or delayed, medical care. These are just some of the conditions uncovered in a surprise inspection of Adelanto ICE Processing Center, according to a new report from the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General.
One detainee is said to have lost multiple teeth after waiting more than two years to have cavities filled. A dentist reportedly recommended that detainees concerned about their oral health use string from their socks to floss their teeth, if they could not afford dental floss. (An ICE spokesperson responded that “ICE is concerned by the OIG’s findings” but went on to say that some of these findings lack context.)
The conditions reported in Adelanto are not isolated, and they aren’t new. For years, ICE detainees and their advocates have complained of sub-standard medical care and medical neglect in ICE detention. Medical abuse and neglect may end in death for immigrant detainees.
“Inadequate medical care is part and parcel of the system,” Alan Dicker of the Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee (DMSC) in El Paso, Texas, tells Brit + Co of ICE detention. There are currently around 30,000 people in immigrant detention facilities in the US, according to the Global Detention Project.
Recentreports from Human Rights Watch document “serious lapses in health care that have led to severe suffering and at times the preventable or premature death of individuals held in immigration detention facilities in the United States.”
Such “lapses” include a lack of sufficient care for Raul Ernesto Morales-Ramos, who died of cancer in ICE detention in 2015; though he exhibited symptoms and even “begged” for treatment, a nurse only gave him ibuprofen, according to a HRW report. The same report says that ICE failed to address vision issues in another detainee, who became legally blind, likely as a result of the lack of care.
Liz Martinez, the Director of Advocacy and Strategic Communications for Freedom For Immigrants, tells us over email that her organization “receives more complaints on medical abuse and neglect [of immigrant detainees]” from detainees and advocates than about any other single concern. “In fact,” Martinez says, “in the last two years, over 37 percent of the complaints we have received are about medical neglect and abuse.”
When it exists at all, medical care in ICE detention facilities has remained exceedingly poor under the Trump administration. Some advocates say the Trump administration has made conditions even more dire.
Julie Schwietert Collazo, a writer and the founder of Immigrant Families Together, an organization that bonds people out of ICE detention and provides legal aid to separated immigrant families, tells Brit + Co that she has heard truly appalling stories of medical mistreatment in ICE detention. The rumors she relayed to us from recently detained women reflect a culture of fear within detention facilities: stories of unnecessary medical interventions and surgeries, and one woman who even used the word “experiment” to describe the goings on.
Khaalid Walls, the Northeast Regional Communications Director/Spokesman for ICE, told Brit + Co over email that “any allegation that ICE is engaged in any medical experimentation at its detention facilities is categorically false,” and asked us for information so as to follow-up on the alleged instances of malpractice.
Meanwhile, DMSC has heard of pharmacists treating detainees in lieu of a medical doctor, Dicker told us. He added that “ICE and the private prison companies that house people generally treat people like commodities, and it does not surprise us that [the detainees’] health and proper medical treatment is not a priority.”
Indeed, lawsuits and other media reports of medical neglect and mistreatment reveal an environment hostile to the physical and psychological well-being of immigrant detainees. Myriad allegations of severe abuse and neglect range from denying detainees proper food to shackling pregnant mothers.
Victoria López, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Prison Project, told Brit + Co that “some of the care, or lack of care, that people receive in custody has been shocking.”
One of the most shocking and disturbing allegations to emerge from ICE detention after news of family separations broke were of immigrant minors being drugged after they were detained — ostensibly, and allegedly, to calm these children down, according to reporting by Reveal News. A lawsuit filed by the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law claimed in April of this year (prior to the implementation of the family separation policy) that immigrant children held in detention, including the Shiloh Treatment Center in Texas, were routinely forced to take psychotropic drugs to manage their psychological trauma. The administration was ordered by a federal judge to stop this practice in July.
Remarks from immigrant rights advocates echo complaints of a group of detained immigrant mothers who claimed in 2015 that instead of receiving proper medical care for ailments such as broken bones, they were told to “drink more water.” The same group of mothers also claimed that people in detention were stressed to the point of attempting suicide.
Medical neglect also allegedly led to a number of recent detainee or recently-released detainee deaths, or life-threatening conditions. Morales-Ramos is one such victim, and there have been more tragic deaths since his. Earlier in the summer, a Guatemalan toddler died weeks after being released from ICE detention. The family alleges that the child died because of inadequate medical care in detention. A five-year-old girl who was held in Border Patrol detention in McAllen, Texas, this summer nearly died due to alleged medical neglect as well. The child was sick with a “common illness,” the Intercept reported, that is easy to diagnose and treat but can be deadly if it is not addressed in time. The OIG told the Intercept that the recommendations named in the report would be “complete by the end of 2018.”
Suicide has been no small issue for immigrant detainees in the past and under the Trump administration, as well. An immigrant ICE detainee from Mexico who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder completed suicide at the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia in July of this year after he was held in solitary confinement for 21 days. At Adelanto, one detainee died of suicide by hanging last year.
According to Human Rights Watch, more than 50 percent of deaths in ICE detention facilities between December 2015 and April 2017 were caused in part by “poor medical treatment.” At least 150 people died while in ICE detention between 2003 and 2015, according to a 2015 report published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
It would appear that the Trump administration is hell bent on rolling back what little access to medical rights immigrant detainees currently have. According to the New York Times, the Trump administration argued in front of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that undocumented teens should not have a right to on-demand abortions. Undocumented teens seeking abortions brought the case against the administration earlier this year.
Though abortion is a safe and necessary medical procedure protected by the Constitution, the Trump administration is arguing that it “has a strong, legitimate and profound interest in the life of the child in the womb.” Brett Kavanaugh, the highly controversial Supreme Court justice nominee, unsuccessfully attempted to stop an undocumented teen girl from having an abortion in 2017.
But pregnant women in ICE detention facilities have also claimed that severe medical neglect caused them to miscarry. According to a terrifying July report from BuzzFeed News, pregnant women in multiple immigrant detention centers alleged that they were denied access to doctors, put in shackles (sometimes around their stomachs, even during the second trimester) during transit, and other abuses that fall desperately short of suitable care for pregnant women. Despite the sworn testimony of former detainees, ICE said in a statement to BuzzFeed News that “all detainees, determined to be pregnant, are provided appropriate education, pre-natal care, and post-natal care. Such care includes referral to a physician specializing in high-risk pregnancies when high-risk pregnancy is indicated.”
Behind all of these reports of neglect and abuse, Liz Martinez says, is the desire to make money.
“To turn a profit,” she says, “private prison companies try to cut costs on essential things such as health care — all at the expense of the lives of immigrants.”
All doctors and dentists at ICE facilities are employed by the ICE Health Services Corps (IHSC). According to its website, IHSC is responsible for providing the medical, dental, and mental health care of over 13,500 detainees housed at 21 designated facilities across the US, as well as “case management and oversight” for some 15,000 detainees housed at “approximately 119 non-IHSC staffed detention facilities across the country.”
Though ICE and DHS are technically accountable to Congress, the House committee tasked with ICE oversight hasn’t held a meeting in years. Effectively, there is little accountability that ICE is held to. And though mid-term elections are coming up soon, there is no guarantee that Congress will flip in favor of the Democrats, which would leave Trump ostensibly free to do what he wishes.
Meanwhile, Schwietert Collazo tells us that she has heard “a litany of horror stories” while working with families who were forcibly separated at the border under the administration’s “zero tolerance policy,” and says that “there is no low bar” for the current White House administration.
“Just when you think it can’t get any lower,” she warns, “it does.”
What do you think? Tell us on Twitter @BritandCo.
(Photos by John Moore/Getty Images)
This Jewelry Designer Infuses ‘90s Hip Hop, Caribbean Spice + Vibrant Hues into Everything She Makes
This Jewelry Designer Infuses '90s Hip Hop, Caribbean Spice + Vibrant Hues into Everything She Makes
Vibrant hues, '90s-era boldness, and raw artisanal beauty — these are just a few of the characteristics that make the work of today's creative crush truly swoonworthy. Named for a potent Caribbean pepper, Tracey-Renee Hubbard's Scotchbonnet is a gorgeous line of earrings and accessories made by hand with love, thoughtfulness and a resolute passion for the art of making.
Anjelika Temple here, co-founder of Brit + Co and super fan of Scotchbonnet! Like so many creative connections these days, I first connected with designer Tracey-Renee when she DM'ed the @britandco IG account and we featured her work in a story roundup of BIPOC makers. A few weeks later, she applied and won a scholarship to our first session of the Selfmade program where Brit and I both had the privilege of mentoring and working with Tracey-Renee on her brand, her business plan, and her mission. Since then she's been awarded a minority creative grant from JOANN Fabrics, and seriously upleveled her production process thanks to a collaboration with Glowforge. (PS: B+C readers can get 20% off their own Glowforge Pro by clicking here!)
Now I am thrilled to be able to share more about this brilliant maker's journey, inspiration and creative process in this edition of Creative Crushin'.
Anjelika Temple: Before we get into learning all about your creative inspiration, tell us a little about your background.
Tracey-Renee Hubbard: I was born and raised in Wisconsin. Yep, lots of cheese and cows. Growing up in Wisconsin right outside of Milwaukee provided me with a surprisingly diverse and eclectic foundation. My parents stressed the importance of academics, but they didn't believe that excelling at school needed to come at the expense of creativity or other hobbies. Art, music, books and softball were a big chunk of my childhood. Crafting and creating have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.
One of my favorite shows to watch when I was growing up was "A Different World." It was about the college experience at a fictitious HBCU (Historically Black College/University) called Hillman College. Watching that show inspired me to go to Florida A&M University (an HBCU) where I received a BS in Business Management and an MBA.
The world changes quickly and I love learning new things! After completing my MBA program, I studied graphic design, multimedia art and completed the Merchandise Product Development program at FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising) in San Francisco. My academic and professional experiences have given me the opportunity to live and work in lots of interesting places; but for now I am based in the San Francisco Bay area.
Anj: Did you always know that you wanted to be a professional artist/creative?
Tracey-Renee: Yep, but for a long time I was afraid to do it because of the "starving artist" stigma (all lies, btw). I tried to compartmentalize my creative practices as just a "hobby", but when something is truly in your spirit the desire never really goes away…and so now here I am!
Anj: What do you love about making things? What keeps the spark going for you?
Tracey-Renee: I've been inspired to create for as long as I can remember! I've always been fascinated by color, texture, travel and cultural connection. I grew up watching my grandmother quilt, sew and mend garments, I saw my Mom create beautiful home décor and heirloom holiday decorations and spent time in my Dad's workshop. Being surrounded by unique handmade items that hold special stories has fueled my passion for being a designer and maker.
Anj: Like so many artists, you've got a day job in addition to your creative hustle. Tell us about your career path.
Tracey-Renee: My first "real job" was in pharmaceutical sales and marketing. I loved the left brain/right brain mix of processing all the data and scientific information and then finding creative ways to relay that information to doctors and health care providers. That role really opened my eyes to the power of messaging and visual communication tools which ultimately led to me returning to school to study digital design and multimedia arts. I've had fun using my marketing and digital design skills in several different industries. I currently work as the Director of Marketing and Creative Strategy for a candy company. I spend a lot of time working in the digital realm – I think most of us do- and that makes me really appreciate the time I spend making handmade jewelry for Scotchbonnet.
Anj: Tell me more about your brand Scotchbonnet! How would you describe your brand's mission?
Tracey-Renee: I want to make pieces that are cherished - special but not so "precious" that they sit in a box stored away for special occasions that are far and few between. My accessories are known for their bold shapes, bright colors and eye-catching patterns. Each piece is handmade with love (I hope my customers can feel it when they wear their Scotchbonnet accessories)!
Scotchbonnet jewelry has been described as "conversation starters" and I love the fact that they connect people and get them to start conversing. I am excited about elevating those conversations by creating capsule collections connected to social causes; that way the chat can go beyond just "cute earrings, where'd you get them?"
Anj: At Brit + Co, we are enamored with bright colors, patterns and geometric shapes -- and clearly, you are too! How did you hone in on your aesthetic?
Tracey-Renee: I chose the name Scotchbonnet for my jewelry brand because scotch bonnet peppers add a distinctively potent spice to Caribbean food and I feel that my jewelry has the same vibe. My accessories are known for vibrant hues, bold shapes and eye-catching patterns. I am inspired by the flashiness of 90s hip-hop, the simplicity of modern luxury, and the raw beauty of artisan goods from the African Diaspora. My aesthetic continues to evolve based on the things I love, the places I've been and the community I want to serve.
Anj: We LOVED mentoring you + helping your business grow during our first Selfmade session. What were your main takeaways from the program and experience?
Tracey-Renee: Selfmade helped me understand the importance of having a clear vision and trusting my intuition. It can be inspirational watching other entrepreneurs "hustling and winning" on their social media feeds, but without clarity about my vision that "inspiration" can be overwhelming and make things confusing. It's easy to confuse movement with progress – Selfmade helped me craft an action plan that ensures each step builds momentum and accelerates me toward my goals. Selfmade also provided me with a vibrant, uplifting community of founders, entrepreneurs and go-getters.
Anj: When you get creatively blocked or burnt out, how do you reset? Do you have tips you can share?
Tracey-Renee: I take a break. We're inundated with "hustle culture" that can make us feel guilty for taking a break, but at the end of the day we're of no value to anyone when we're burnt out. When I have a creative block I usually log off for a while… there's this duality with the internet where on the surface it seems to be an endless pool of inspiration, but in reality everything that's on the internet has already been filtered or curated by someone else. Sometimes it's helpful to see things through a new lens and find inspiration in ("real" physical) books, at a museum or out in nature. Seeing things in a new light from a different angle can be a really refreshing creative jolt.
Anj: What does your workspace look like? What tools do you use and how has it changed over the years?
Tracey-Renee: I'd describe it as "choreographed chaos". It's organized enough so that I can be efficient with the administrative parts of my business like: inventory management, packing and shipping. It's creative enough so that it still feels inspiring, and it's tidy enough that it doesn't feel overwhelming to sit down and start working. It smells like coconut or tropical fruit (thanks to my candles) and it sounds like hip-hop, dance hall, soca or afrobeats.
The primary mediums I work with are wood, paint, glass beads and recently brass. With that being said my paint brushes, needle & thread and jeweler's saw are always within close reach. The most recent addition to my studio is my Glowforge Pro 3D laser printer; it is a game changer! It shrunk my product development cycle time infinitely. Prior to the Glowforge the process was time consuming and costly; now, I can literally "print" a new design within minutes of sketching out an idea. It's also been awesome when it comes to inventory management and sustainability. I no longer have to worry about over-producing or wasting materials; I can make exactly what I need right when I need it without any waste. The Glowforge can make millions of things and I'm excited about trying new design ideas in the future. I have a ton of sketches and inspo photos on my magnet board and in my notebooks waiting to be explored. (ICYMI: B+C readers can get 20% off their own Glowforge Pro by clicking here!)
Anj: What advice do you have for emerging artists and designers just getting started? What advice do you have for creatives struggling to find their unique voice?
Tracey-Renee: Start with your "why" and not your "what". Your "why" will be the secret weapon that competitors will never be able to touch. Once you have that part figured out; dive in! I think that now is a really exciting time for creatives. The rise of entrepreneurship powered by social media has removed a lot of barriers that used to make creative careers seem out of reach. Protect your work, but don't be afraid to put yourself (and your stuff!) out there. Connect with other artists and build a community, it's so important to have a sounding board for difficult times and a crew with whom you can celebrate your successes.
Anj: What's next for your brand?
Tracey-Renee: Scaling and growing in a way that feels authentic. I have new colors and new products coming soon and I am super excited about that! My upcoming premium capsule collections are close to my heart; designing jewelry inspired by social causes and having a "give back" component means the world to me. I want to keep having fun with my brand, sharing joy with fun colors and patterns and infusing love into each handmade piece.