opinion

OPINION: Immigrants need more support during the pandemic



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Marines from Camp Pendleton install razor wire at the pedestrian border crossing into Mexico in 2018 in San Ysidro, San Diego. Luis Sinco

Since the coronavirus hit the U.S. in January, worry and hysteria has spread through the country and stoked concern about how detained immigrants will be affected by the virus. Despite the vocalized concern, nothing is being done to help these families, and it is outrageous and inhumane.

The virus should be a wake-up call for others to continue advocating for these families, and for better immigration laws for the country, along with aid to immigrating families.

President Donald Trump is only making the unstable environment worse for immigrants. Like numerous other politicians taking advantage of America’s vulnerability by changing laws under the noses of Americans, such as several governors passing abortion restrictions during the pandemic without public input, Trump implemented a “strict regime” for border patrol. He postponed regulation that protect immigrants so that the U.S. can not provide resources, or deport them, which has only been publicized in the affected states.

While it is justified to limit immigration during the pandemic to prevent further widespread infection, it is no excuse to mistreat immigrants in the detention centers while refusing healthcare to those trying to come to the U.S, or even have such facilities to punish asylum seekers in the first place.

Simply put, it is only another display of Trump’s xenophobia, and it is as much of a disease as the coronavirus.

The Washington Post also reported that the most immediate impacts are immigrants not being given proper resources to provide protection for minors, or even file for legal entry at border stations and immigration courts.

Several publications in Texas, one of the states that has been most affected by COVID-19, have covered how Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the federal government have continued to neglect the Mexican immigrants in these centers.

Despite the pandemic, procedures in the centers have not changed in order to protect the immigrants and even the personnel working for ICE.

Texas Monthly reported in late March that regiments have not changed in the South Texas Detention Complex in Pearsall, Texas. Detainees are only advised to wash their hands for the recommended 20 seconds and to cough into their elbows. Further, there is not any protective gear provided to immigrants or personnel. 

Crisitan Sanchez, an attorney who works at the center in Pearsall as a representative for Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, said in an interview with the Washington Post that there are no masks or glovesavailable. 

“It’s as if the coronavirus hasn’t happened in the outside world,” he said.

The Texas Observer reported that confirmed positive cases among personnel in several Texas detention centers are being underreported, posing further risks for the detained immigrants in these centers.

It is important to note that the mistreatment has been going on for much longer than the pandemic.

In recent years, the abuse and neglect of immigrants in the ICE detention centers have become a public concern, influencing protest on and offline. 

If the underreporting, increased targeting and neglect of immigrants continues, more cases are going to arise, and detainees and personnel within the centers could die because of it. 

Just like the rest of the American public, immigrants deserve to have the same protective gear, health care, counseling resources and clean facilities to live in. Immigrants deserve to be treated as humans, just like the rest of America, and too many Americans need to be reminded of that.

Kailyn Hilycord (she/her) is a senior studying journalism, English and music. She plans to pursue graduate studies in journalism.

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