Immigrant Dies of Medical Neglect in Detention

Guido Newbrough died of an untreated staph infection in his heart. He was being held at the Piedmont Regional Jail in Farmville, VA.

[G]uards should have noticed that Mr. Newbrough was in critical condition as the bacteria colonizing his heart broke loose, creating abscesses in his brain, liver and kidneys.

…Several detainees interviewed by telephone last week said that in the two weeks before Thanksgiving, Mr. Newbrough’s back pain grew so bad that he began sobbing through the night, and some in the 90-man unit took turns making him hot compresses. By the Sunday before Thanksgiving, he was desperate, two detainees said, and banged at the door of the unit’s lunchroom, yelling for help. They said by the time guards responded, he was seated at a table.

“They told him to get up, and he said he couldn’t get up because he was in a lot of pain,” said Salvador Alberto Rivas, who identified himself as Mr. Newbrough’s bunk mate, awaiting deportation to El Salvador. “Because of the pain, he started crying, and he was trying to tell them he had put in requests for medical and didn’t get any. And then one of the guards threw him to the floor.”

“They drag him by his leg, in front of about 30 people,” said another detainee, who gave his name only as Jose for fear of retaliation, adding that many witnesses had since been transferred to other jails or deported.

“We didn’t know that he was dying,” added Jose, who wrote about the case in a letter published online by a Spanish weekly. “They took him to the hole. He was yelling for help in the hole, too.”

The New York Times has reported on other deaths in immigration detention due to medical neglect, including the Piedmont facility:

Hiu Lui Ng, died 8/08

Francisco Castaneda, died 2/26/08

Boubacar Bah, died 6/07

Abdoulai Sall, died 12/06

Young Sook Kim, died 9/11/06

Sandra M. Kenley, died 2005

There are many others. The Washington Post wrote recently that “Some 83 detainees have died in, or soon after, custody during the past five years…Actions taken — or not taken — by medical staff members may have contributed to 30 of those deaths…”

People United, the ACLU and Human Rights Watch have been active in calling for accountability and change.

These are human lives we’re talking about. But somehow, when a person ends up in immigration detention, the value of their life declines. Jailers and immigration officials have been consistently cavalier about the deaths. From the NYT article: “Ernest L. Toney, the jail superintendent, denied accounts that Mr. Newbrough had been mistreated…” From CBS: Gary Mead, a senior immigration official, told the Congress that ICE provides “state-of-the-art medical care,” and “the best possible healthcare.”

I think my definition of “best possible healthcare” and Gary’s diverge.


Just for Immigrants: New Domestic Violence Hotline

Some good news! Somehow, the city of Seattle is funding a new domestic violence hotline aimed at getting help to immigrants and refugees. There will be 14 language options!

From the Seattle P-I:

Seattle is the first city in the nation to set up a toll-free number to connect immigrant and refugee domestic-violence victims to a social worker of their language and culture.

The help line, announced Wednesday, is called the “Peace in the Home” line.

…Domestic violence can be a big problem among immigrants, said Someireh Amirfaiz, the director of Refugee Women’s Alliance.

…Of roughly 600,000 Seattle residents, about 100,000 were born outside the United States, according to the mayor’s office.

The line will offer help in 14 languages: Amarinya or Amharic, Japanese, Khmer, Lao, Mandarin, Romanian, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai, Tigrigna, Ukrainian and Vietnamese.

Cool. The number is 888-847-7205. Remember, this is for the Seattle area only.

Guilty of Looking Latino and Gay

Via Immigration Talk with a Mexican-American.

From the New York Times:

The two brothers from Ecuador had attended a church party and had stopped at a bar afterward. They may have been a bit tipsy as they walked home in the dead of night, arm-in-arm, leaning close to each other, a common tableau of men in Latino cultures, but one easily misinterpreted by the biased mind.

Suddenly a car drew up. It was 3:30 a.m. Sunday, and the intersection of Bushwick Avenue and Kossuth Place in Bushwick, Brooklyn, a half-block from the brothers’ apartment, was nearly deserted — but not quite. Witnesses, the police said, heard some of what happened next.

Three men came out of the car shouting at the brothers, Jose and Romel Sucuzhanay — something ugly, anti-gay and anti-Latino…

The two brothers were Jose and Romel Sucuzhanay. While Romel broke away to find help, the three men beat Jose with a bottle and a baseball bat. By the time the men had run off and help arrived, Jose didn’t have a chance. He died today of his injuries.

Somewhere in Brooklyn are three men who will try to KILL you if they don’t like the way you look. You don’t even have to be gay or Latino. You just have to look gay or Latino. I guess appearing to be both is an unforgivable sin that requires an immediate death sentence.

I don’t have much further I can say, but how disappointed I am in my community.

The Over-professionalization of the Non-Profit Sector

Thoughts have been percolating in my head for awhile now about how over-professionalization is fucking up non-profits.

By over-professionalization I mean requiring high levels of education and/or licensing for even the most basic jobs at a non-profit organization, often jobs where real-life experience would be exponentially more relevant to the tasks at hand.

Non-profits exist to try and enact social change in ways that government and for-profit businesses can’t or won’t: this is why we call them the “third sector”. In progressive organizations, which are my concern here, this change involves fostering social justice and equality between all human beings. This being the case, non-profits are often focused on providing services or a platform for activism for traditionally oppressed groups: people of color, the poor, women, LGBT people, etc.

The people best equipped to serve the needs of, say, non-English-speaking refugee mothers who are experiencing domestic abuse, would be other refugee women or survivors of domestic violence. Yet these very people who would be the most effective resources are highly unlikely to work at non-profits that exist to help refugees or survivors of DV because they can’t access the educational levels required for the job. Instead, such a woman as described above is likely to face a native-born, monolingual, middle-class white woman who holds a bunch of degrees when looking for services.

Over-represented among MSW-holders are middle-class white women. Often, these women have lived privileged lives in majority-white environments. Often, they are monolingual. Often, their (relatively) privileged background made it possible for them to get advanced degrees in a field guaranteed not to pay much. Often, they are trained or conditioned to think that they know what’s best for the disadvantaged groups and clients they will be helping.

I am not hating on middle-class white women here. I am trying to point out some uncomfortable truths in the non-profit sector that must be looked at with a critical eye if we are really serious about social justice. Middle-class white women have shown a notable interest in this fight, and they have an important role to play. But if we continue to stack the decks in our field in favor of middle-class white women, well then we have a problem.

People from privileged demographics or backgrounds cannot swoop into troubled communities and tell them how to fix themselves. This is a fundamentally disordered way to go about “social justice.” It actually reaffirms the current social order – you know, the one we are trying to change. Middle-class white women do not have all the answers to injustice. The answers lie amongst the people who are experiencing the injustice.

Only members of an oppressed community, such as people living with AIDS, or transwomen of color, or immigrants facing the deportation of a loved one, know what their community really needs to achieve equality and justice. No one else, especially no one from the dominant sector of society, can tell them this. Their struggle can’t really be “professionalized” without also being de-fanged, made digestible to non-profits more concerned with pleasing donors than affecting change.

Here’s where non-profits have set up a lose-lose situation. Most traditional non-profits require Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees to hold any substantive position at their organization. The kinds of positions that matter, where you can make decisions, rally activists, or clear paths to help for those seeking it, all while making a living wage, require a level of education not attainable for the very groups they are “helping”. If our own organizational structures reflect the very social structures of oppression we are purportedly against, we have already lost our battle. If we, in the non-profit sector, can’t innovate structures of equality and justice internally, we have no business going out into the world and telling the government or businesses to find a way to do what even we can’t do.

One must have a high level of support, either financial or familial or both, to get a graduate degree in Social Work and related fields. A Bachelor’s degree alone is extremely expensive, and add to that a graduate degree in a field guaranteed not to pay well, and you have more or less eliminated anyone making less than a median income from ever being qualified to work in a non-profit. According to the New York Times, a four-year degree at a private university now costs 76% of the median family income [2008]. Of course, people of color and other marginalized groups are over-represented amongst those making less than the median income. So you can see the nature of the problem.

What oppressed groups are rich in is relevant experience and first-hand knowledge of the structures and effects of oppression. This is a qualification where they far out-pace middle-class white women, and interestingly, relevant experience not accompanied by prestigious degrees is greatly devalued. It doesn’t matter how long a black father has been fighting for equal educational opportunities for his children- if he didn’t have the cash and free time to get six years of higher education resulting in a Master’s degree, he doesn’t have the qualifications to be paid to continue his fight through an equal-education non-profit agency. Of course, if he had gone to school for six years while raising children and probably working, he wouldn’t have had the time to gain all that experience fighting for equality. So under which circumstance would he truly be more equipped to support an equal-education non-profit?

Education, academic life and intellectual life remain, as always, valuable, vital parts of our society. But the real experiences and insights of those who feel inequality most keenly must come to be valued at least as highly as the experiences the privileged have who study those injustices in the halls of academia. Over-professionalization prevents the non-profit sector from ever really achieving what it purportedly exists to do.

As Audre Lorde said:

Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference — those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older — know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.

(c) idyllicmollusk 12/4/08, with help from cp

4 Methods of Immigrant Integration


Multiculturalism, by Jeremyville

I was inspired by a discussion over at Immigration Talk with a Mexican American to look at the different models of cultural integration of immigrants available to countries.

I learned that there are four models:

Monoculturalism: In some European states, culture is very closely linked to nationalism, thus government policy is to assimilate immigrants, although recent increases in migration have led many European states to experiment with forms of multiculturalism.
Leitkultur (core culture): A model developed in Germany by Bassam Tibi. The idea is that minorities can have an identity of their own, but they should at least support the core concepts of the culture on which the society is based.
Melting Pot: In the United States, the traditional view has been one of a melting pot where all the immigrant cultures are mixed and amalgamated without state intervention.
Multiculturalism: A policy that immigrants and others should preserve their cultures with the different cultures interacting peacefully within one nation.

Which do you think we use most often in the US? Which do you think is the best model, or can you envision one better than these options?

I of course grew up with the Melting Pot image seared into my brain. Immigrants come, they accept the clearly superior, far advanced mainstream American culture into their bosoms, and they give up all but the most harmless and amusing of their foreign-y culture that they grew up in. The fun bits of culture that they kept are then available for co-opting by any other American, and will, if the immigrant group is lucky, be commodified into new consumer goods! You give some, you get some.

I think my ideal would be similar to the multi-cultural model. As an immigrant, you aren’t required to give up any part of yourself. You can remain a whole person, and absorb new experiences however you wish. This model gives the immigrant complete freedom to choose their lifestyle within the new country. The only price is to respect others cultures as you would have them respect yours.

I imagine that a criticism of this model would be that immigrants won’t have to “assimilate.” I am not bothered by immigrants who “don’t assimilate”. As long as we all treat each other with respect and human dignity, I don’t care what language you prefer to speak, what clothing you like to wear, when and how and how often you pray, what kind of family you build. As neighbors, we will still interact with each other, and through our interactions, learn. Your personhood, your identity, should not be the price of a move across a border. Of course, I don’t believe in borders either. But that’s another post.

Your thoughts on these models of immigrant integration are encouraged!

Domestic Workers Hit By Economic Crisis

The New York Daily News had a great article recently about a pending Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and the effects economic crisis has on this mostly female, often immigrant group.

Domestic Workers Earned Rights by Albor Ruiz appeared in the Daily News this past Friday, 11/28/08.

From the article:

A few horror stories have made the news: Domestic workers – nannies, housekeepers, cooks – beaten or kept as virtual prisoners by their employers – diplomats, lawyers, business owners. Respectable people, mind you; people of means, of social standing.

“Because you work in a private house, almost anything goes,” said Marilyn Marshall of Brooklyn, a nanny from Trinidad with the air of a kindly grandmother. “They don’t think of what you do as real work or of you as a real worker.”

That is why it is so important that the long overdue Domestic Workers Bill of Rights 2009 is approved.

The financial crisis has hit domestic workers – always among the most exploited – particularly hard, which makes passage of the bill urgent.

“We hear a lot about Wall Street and Main Street,” [Ai-Jen] Poo [an organizer for Domestic Workers United] said. “But nothing about what happens to domestic workers behind closed doors. We don’t hear anything about the 25,000 jobs that have been lost.”

Worse, she added, is that these workers have little protection under state labor laws. For the 200,000 domestic workers in New York, most of them immigrant women losing their jobs – usually with no advance notice or severance pay – has been devastating.

Boys Will Be Boys Will Be… Killers?

You read this story yet?

Marcelo Lucero was killed late Saturday night near the commuter railroad station in Patchogue, N.Y., a middle-class village in central Long Island. He was beaten and stabbed. The friend who crouched beside him in a parking lot as he lay dying, soaked in blood, said Mr. Lucero, who was 37, had come to the United States 16 years ago from Ecuador.

The police arrested seven teenage boys, who they said had driven into the village from out of town looking for Latinos to beat up. The police said the mob cornered Mr. Lucero and another man, who escaped and later identified the suspects to the police. A prosecutor at the arraignment on Monday quoted the young men as having said: “Let’s go find some Mexicans.” They have pleaded not guilty.

As disturbing as that is, I am also troubled by the New York Times’ follow-up article by Anne Barnard, Admired by Many, but to Police a Killer. The article bends over backwards to paint the group of boys involved as basically “good kids” who just got a little carried away during a rousing night of “jump the Mexican.”

Prosecutors say he admitted to the police that he fatally stabbed Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorean immigrant, on Nov. 8, after Mr. Conroy and six friends roamed the streets in search of Mexicans to beat up — a regular pastime that the group called “beaner jumping.”

No one is saying they didn’t do it, but it seems vital to this article’s author that it be known there isn’t a bigoted bone in these boys’ bodies, particularly Jeffrey Conroy, the one who did the stabbing. She lists non-white friends and family members of the young man, sounding a lot like the “I have a black friend!” defense. A relative is quoted as saying, “There is no prejudice in my family.” Jeffrey Conroy is even nice to his own half-brother, who is part Puerto-Rican! He plays Lacrosse! He wrestles! He gets along with his parents! He is “warm and patient with younger boys…”! He is “tall and muscular with a chiseled face and buzz cut…”!


Therefore the decision to “go find some Mexicans” is totally not based on racial hatred? How can it be interpreted in any other way? Especially considering that Mr. Lucero wasn’t even Mexican, he just looked Hispanic to his killers, and that was enough. All he did was look Hispanic in the wrong place and the wrong time to earn his death. How is that not racial?

A more appropriate NYT article from the same day as Barnard’s quotes fellow “bean-jumper” Jose Pacheco:

Mr. Pacheco later told the police, “I don’t go out and do this very often, maybe once a week,”

Aaahhh! So why is Barnard trying to paint these people as All-American Boys? It’s not like we’re not sure if they did it or not. That’s settled. How is their wrestling status at all related? This seems like a classic “boys will be boys” pass. Conroy is handsome, white, athletic, and well-liked. Therefore, let’s go easy on him, folks?

What about Marcelo Lucero? Uh, wasn’t he just as much a human being?

Bleh. Check out the Unapologetic Mexican’s post on this crime, Anti-Migrant Democrats Aiding Wave of Hate Crimes.


Have you ever found yourself in a situation resembling the following?

· You are a christian student and notice that there is an active atheist club on campus.

· You are white and see that there is a hip new bar in town catering to African-Americans.

· You were born in the U.S., but see a cool new social networking organization for young Vietnamese immigrants pop up in your area.

· You are a man and notice that there are now several vocal women’s safety organizations in your town.

· You are straight and you have become aware of a vibrant and edgy queer art scene in a neighborhood near you.

If you can identify with any of these scenarios, you are just one of many. Many people in society become aware of the interesting goings-on in marginalized or oppressed communities, and are naturally curious.

If your curiosity leads to a desire to find out more, you can turn into one of two people:

1. An awesome supporter and ally of a different community


2. A shitty co-opter who uses affiliation with a marginalized community to look “cool”.


To be a supporter and ally:

Before attending a community’s event, try to find out if outsiders are even welcome.

Be prepared to learn, not to teach.

See how you can “bring something to the table” through promoting, donating, volunteering or working to end oppression experienced by the community.

Be thankful for the opportunity for an inside look at the community.

Keep your mouth shut- spend your time listening.

If members of an oppressed community decide to share information with you about how they experience discrimination, be supportive and affirm their feelings.

Make it clear that though you haven’t had the same experiences, you still value their perspectives.

Be open to experiencing things that will change the way you perceive larger society.

Be ready to work out differences.

To be a shitty co-opter:

Assume that outsiders are always wanted and welcome.

Tell members of the marginalized community what they should and shouldn’t be doing.

Steal ideas, style and strategies without offering anything in return.

Act like the community should be grateful simply for your presence.

Take up all the space by insisting on constantly being the center of attention.

Deny that members of marginalized communities experience discrimination or oppression, and tell them they are wrong to feel that way.

Pretend that you can fully understand all aspects of the situation of someone from an oppressed community.

Refuse to legitimately try to understand the perspective of the community in question.

Claim a the community’s identity as your own.

It’s about space. Co-opters actually hurt and further oppress the communities that they prey on by invading their space, whereas allies help them thrive. People who stand in a privileged position in society may learn to expect that they have a right to access any and all community space. They may also come to think that they know what’s best for communities that experience oppression. It is easy to feel this way when you are accustomed to society catering to your demographic’s needs, especially if you are white, male, christian, straight, or US-born, etc. Please be aware that people who do not share these characteristics with you have had very, very different experiences with our society. This is not a reason to distance yourself from marginalized or oppressed communities, but to instead practice being an effective ally.

© 3/31/08 idyllicmollusk