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Early Arrival: Essex County Detainees Complain About Medical Conditions

Wednesday's Edition of Early Arrival: De Blasio Opposes Noncitizen Voting Bill — 6th Person Dies in ICE Custody — SCOTUS Rules for Public Charge Rule

Mazin Sidahmed

Jan 29, 2020

Immigrant detainees at Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark, New Jersey, are reporting substandard medical care including delays in treatment and abuse from doctors and nurses. 

According to Gothamist/WNYC, detainees, who are in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody while their deportation proceedings are ongoing, said they were not getting proper treatment for a range of illnesses. Some said they were extremely ill with bacterial infections and had not received adequate treatment. Staff at First Friends of New York and New Jersey and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest both noticed an increase in medical complaints from detainees during their work at the facility. 

The quality of medical care in ICE detention centers nationwide has come under scrutiny in recent years as several detainees have died in their custody, as you can read below. Last week, a former detainee at Hudson County Jail, also in New Jersey, filed a lawsuit against CFG Health Systems of Marlton, a company that was previously contracted to provide medical care at the facility. He alleged the company denied him proper care for a chronic skin condition and severe arthritis while he was detained from 2016–2018. CFG currently has a contract with Essex County Correctional Facility. Gothamist/WNYC, NorthJersey.com


De Blasio Opposes Noncitizen Voting Bill

Mayor Bill de Blasio does not support a bill introduced to the New York City Council that gives green card holders and immigrants with work visas the right to vote in local elections. During a press conference on Friday, he said “citizenship is an achievement and it connects to certain rights and privileges including the right to vote.” If passed, the bill could grant 500,000 to 1 million people the right to vote in local elections. According to the Daily News, it already has enough support to pass the 51-member council but not enough to override a veto from the mayor. New York Daily News

DOJ Weighs in on New Jersey Lawsuit Before Trump Visit

The Justice Department voiced its support of local police departments in New Jersey in a lawsuit against the state’s Immigrant Trust Directive, which limits local law enforcement cooperation with immigration authorities. Sheriffs in Cape May County and Ocean County filed separate lawsuits seeking to overturn the directive, which were later consolidated. The move by the Justice Department may have been politically motivated as the counties are in the district of Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a former Democrat who recently joined the Republican party and pledged allegiance to Trump. The president held a rally in Van Drew’s district on Tuesday. The New York Times


6th Person Dies in ICE Custody

A 63-year-old Cuban man died while in ICE custody on Monday. His death came two days after a British man died in ICE custody. Both men were detained in Florida. There have now been six deaths in ICE custody this fiscal year, already close to matching the eight deaths in the 2019 fiscal year. Ben James Owen died in ICE custody at Baker County Detention Center in Macclenny, Florida. His preliminary cause of death is listed as “self-inflicted strangulation,” although ICE said an investigation is ongoing. BuzzFeed News

Thousands Deported in Mexico

A total of 2,300 Hondurans who traveled to Mexico with a migrant caravan have been deported, Mexican authorities announced Tuesday. The deportations took place between Jan. 18 and Monday. The deportees all reportedly entered Mexico from Guatemala with a caravan that had been making its way through Central America and were met by a fierce militarized Mexican National Guard. Around 800 people were reportedly arrested along Mexico’s southern border. The ramped-up response from Mexican authorities toward Central American migrants comes in response to pressure from the U.S. to prevent migrants from reaching the border. AFP

Immigration Judges Continue to Retire

Immigration Judge Charles Honeyman stepped down from the bench this month due to increased pressure from Washington, D.C. Honeyman said he decided to retire after 24 years due to the pressure, which would’ve forced him to deny cases in decisions that would have made him “sick.” Immigration judges have faced escalating pressure through a range of new policies from the Trump administration that force them to adjudicate more cases and leaves little room for independent thought. This includes a case quota that requires judges to close at least 700 cases per year. The Los Angeles Times

Conflicting Accounts on Deportation of Iranian Student

Customs and Border Protection officials have given conflicting accounts over the deportation of Iranian student Mohammad Shahab Dehghani. He was deported on his way back to Northeastern University from Iran, even though a judge ordering a stay on his removal. A DHS source told The Wall Street Journal that Dehghani’s family has ties to a company selling weapons to Hezbollah. However, CBP also told his lawyer it believed he was attempting to immigrate to the U.S., which his visa doesn’t permit. CBP said it is “operating with an enhanced posture” due to the possibility of retaliatory attacks following the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. The Wall Street Journal

Tech Companies Sue USCIS for $350 Million

A new lawsuit filed by a group of tech companies claims U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services unlawfully charged them $350 million in H-1B visa fees over the past six years. Companies with more than 50 employees and 50% of their staff on H-1B visas must pay a $4,000 fee to apply for additional H-1B visas. The companies — ITServe Alliance, iTech US, SmartWorks and Saxon Global — argue some of their employees changed their status while in the U.S. and were not hired from abroad on H-1B visas, meaning the companies should not be charged additional fees. Forbes

Washington — SCOTUS Rules for Public Charge Rule, Democrats Plan Vote on No Ban Act, Border Patrol Gets New Head

The Supreme Court ruled Monday to allow the Trump administration’s controversial public charge rule to go into effect even while lawsuits against the rule continue to work their way through the courts. 

In a 5-4 decision, the judges voted to overturn an injunction placed on the rule by a district judge in New York. This means the rule — which would make it harder for some immigrants who have claimed public benefits in the past to get green cards, visas and other forms of legal status — will now go into effect. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. handed down the ruling with the support of the conservative justices on the bench, while all four of the court’s liberal justices noted their opposition. Neither side provided reasoning for their decision. 

The ruling follows many previous immigration cases that have made their way to the Supreme Court during the Trump administration. And like in most of those cases, conservatives have sided with the government. 

The rule was initially intended to go into effect in October, but was met with a barrage of lawsuits from across the country that resulted in an injunction preventing the rule from being enforced. Under the new criteria, immigration officials must weigh “positive” and “negative” factors when considering green card applications. Negative factors include poor credit scores, lack of employment and fluency in English. Critics argue that it amounts to a wealth test that will discriminate against poor immigrants. 

Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli cheered the decision by the Supreme Court. The Washington Post

House Democrats are planning to vote on a bill that would end Trump’s travel ban and prevent future bans based on religion, even as the president plans to add more countries to the list of those banned from entering the U.S.

Monday marked the three-year anniversary of the travel ban that blocked people from seven Muslim majority countries from coming to the U.S. On this anniversary, House Democrats announced their plan to vote on the No Ban Act that was introduced last year to revoke Trump’s travel ban. The No Ban Act would require the president to provide specific details of national security or safety threats before imposing travel restrictions. Last week, the Trump administration confirmed it is planning to add several more countries to the list of those banned from entering the U.S. The Washington Post Rodney Scott has been named as the new head of the U.S. Border Patrol, taking over from Carla Provost. Scott is a 27-year veteran of the Border Patrol and was raised in Nogales, Arizona. He also is a believer in border barriers as an effective deterrent. Associated Press

Mazin Sidahmed

Mazin Sidahmed is the co-executive director of Documented. He previously worked for the Guardian US in New York. He started his career writing for The Daily Star in Beirut and he also contributed to Politico New York.




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