Texas Diversity Digest: Humanizing the Migrant Crisis

by Indira Bridges

As a border state, Texas sits front and center to the tragedy that is the refugee-migrant crisis currently impacting our nation. As the recent World Refugee Day reminded us, millions of people across the globe are enduring unprecedented amounts of suffering in their home nations, leaving them with no option but to seek refuge elsewhere. In order to begin building effective solutions for this crisis, we must tune into their lived experiences in ways that humanize their being and foster solidarity. 

Rise of Immigration Concentration Camps 
In this past year, many are calling for immigration detention centers across America to be acknowledged as domestic concentration camps following the release of grim images and testimonies coming out of these holdings. Reports have revealed to the public the painstaking separation of families detained, the poor and filthy infrastructure people are expected to use and the vast over flooding of these locations which have people literally fighting for space and air and to be acknowledged for their case status, mental welfare and overall health condition. Despite these conditions, ICE continues to detain in high rates daily with numbers as high as 52,500 people a day. The majority of the detained, perfectly legal refugees seeking asylum at the border from the turmoil and violence they face in their native nations. The others, people who could no longer bear the long waiting case processing and decided to cross illegally. Together people of both circumstances sit in horrid confinement, awaiting what may be months or years for their cases to be processed. Leaving many to question how they’ve moved from one unfortunate situation to another.

Rise in African Migrants at U.S.-Mexico Border
Whilst many acknowledge the migrant crisis along the US-Mexico border as a story between neighboring Latin America and the U.S., a recent influx of African migrants through San Antonio reveals a shift in migrant demographics crossing into the U.S. utilizing the border. The Customs and Border Protection Agency reports that many of those fleeing are families from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola, seeking refuge from political unrest and deadly diseases like that of Ebola. For many of these refugees, their journey begins with a flight to Central America or Mexico where they join the larger migrant caravan to reach immigration centers to file for asylum. Here many face unforeseen experiences which shatter their plans to achieve shelter and safety swiftly. Immigration centers are flooded, thus cases are processed slowly. In addition, officers are unaccustomed to dealing with migrants from this region, so staff able to translate French or Portuguese is little to nonexistent causing further delays with their asylum requests. Left to wait in uncertainty in Mexican towns and cities near the border, as well as detention centers, where their identity and native languages stand out in ways that render them lonely and slowly assisted, their ability to swiftly receive the humanitarian aid they so greatly need is challenged

Hunger Strike in El Paso Detention Center
In January, the El Paso Service Processing Center was revealed to be holding nine male Sikh Punjabi refugees on hunger strike seeking asylum in the nation. While awaiting due process for their asylum status, they have been detained within the center. In protest of their prisoner like treatment and extreme delay in their case judgment, they have brought awareness to the public about refugee treatment by the hands of ICE by withholding food for months on end. Officers within the facility immediately retaliated against their movement by forced feeding the strikers via nasal tube and administering IV’s. The men (who have spoken out to a few reporters) say the people in charge to subdue them lack proper medical training and they’ve undergone “treatment” that has left them bruised, scarred and bloody. The latest update reveals that the physical state of the strikers has turned near dire, as some have become so weak they cannot walk without assistance. All the while this perilous movement remains just as important to the men, as they uncover the torturous actions of ICE towards refugees.

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