Crisis at the Border

As a group of asylum seekers peacefully marched towards the U.S. border on Sunday, U.S. Customs and Border agents fired tear gas and rubber bullets at them in an inhumane attempt to prevent them from entering the country. This policy is a blatant violation of human rights that must be condemned. In fact, multiple groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have spoken out against the use of tear gas, citing the damage it can have on people’s health. Dr. Sural Shah, one of our clinician evaluators at LAHRI, has written an op-ed sharing poignant stories from her evaluation experiences while strongly condemning the use of tear gas, the “new low in our country’s persecution of our fellow human beings.” Unfortunately, even the refugees and asylum seekers who have entered the U.S. are still not safe. Instead, reports of abuse at detention centers have been prevalent. Despite opposition from many, our government still defends its deplorable treatment of asylum and refugee seekers and even pledges to use tear gas again if necessary.

As fellow human beings, we must advocate for the rights of people who are fleeing danger and persecution and seeking asylum/refugee. A few ways you can take action include joining peaceful protests (such as the Stop the Tears Campaign this weekend), educating yourself and others on the issue, writing/signing petitions, contacting your Representatives/Senators to voice your opposition, donating to organizations (such as Physicians for Human Rights) that help families and individuals at the border seek justice, and/or volunteering with us at the LAHRI to help out with pro bono forensic evaluations for asylum seekers.

References

  1. Averbuch M and Malkin E. (November 25 2018). Migrants in Tijuana run to US border but fall back in face of tear gas. NYT. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/25/world/americas/tijuana-mexico-border.html

  2. Kraft CA. (November 26 2018). AAP statement in response to tear gas being used against children at the US southern border. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/AAP-Statement-in-Response-to-Tear-Gas-Being-Used-Against-Children-at-the-U-S-Southern-Border.aspx

  3. Dakwar J. (November 28 2018). Tear gas should never have been used at the border. It doesn’t belong at protests, either. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2018/11/28/tear-gas-should-never-have-been-used-border-it-doesnt-belong-protests-either/?utm_term=.4ec7bf4e8ea4

  4. Shah S. (November 26 2018). Tear-gassing at the border. NYT. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/26/opinion/letters/migrants-tijuana.html?fbclid=IwAR1QtPxF-hGitnNYV3MgGlxt5eHTLpX-sf67g4lmEYz_8oxsj6DM7CfICfM

  5. Bidgood J, Fernandez M, and Fausset R. Restraint chairs and spit masks: Migrant detainees claim abuse at detention centers. NYT. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/04/us/migrant-children-detention-centers.html

  6. Kassle E. (July 17 2018). Sexual assault inside ICE detention: 2 survivors tell their stories. NYT. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/17/us/sexual-assault-ice-detention-survivor-stories.html

  7. Garcia SE. (November 27 2018). Independent autopsy of transgender asylum seeker who died in ICE custody shows signs of abuse. NYT. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/27/us/trans-woman-roxsana-hernandez-ice-autopsy.html

Emily Chu
Take a Stand: Protect the Rights of Asylum Seekers in "Migrant Caravan"

Last month, a group of people of all ages and genders from San Pedro Sula, Honduras began a long, dangerous journey in hopes of reaching Mexico or the United States to gain asylum. Along the way, they were joined by thousands from other parts of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. While individual motivations may differ, common reasons for those making this trek include escaping violence and poverty in their home countries.

Sadly, the danger will not end for members of the caravan if they reach the border. Instead, members will face yet another obstacle in their journey for safety: the “zero tolerance” policy that allows our government to inhumanely rip apart families and detain people indefinitely. Although we should be offering aid to members of the caravan, our administration has instead resorted to threats of violence and fear-mongering. In Trump’s recent tweets about the migrant caravan, he refers to them as “bad thugs” and “gang members.” Yet, there has been no evidence of violence from this group. In turn, such language only incites unfounded prejudices, which the administration hopes to capitalize on to further their own political agenda. Already, the migrant caravan dominates conversations surrounding the midterm elections, and certain individuals are using baseless or even misinformation about the caravan to garner support for the GOP and its immigration policies. Trump promises to send thousands of troops by the end of the week, with the New York Times reporting that 1,000 military personnel have already been deployed.

By criminalizing asylum seekers, our government violates fundamental human rights. According to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (signed by the United States), migrants have the right to apply for asylum regardless of how they enter the country. In these grave times when our government fails to acknowledge human rights and protect those in need, we must take a stand. A few ways you can take action include voting in this midterm election, educating yourself and others on the issue, writing/signing petitions, contacting your Representatives/Senators to voice your opposition, donating to organizations (such as Physicians for Human Rights) that help families and individuals at the border seek justice, and/or volunteering with us at the LAHRI to help out with pro bono forensic evaluations for asylum seekers.

References:

1. Cooper H and Gibbons-Neff T. (Oct 2018). They’re trained for war. Now American Troops are Headed to the U.S. Border. NYT. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/30/us/politics/american-troops-border-migrants.html

2. Peters JW. (Oct 2018). How Trump-fed conspiracy theories about migrant caravan intersect with deadly hatred. NYT. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/29/us/politics/caravan-trump-shooting-elections.html

3. (Oct 2018). Migrant caravan: what is it and why does it matter? BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-45951782

4. Ahmed A, Rogers K, and Ernst J. (Oct 2018). How the migrant caravan became a Trump Election Strategy. NYT. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/24/world/americas/migrant-caravan-trump.html

5. Caldwell, AA and Youssef NA. (Oct 2018). Trump to deploy 5,200 troops to the southern border. WSJ.https://www.wsj.com/articles/military-to-deploy-5-000-troops-to-southern-border-u-s-officials-say-1540820650

Emily Chu
Bias in the News: Myths about the "Migrant Caravan"

As a group of asylum seekers from Honduras heads closer towards the U.S., various posts and articles about them have been widely circulating on social media. Some posts paint these migrants as dangerous, such as carrying infectious diseases and/or engaging in violence along their journey. However, rather than passively absorbing any information that come across our screens, we must become critical consumers. With the abundance of information available on the internet that can come from anyone and anywhere, we must consistently check our sources of information. Whenever I read a post or an article, I always like to ask myself: what are the motivations of the author, and how is the evidence obtained?

Being a critical consumer of information is especially pertinent for topics that are emotionally charged, such as immigration in the U.S. This New York Times article (Roose, 2018) serves as a reminder to be cautious of biases and prejudices that may skew the presentation of information. The article debunks some of the myths surrounding the “migrant caravan” that have been popularized via social media. For example, images of violence taken from other events have been “mislabeled” or wrongly associated with migrants, possibly to incite fear. Importantly, the consequences of misinformation could severely impact people’s lives. In turn, we must take it upon ourselves to examine the information we are consuming and distributing and strive to seek out multiple perspectives on the scenario.

Emily Chu