An Amputated Penis and Starvation: Cruel and Unusual Migrant Punishment.
It's no secret that we are losing the battle. Despite all the positive developments in the pro-migrant blogosphere, despite all the heroic people standing up for our humanity, every we day we allow migrants to live through this fear and government oppression is a day we lose.
Today I bring you the story of two migrants, rendered faceless by national media. These are people, PEOPLE I say, that matter so little to the national press that I haven't been able to find pictures of them. Their stories are shocking enough to merit words on a page, but they are not personally important enough to be humanized through a picture. Despite the suffering they've gone through they are till "others" in the United States. I don't care if you think migrants economically impact U.S. citizens, no person deserves to be treated as these individuals have been treated. I hope that anti-migrant advocates see the type of country their creating, and the sort of suffering they are inducing.
I'm going to use extensive quotes in this post in hopes of giving some humanity to the U.S. migrants that have had it taken away from them, and to let them speak for themselves. The important thing to remember in all of this, though, as the U.S. government carries out a policy of "attrition through enforcement", is that these injustices are going to continue to occur. Migrants cannot be extricated clinically from U.S. society they are part of it in every way.
As a massive inhuman bureaucracy is put in place to process millions of people, migrants like Torres-Flores and Castaneda are going to continue to crop up: forgotten, dehumanized, faceless, suffering, and shrouded in fear. How hard is it to acknowledge their humanity and accept them into U.S. society? I don't understand sometimes...
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette broke the story of Torres-Flores, a longtime undocumented migrant from Mexico, who was forgotten in a tiny holding cell and left there for four days. Without food and water she was forced to drink her own urine in order to survive, and she slept using her shoe as a pillow.
Hour after hour, for four full days, Adriana Torres-Flores was locked away and forgotten in 8 1/2-by-9 1/2-foot cell in the Washington County Courthouse, with only a metal table, two benches and a light bulb that never went out. She had nothing to eat or drink. There was no toilet. Thursday passed. Then Friday, Saturday and Sunday - although Torres-Flores had no watch to tell the time. She slept on the floor with her head on a shoe.
She drank her own urine, she said.Panicked and afraid she would die, Torres-Flores pounded on the steel door with her hands and feet, and yelled. No one heard her.
She described her ordeal through her 14-year-old daughter, Adriana Torres-Diaz, who is bilingual.
"When she first went there, she thought they were going to see her,"the girl said. "She assumed she was being taken care of."
But hours passed and no one came.
"Like in the afternoon, she noticed that no one came by."
Her mother had not eaten breakfast before court on Thursday, Adriana said. She had no food in her pockets and no water to drink. "She had to use the bathroom on the floor."
"She said she was so thirsty she had to drink her own urine,"her daughter said.
"She was feeling like she was going to die."Mark Minton - Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (11 March 2008)
The 'Just News' blog alerted me to a recent decision where a judge said the treatment of a Salvadorian, Francisco Castaneda, was "beyond cruel and unusual punishment". Castaneda is now dead, but I will let him tell his story through his Congressional testimony:
I came to the United States from El Salvador with my mother and siblings when I was ten years old to escape from the civil war. my family moved to Los Angeles where I went to school and began working at the age of 17. My mother died of cancer when I was pretty young, before she was able to get us all legal immigration status. After my mom died, I looked to my community for support, and found myself wrapped up in drugs instead, which, today, I deeply regret. I worked, doing construction, up until I went to prison on a drug charge, where I spent just four months before I was transferred into ICE detention.
When I entered ICE custody at the San Diego Correctional Facility in March 2006, I immediately told them I had a very painful lesion on my penis. After a day or two, Dr. Walker examined me and recognized that the lesion was a problem. He said he would request that I see a specialist right away.
But instead of sending me directly to a specialist, I was forced to wait, and wait, and wait, and wait. All the while, my pain got worse. It started to bleed even more and smell really bad. I also had discharge coming out of it. Aparrently the Division of Immigration Health Services was deciding whether to grant the request. Dr. Walker submitted the request more than once and, after more than a month, it was finally granted. When I saw an oncologist he told me it might be cancer and I needed a biopsy. He offered to admit me to a hospital immediately for the biopsy, but ICE refused to permit a biopsy and told the oncologist that they wanted to try a more cost-effective treatment.
I was then referred to a urologist, Dr. Masters, but I only got to see that urologist two-and-a-half months later, after I filed sick call requests and grievances with ICE. The urologist said I needed a circumcision to remove the lesion and sop the pain and bleeding, and also said I needed a biopsy to figure out if I had cancer. ICE and the Division of Immigration Health Services never did either of those things. They said that it was "elective surgery."
My pain was getting worse by the day. When you are in detention, you can't help yourself. I knew I had a problem, but with everything you have to ask for help. I tried to get medical help everyday. Sometimes I would show the guards my underwear with blood in it to get them to take me to medical, but then they would say they couldn't do anything for me. All they gave me was Motrin and other pain pills. At one point, the doctor gave me special permission to have more clean underwear and bedsheets, because I was getting blood on everything. A guard from my unit once told me he would pray for me because he could see how much I was suffering.
Several more requests for a biopsy were denied. They told me in writing that I could get the surgery after I left the facility--when I was deported.
I late November 2006, I was transferred from San Diego to San Pedro Service Processing Center. When I got there I immediately filed sick call slips about my problem. after a few days I saw the doctors. I told them about my pain and showed them the blood in my boxer shorts and asked them to examine my penis. They didn't even look at it--one of them said I couldn't be helped because I needed "elective surgery." They just gave me more pain pills.
In the middle of December, I noticed a lump in my groin. It hurt a lot and was a little bit smaller than a fist, so I filed a sick call slip about it. Another detainee todl me it could be a hernia. I never got any treatment for it, and I later found out that was a tumor, because the cancer had already spread.
In the beginning of January, one of the guards told me I was going to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. They put me in handcuffs and leg shackles and drove me in a van to the emergency room. When I got there the officer walked all around trying to find someone to see me, but he was told I would have to wait in line like everyone else. After about an hour of following him all chained up, he took me back to San Pedro and I didn't get to see anyone.
Back when I was in San Diego, another detainee gave me the phone number for the ACLU and said they might be able to help me. I called them, and spoke with Mr. Tom Jawetz, here, and told him my story about how much pain I was in. When I got to San Pedro he sent letters and called the people at the facility to try to help me get medical care. Finally, around the end of January, immigration agreed to let me get a biopsy. They made an appointment with the doctor, but just before the surgery they released me from custody. A doctor actually walked me out of Sand Pedro and told me I was released because of my serious medical condition and he encouraged me to get medical attention.
The first thing I did was call the doctor to see whether I could still get my biopsy. The secretary told me ICE had cancelled it. I then went back to the emergency room at Harbor-UCLA--the same place they had left me in the waiting room in shackles--and I waited to see a doctor and finally get my biopsy. A few days later, the doctor told me that I ahd cancer and would have to have surgery right away to remove my penis. He said if I didn't have the surgery I would be dead within one year. On February 14--Valentine's Day--nine days after ICE released me from custody, I had the surgery to remove my penis. Since then, I have been through five aggressive week-long rounds of chemotherapy. Doctors said my cancer spreads very fast--it had already spread to my lymph nodes and maybe my stomach.
I'm sure you can at least image some of how this feels. I am a 35-year-old man without a penis with my life on the line. I have a young daughter, Vanessa, who is only 14. She is here with me today because she wanted to support me--and because I wanted her to see her father do something for the greater good, so that she will have that memory of me. The thought that her pain--and mine--could have been avoided almost makes this too much to bear.
I had to be here today because I am not the only one who didn't get the medical care I needed. It was routine for detainees to have to wait weeks or months to get even basic care. Who knows how many tragic endings can be avoided if ICE will only remember that, regardless of why a person is in detention and regardless of where they will end up, they are still human and deserve basic, humane medical care.
In many ways, it's too late for me. Short of a miracle, the most I can hope for are some good days with Vanessa and justice. My doctors are working on the good days and, thankfully, my attorneys at Public Justice here in Washington, Mr. Conal Doyle in California, and the ACLU are working on the justice--not just for me, but for the many others who are suffering and will never get help unless ICE is forced to make major changes in the medical care provided to immigrant detainees.
I am here to ask each of you, members of Congress, to bring an end to the unnecessary suffering that I, and too many others, have been forced to endure in ICE detention.