The heartless and immigrants: Blindness about the reality of healthcare in the United States

Let’s examine what the heartless are doing. From his position of power, Trump made a de facto decision, issuing a proclamation, on October 4, 2019, that immigrants coming to the United States will have to purchase private health insurance or prove that they have enough funds to pay for their healthcare cost. Taking effect on November 3, this will concern visa applications.

Trump’s position about making immigrants and asylum seekers pay for their health insurance is based on the Republicans’ view of discriminating between who lives and who dies, which life is valued and which life is not. He tweeted, “Let’s take care of our own instead of paying for the undocumented.” But that’s wrong. Let’s look at the numbers of Americans who have been neglected by the health care system: the poor, African Americans, youth, the aged, people who work multiple jobs without benefits, the homeless, the unemployed and precaritized women. Since the health care system in the US is based on private policies that are profit driven, health itself is the casualty. What’s more, there is a false notion harbored by many Republicans that the United States would receive an influx of medical tourists if we offered healthcare to all immigrants entering the country. The reality is that the outrageous health costs force many American citizens to seek care as medical tourists in countries like Mexico, Thailand, India and many others.

So why pit immigrants against citizens and residents? 

Trump’s decision fuels the anti-immigrant sentiment and rhetoric that have permitted the most cruel actions against people looking for safer ground. Between 2016 and 2019 under the Trump administration the number of immigrant deaths detention centers has increased due to ICE’s poor medical standards. As Human Rights Watch has described:  “ICE has proven unable or unwilling to provide adequately for the health and safety of the people it detains.”   These detention centers are expanding across the country. This part of the business of controlling bodies at the border is based on violence, humiliation and redefinition of bodies, as children are put in cages and babies are snatched from their mothers’ arms. Achille Mbembé has developed the concept of borderization to address the treatment that has been randomly applied to undesirables, to immigrants’ bodies, in our world of quantification and digitalization, leading to division between immigrants and citizens who are as a result oblivious to their own deprivation of rights and health care. 

It is crucial to note the heartlessness of the Trump administration’s treatments of immigrants at the border. Although ICE declares that its medical care in detention centers has in fact improved under the Trump administration and provide statistics to support their claim, many organizations including Human Rights Watch provide different detailed accounts that show the rise of immigrant deaths, children and adults, as the result of untimely and poor medical care. Meanwhile, the Trump administration seeks to expand immigration detention centers, which will put more people at risk.  

This dehumanization of the undesirable migrants is occurring around the world. While in France, under the “Fight against Exclusion” program the state provides free health care, Aide Medical d’Etat (AME), to undocumented immigrants with immediate coverage for minors, the conservatives have been calling this program into question. The Health Minister immediately declared that this program is “an absolute necessity”; nonetheless, the President agreed on an audit of the program that can open it to lowering the level of coverage. France is one of the rare if not the last country to provide health care to undocumented immigrants. 

(Image Credit 1: Immigration Impact) (Image Credit 2: Mitch Blunt / Human Rights Watch)

No hate, no fear, IMMIGRANTS are welcome here!

Last Friday, during a National Public Radio show’s Friday News Roundup of domestic news, four panelists briefly discussed the Day Without Immigrants actions that had taken place across the country the day before. One prominent conservative correspondent noted, “There seemed to be a little conceptual confusion over immigrants and illegal immigrants.” There was no conceptual confusion among those who protested and their supporters. They chanted, “No hate, no fear, IMMIGRANTS are welcome here!” Not “legal”, not “illegal”. Immigrants. Immigrants, children of immigrants, grandchildren of immigrants have seen how ICE agents act. They know the raids are indiscriminate, and they know the actions, and many of the actors, are compelled by a xenophobia that is informed by white supremacist racism, the intersectional form of terror of the current regime.

The Muslim Ban, the anti-immigrant raids and sweeps, the language of intimidation and threat were never about the niceties of documentation. Muslims, including non-Muslims perceived to be Muslims, saw that, at certain airports, the ban meant anyone with “a certain name or look” was subject to particularly invasive and insulting attention. In every sense, those actions were unwarranted.

Over the last week, raids have targeted people at residences, churches, homeless shelters, and courts. In El Paso, a woman filing for a protective order from an abusive partner was picked up. In Alexandria, Virginia, two men leaving a homeless shelter were taken. Across the country, people without criminal records were taken away. ICE’s response? The reports are “false, dangerous and irresponsible” and those “falsely reporting such activities are doing a disservice to those they claim to support.” Those “false reporters” include U.S. Senators and Representatives, Governors, members of the clergy, attorneys, eyewitnesses, family members, neighbors, passersby, cameras, and the list goes on. In Virginia, where I live, Governor McAuliffe, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner have written letters to Homeland Security and still await a response.

This past weekend, new directives “dramatically expand the scope of enforcement operations”.  These “sweeping new guidelines … empower federal authorities to more aggressively detain and deport … inside the United States and at the border.” In the places where people of color live, dramatic expansion and more aggressive detention add up to a reign of terror. That terror threatens everyone. It threatens the undocumented, as it threatens tech workers, seasonal workers, students and others protected by a visa.

Immigrant of color communities know that, when it comes to people of color, those in charge don’t distinguish among the undocumented immigrant, documented immigrant, and citizen. Their response has been clear: “No hate, no fear, IMMIGRANTS are welcome here!” There is neither conceptual nor ethical nor existential confusion here: No hate, no fear, IMMIGRANTS are welcome here!

 

(Photo Credit: Twitter / Revolución Real Ya)

We came as refugees

On June 25, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed into law the Displaced Persons Act of 1948: “This act helped those individuals who were victims of persecution by the Nazi government or who were fleeing persecution, and someone who could not go back to their country because of fear of persecution based on race, religion or political opinions.” Truman was deeply committed to bringing European refugees both into safety and into the United States. The Displaced Persons Commission ran from June 25, 1948 through August 31, 1952. My parents and I left Europe and came to the United States under the Displaced Persons Act. We came as refugees.

Contrary to today’s rhetoric, my parents did not “love America” before coming, and, frankly, I doubt that they ever loved America. They weren’t nationalists, and so didn’t love any country. They loved their family members, who due to the Holocaust numbered six, and they loved their friends. At some point, they might have said they loved justice or democracy or even the working class, but they actively rejected loving any nation-State.

They came, they made a life, they raised a family, they died and are now buried together. I have to say I am glad they did not live to see the day in which a Muslim ban on refugees and immigrants more generally was announced and implemented. While they did not “love America”, they knew State violence and they despised it. They despised those who promulgated it and they despised those engaged in it. They taught their children to recognize State violence and to oppose it. Their children do, as do their grandchildren.

Any restrictive program that targets a particular population is racist and comes from and intensifies an ongoing history of racist State violence. Some in power will try to finesse this. Don’t let them.

We came as refugees, others among us came as other kinds of immigrants. Racist State violence butchered more than 99 percent of my family. That violence started with “poorly implemented orders”, and then it spread and deepened. Were my parents here today, they would be at the airport, chanting, “No hate no fear immigrants are welcome here.”

#StopTheWall #StopTheBan #StopPresidentBannon #NotMyPresident

(Photo Credit: WNYC)

Nowhere to go: Women and migrants fight for their rights

Recently, the Spanish government made headlines when it tried to sharply curtail women’s reproductive rights. Now, another set of human and civil rights is in shambles: the right to be, the right to seek safer grounds.

The European Union has two main points of entry on African land, Ceuta and Melilla. These two cities are Spanish territories on the coast of Morocco. Their existence is linked to the complex history of invasions and establishment of protectorates on Mediterranean shores. The EU has been walling up some of its borders in the South against migrants. In 2005 the EU financed the raising of a double iron curtain 6 meters high around these two Spanish enclaves. The Rajoy government had cutting blades installed on the top of the fence. The EU has also built a 12.5 kilometers wall between Turkey and Greece. Bulgaria is building its own iron curtain.

On February 6, 2013, 200 migrants tried to enter Ceuta. Fourteen died at sea as they tried to get around the fence. After some denial, the Spanish Guardia Civil finally admitted that they had used rubber bullets and tear gas against the migrants. The Minister of Interior Jorge Fernandez Diaz has been vague about these incidents that killed desperate migrants. At first, he denied any involvement or responsibility of the Guardia Civil. Then he recognized the use of riot gear only as a deterrent. Shooting at fragile craft with people onboard who don’t know how to swim is not a deterrent. Remember that, on the other side of the border, Moroccan forces are busily cudgeling migrants.

Ten days later, another 300 migrants forced the gate of the city of Melilla. About 50 were able to go in. They were then sent to temporary camps, where eight died.

In Spain, people were outraged. Within a week, demonstrations to denounce these disguised murders were organized in numerous Spanish cities. Various slogans were shouted: “Natives or foreigners, we’re all the same working class”; “No one is illegal”; and, alluding to the government’s anti abortion stand, “Where are the pro lifers?” The assault on women’s rights and the sealing of the borders are intimately linked.

In these times of global deterritorialization, with climate and economic insecurity, people migrate to escape armed conflict, starvation and misery. The non-negotiable rights to life are easily forgotten.

In the United States, immigration rights and women’s rights have been compromised, even more so recently.

In Greece, with the “debt crisis”, politically motivated violence against women and the increasingly restricted reproductive rights leaving many women without safe delivery or abortion services links with the extreme violence that migrants face at the hands of the police and the neo-fascist Golden Dawn. These various issues developed with the austerity measures brutally imposed by the Troika (the European financial power), and only now finally questioned. They have deeply destabilized every sector of the Greek society, except for the rich and powerful. In Greece, as in Spain, people are demonstrating for human rights, and against fascism.

Economic austerity measures have allowed a state of emergency to administer cruel treatments onto displaced populations. The migrant population that lands on Greek soil escapes one set of dangers only to face another. Despite the EU official commitment to human rights, there is no protection for them, and so they are abandoned in the streets of Athens and eventually attacked by Golden Dawn squads. They are the hidden casualties of the austerity measures.

The common thread that joins these stories is the elusive reliance on a neoliberal vision of the world order that displaces, isolates, impoverishes populations, and in particular women. Migrant rights and women rights are the first victims. If we don’t fight for these rights, we would have nowhere to go.

 

(Image Credit: http://www.4ojos.com)