Friday, August 10, 2007

Fear and Loathing in America

The latest victims of the upsurge of anti-immigrant sentiment and immigration enforcement? First, those abroad: the Inter-American Development Bank reports that the number of undocumented immigrants in states without strong traditions of Latin American migration (think Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina) who send remittances to Mexico have dropped from an average of 80% last year to 56% this year. This shift is likely due both to workplace raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (a.k.a. "ICE") as well as an upsurge in state legislation aimed at making life more difficult for the undocumented -- restrictions on drivers' licences, employer sanctions, etc. Immigration federalism, much debated in the legal academy, seems to be having a real effect on the ground: Undocumented immigrants in these "new migration" states report that it is getting harder and harder to find housing and jobs. In contrast, the undocumented in states with a long-standing Latino community (California, New York, Texas) have maintained a strong level of remittances to Mexico (around 67%). But the overall picture for Mexicans in traditional migration states is not entirely rosy, particularly for detained immigrants with health conditions. Rosa Dominguez, a pregnant 35-year old mother of five, died Tuesday in ICE custody in El Paso, Texas. ICE's spokeswoman claimed that Ms. Dominguez received adequate medical care, but her family disagreed. In San Pedro, California, the Los Angeles Daily Journal reports that Victoria Arrellano, a male-to-female transgender immigrant from Mexico was taken off her AIDS medication when she arrived at the ICE detention center in May. She died two months later. Medical experts explained that taking HIV patients off this particular medication could be deadly, and Victoria's fellow inmates reported that they asked the guards repeatedly to provide her with medical assistance, but their requests were ignored. As Lesley Wexler explains, we should be applying a human rights discourse to these problems, as the language of human rights could play a powerful role in "tempering urges to otherize, dehumanize, and blame migrants." In the words of Dominguez's niece, "They're still human beings, and they should be treated fairly." 'Nuff said.

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