Sunday, May 11, 2008

Washington Post Series: Careless Detention: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4

American_gulag Since immigration reform in 1996, the detention of immigrants has greatly expanded.  Mark Dow's book American Gulag (University of California Press, 2004) documents the goings-on of this secret prison system.  Over the last week, the Washington Post has published a series on immigrant detention that -- combined with a 60 Minutes segment -- hopefully will bring this travesty of justice to national attention.

Last week, we announced that the Washington Post would begin a four part series on immigrant detention ("Careless Detention").  Day 1 of the special 4-day Post report, includes links to documents, videos, and more:

"They are locked in a world of slow care, poor care and no care, with panic and coverups among employees watching it happen, according to a Post investigation. The investigation found a hidden world of flawed medical judgments, faulty administrative practices, neglectful guards, ill-trained technicians, sloppy record-keeping, lost medical files and dangerous staff shortages. It is also a world increasingly run by high-priced private contractors. ... Some 83 detainees have died in, or soon after, custody during the past five years. The deaths are the loudest alarms about a system teetering on collapse."

Based on confidential medical records and other sources, the Washington Post identified 83 deaths of immigration detainees between March 2003, when the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency was created, and March 2008. The Post found that 30 of the deaths were questionable.  Morethan two-thirds of the questionable deaths were of immigrants from Mexico and other nations in Latin America.

For ICE's icy response, click here.  (Thanks to Cappy White for the assist on this.).

In Custody, In Pain Day 2 | This installment tells of the case of legal U.S. resident who is facing deportation and who may be suffering from cancer.  It offers a glimpse into a medical system that often fails those who need it most.  60 Minutes did a powerful segment on immigrant detention in connection with the Post investigation, with a focus on the poor medical care provided immigrants.  ImmigrationProf had reported on one horrible medical treatment case a while back.

Careless Detention: Part 3 of 4:  "Many immigration detainees endure substandard medical care, but people with mental illness are relegated to the darkest and most neglected corners of the system." Washington Post, May 13, 2008.

Detainees Sedated for Travel Day 4: Federal immigration officials have called sedation of deportees rare and "an act of last resort." Neither is true, records and interviews indicate. The U.S. government has injected hundreds of foreigners it has deported with dangerous psychotropic drugs against their will to keep them sedated during the trip back to their home country, according to medical records, internal documents and interviews with people who have been drugged. The government's forced use of antipsychotic drugs, in people who have no history of mental illness, includes dozens of cases in which the "pre-flight cocktail," as a document calls it, had such a potent effect that federal guards needed a wheelchair to move the slumped deportee onto an airplane.


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Others have a different point of view on the so-called documentaries on the treatment of illegal immigrants in the custody of ICE. It proves once more that the spin artist advocates for illigal aliens and their socialist main stream media toadies are working in high gear.

This from an article by Joe Guzzardi at

"Penis Amputation”—The Ultimate Immigration Enthusiast Argument
By Joe Guzzardi

When the other side uses the “penis amputation” argument against immigration reform patriots, we can safely say that they’ve pulled out all the stops.

And that’s exactly what 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley did in his May 11th segment “Illegal Immigrants Don’t Survive Detention in America”.

Pelley was subtler than to overtly advocate for immigrants or for more immigration. And, of course, he didn’t suggest that all detained immigrants are subject to having their genitals removed as a direct result of negligent medical treatment.

But the gist of Pelley’s story, once again paints the U.S. as the bad guys—cold, insensitive and inept— in the immigration crisis.

Pelley has been joined by a Washington Post investigation by Post reporters Dana Priest and Amy Goldstein . All allege that “immigrants”—as they refer to them—detained by Immigration and Customs Service and housed by the Department of Immigration Health Services are the victims of such shoddy, slipshod health care that many have died as a result.

Read Priest’s and Goldstein’s series of Post stories, each following the tried and true sob story formula outlined by VDARE.COM’s Brenda Walker, here. See its estimate of “questionable deaths” from March 2003 to March 2008 here.

In one egregious case, Salvadoran illegal alien and convicted drug dealer Francisco Castaneda died from cancer, untreated during his detention, shortly after having his penis amputated by a private, outside physician.

Interspersed throughout Pelley’s segment are videotapes of weeping relatives.

Also included are two cutaways to a video of Castaneda on his deathbed.

CBS’s weekly news magazine 60 Minutes has been a frequent target of VDARE.COM’s for its failure to report fairly on both sides of its immigration related pieces.

This is disappointing because, once upon a time, 60 Minutes did a pretty good job.

Fifteen years ago, correspondent Leslie Stahl exposed the H-1B visa racquet in tones that should have—but did not— set off alarm bells throughout Congress. My column about it is here; the complete transcript here.

Stahl actually mocked the idea that anyone in the U.S. on six-year H1-B visa could be called, as Silicon Valley executives did, a “temporary worker”.

Another CBS correspondent, Morley Safer, did a segment several years ago about how the arrival of thousands of Hmongs in Wausau, WI had jolted the town’s ethnic balance, brought gang violence, and created a layer of poor, welfare dependent people previously unknown in the small town.

Safer based his report on a 1994 Atlantic Monthly article titled The Ordeal of Immigration in Wausau and written by Roy Beck, NumbersUSA executive director.

But that was then and this is now.

Now 60 Minutes has fallen victim to acute political correctness in its immigration coverage. And in so doing, it suppresses significant facts that its viewers are entitled to.

During his piece, Pelley referenced four cases, all having different circumstances but all including the common denominator that the main characters were detained by ICE and spent time under DHIS medical care…although “care” is not how CBS describes it.

In fact, “treated like an animal” was what I heard.

Three detainees (Castaneda, Juan Guevara and Haitian Joseph Dantica) died; the third (Somali Amina Mudey) received, according to her lawyer Ann Schofield Baker (e-mail), horribly inadequate care.

Looking at the three most detailed cases, they are:

First, Reverend Joseph Dantica, a Baptist minister who in 2004 fled Haiti for Miami.

Immediately upon his arrival in New York Dantica, 81, applied for political asylum.

During his asylum hearing, according to Pelley, Dantica became “violently ill” and collapsed. According to CBS’s version, a DIHS physician’s assistant “failed to recognize that Dantica was in serious trouble”.

Dantica died within a day and a half.

Pelley, for dramatic effect, asked Dantica’s niece Edwidge Danticat (“a prize winning author”) to “help him understand” what the medical assistant’s evaluation was.

With the camera focused close up on her tear-filled eyes, Danticat said: “It appeared that he said, 'I, you know, he's -- I think he's faking.' Or something to that effect.” (emphasis added.)

Pelley: “The medical examiner said it was pancreatitis.”

Danticat’s comments fall far short of an overwhelming indictment. Taken at face value, they’re pretty lame: “It appeared…something to that effect….”

What CBS omitted:

If Dantica, 81-years-old, was stricken with pancreatitis—and CBS offers no evidence that he was misdiagnosed—then malpractice did not lead to his death. Medical experts consider pancreatitis to be as life-threatening as a massive heart attack or many forms of cancer.

Dantica entered the U.S. under false pretenses. He most certainly arrived from Haiti via a tourist visa but with the express intent of claiming asylum. Note that he filed only days after landing. And Dantica also likely withheld the information that his niece lives in Miami, thus making it much easier for him to overstay.

Lying or misrepresenting facts to a consular official to obtain a visa is not a crime, although it “should be” according to what David Seminara told me. (Seminara is the author of the Center for Immigration Studies backgrounder “No Coyote Needed: U.S. Visas Still an Easy Ticket in Developing Countries”)

Second, Mudey, a Somali who upon her 2004 arrival in the U.S. immediately requested political asylum. Mudley is now “studying computers and English”…but I note that four years later she still needs a translator.

Mudey’s lawyer, Schofield Baker, admitted that at the time of her detention her client “… was disoriented…petrified…” and “…collapsed and had a panic attack.” (In another CBS interview, Schofield Baker presents her side of Mudey’s case. Watch it here.)

DIHS, concluding that Mudey was psychotic, prescribed Risperdal.

In her statement, Schofield Baker said that the: “Medical treatment that Amina received was absolutely deplorable, substandard, sanctionable and flat-out malpractice.”

But even Pelley didn’t bite on that one as he quickly noted that Schofield Baker’s charge is an “alleged misdiagnosis.”


That Mudey’s symptoms—disorientation and panic attacks—are consistent with psychotic behavior and prescribing Risperdal is not unusual.

Plus, of course, any discussion of the improbable circumstances surrounding Mudey’s arrival in America.

Since the U.S. does not maintain an operational embassy and consular section in Somalia, that creates the possibility that Mudey filed for her visa in a neighboring country. Mudey may have misrepresented herself and the facts of her case either in Africa, here upon her arrival or in both places.

Like Dantica, Mudey who “immediately requested political asylum,” had no intention of going home.

Third, Castaneda’s case wherein, according to Pelley, DIHS recently admitted in a federal court to medical negligence.

Here are the details.

While detained, Castaneda’s physician’s assistant recommended that a urologist be called in to perform a biopsy to check for cancer. Those requests were denied. Finally, when Castaneda was released several months later, he sought treatment on his own.

But to no avail—Castaneda’s cancer had spread and his genital amputation did not save his life.

What CBS, the Post reporters and the immigration lawyers conclude—pointing to Dantica, Mudey and Castaneda as examples—is that DIHS is a snake pit of inefficient doctors and medical assistants, understaffed by half and incapable of providing decent care to anyone in their charge.

“Immigrants”, the suggestion goes, are made vulnerable simply because they are immigrants.

Buried at the story’s end, after the alarming “penis amputation” reference and videotaped statements of sobbing relatives, are these two defenses offered by ICE and DIHS.

Please note that neither CBS nor the interviewed lawyers challenged the facts presented in either response.

A letter from ICE that states: "The number of deaths per 100,000 is dramatically lower for ICE detainees than for US prison and jail populations. The nation as a whole is experiencing severe shortages in qualified health professionals."

A Congressional statement by Gary Mead, a senior immigration official, that:

“ICE provides for and that DIHS completed over 500,000 medical visits for the detainees in our custody. Many of our detainees receive almost daily attention, so it's an aggressive program, and we do everything possible to maintain the best quality of life for the detainees in our custody.

What CBS did not include was this portion of another statement issued by ICE in response to questions regarding detainee deaths:

“When a detainee is hospitalized, the hospital assumes medical decision-making authority, including the patient's drug regimen, lab tests, X-rays and treatments. If a detainee passes away while in ICE custody, it is our policy to immediately notify the next of kin or the consulate of the respective country. In addition, ICE's Office of Professional Responsibility reviews the circumstances surrounding the death of a detainee and determines if further investigation is warranted.

The Office of Professional Responsibility also informs the inspector general of Homeland Security of all detainee deaths, regardless of reason. The Office of Professional Responsibility determines whether the death necessitates investigation and coordinates appropriately with the inspector general. ICE also must notify state officials (coroner, for example).”

And Pelley added reluctantly: “In the case of Reverend Dantica, a government inspector general's report said that there was ‘no evidence of mistreatment or malfeasance’”

In his conclusion, Pelley (perhaps thinking of us), said to Castaneda’s lawyer, Conal Doyle (e-mail him):

“You know that there are people watching this interview who are saying to themselves, 'Castaneda was an illegal immigrant. He had a drug conviction. The people of the United States owed him nothing.’”

Readers will have a variety of thoughts about what our obligations are. I’ll leave you to your conscience (and common sense).

But no matter whether in the end you favor paying for Castaneda’s treatment or not, you don’t need to apologize to Pelley or anyone else for having doubts as to whether American generosity should extend to an illegal alien and convicted drug dealer.

Naturally, CBS and the Post reach all the wrong conclusions.

If they had their way, the U.S would build more facilities (state of the art, of course), hire more doctors and nurses and give more comprehensive and unlimited care.

If they could figure out some way to make it freer, then they would endorse that idea, too.

But the real solution is so obvious it’s amazing that even the strongest pro-immigration advocates won’t own up to it.

What we need is fewer visas, stricter policies on asylum and refugee claims fewer loopholes, stronger laws, and more enforcement.

Try that for a change. And watch the problems go away.

I’ll close with two thoughts, one serious, and the other one less so.

First, “penis” is a favorite word of lawyers, daytime television hosts or anyone else, like Pelley, looking for shock value. For reasons not entirely clear to me, it generates a more dramatic effect than the comparatively boring and more clinical “genitals”.

For sure Pelley, wanting to heighten the impact of his story, made a conscious decision to use the “p” word instead of any other.

Second, and my more important point, the random quality of health care is not limited to detained immigrants.

I myself was a victimized by poor medical judgment.

Although my illness of a year ago was correctly diagnosed as pancreatitis—and believe me, it’s a killer—the treatment I originally received was inadequate.

As a consequence, my condition rapidly deteriorated. Luckily, it was caught in time but not before I underwent several major surgeries.

I’m offended then when I watch a finger-pointing show like 60 Minutes with its thinly-veiled implication that immigrants are purposely denied good medical care.

After this stinker, CBS owes us a story told in the style it used back when.

Here’s a good topic that CBS did the research on when it put together last week’s show: How providing health care to illegal aliens has driven many border hospitals to close and made insurance premiums unaffordable for middle class Americans.

As my doctor told me: “You pay more because they pay nothing.”

Joe Guzzardi [e-mail him] is the Editor of VDARE.COM Letters to the Editor. In addition, he is an English teacher at the Lodi Adult School and has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.

Posted by: Horace | May 17, 2008 7:00:34 PM

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