A Crumb For the Starving: Detainee Basic Medical Care Act of 2008
It may not be politically viable, I may be attacking allies in this post, but someone needs to say it. In the wake of shocking exposes in the New York Times, The Washington Post, and 60 Minutes, (h/t to Roberto Lovato for the links) it looks like there's actually some movement from the U.S. government to enact some pro-migrant, or better said, less anti-migrant federal legislation. Nina Bernstein and Julia Preston of the New York Times report in "Better Health Care Sought for Detained Immigrants".
[The] legislation would require the federal government to establish mandatory standards for medical and mental health care, replacing the voluntary standards that apply now in the network of more than 300 publicly and privately run jails where the government holds people while it decides whether to deport them.Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced the Detainee Basic Medical Care Act of 2008 (DBMC) in the U.S. Senate, along with original co-sponsors Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT). The bill is a companion to what U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced in the U.S. House., H.R. 5950.
The bill would also require the secretary of the Homeland Security Department to report all deaths in immigration detention within 48 hours to the Justice Department’s inspector general as well as its own. Immigration officials would be required to submit a detailed report on such deaths to Congress every year.Nina Bernstein and Julia Preston
New York Times
7 May 2008
Don't get me wrong, there are extremely important systemic provisions in this bill, that would certainly bring U.S. migrants closer to being treated as fully human. A seemingly simple, but important provision, is just to force the Department of Homeland Security to report detainee deaths, which is not required as of yet. Here's the portion of the bill that addresses it:
(g) Reporting Requirements- The Secretary of Homeland Security shall report to the Offices of Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, within 48 hours, information regarding the death of any immigration detainee in the Secretary's custody. Not later than 60 days after the end of each fiscal year, the Secretary shall submit a report to the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate and the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives containing detailed information regarding the death of all immigration detainees in the Secretary's custody during the preceding fiscal year.Getting DHS to report migrant deaths is a small but important step towards holding the federal government accountable for the horrible abuses migrants suffer at the U.S. governments hands. ICE spokespeople tell us over and over how humane they treat migrants, but how are we supposed to tell when they do not release any information on their activities, and are not required to do so? This is in line with a U.S. government that fails to count Iraqi deaths. How can you even pretend to value human life when you're not even counting the people that die while you're responsible for them?
This bill, even if enacted, should not be held up as a victory for migrant advocates. Offering migrants medical care after they've trekked across the world in search of opportunity, after they've been exploited by employers, after they've been separated from their families and detained en route to deportation, is like giving a bread crumb to starving person.
Or maybe we should say, "Thank you, Congress for introducing legislation to stop the government you run from killing migrants!"