March 26, 2019
Report on Dilley Family Detention Facility
from Martin Garbus, an attorney who volunteered for a week at the Dilley Family Detention Center earlier this month. This is an eye opening report, and also an example of the importance of local action and volunteering in support of marginalized communities. Only through such direct engagement do these stories get circulated more broadly. From the report:
I spent one week at Dilley, leaving early in February, as a volunteer lawyer to help these families with their asylum applications. Nearly every one of the almost 500 people that I saw in the detention center was sick. There were, at the end of my visit, 15 infants in the center—two children had previously died in government custody, though not in the Dilley facility. The children and their mothers, most of whom had crossed the Rio Grande ten days before, near McAllen, Texas, often bucking strong currents and sand holes, where the water level hovered around their knees, looked for border patrol agents so they could be taken into custody and request asylum.
The agents take them in their wet clothes, at first, to the “Hielera,” the “Ice Box,” a refrigerated building, a large processing center, where they had to try to sleep on the concrete floor or sit on concrete benches under mylar blankets, prodded by agents all night and day, deliberately kept awake. Bathroom breaks are frequently not granted, or not in time, so both women and children often soil themselves.
The prison-like detention was an attempt to persuade these immigrants to turn back before they even reached a credible-fear interview with an asylum officer. It was also a message to those who were still trying to cross the border.
Read the full story here. Get involved!
Everyone who is a citizen has the right to vote, correct? Nope.
The struggle to reinstate voting rights! Right2Vote Report
Across the country a battle is being waged to reinstate voting rights to people who have lost them as the result of a criminal conviction. Under the U.S. Constitution, each state decides who can vote, within the parameters established by the 15th, 19th, and 26th amendments. As a result, the right to vote for many people is contingent on where they live, especially if they have a felony conviction. In some states you never lose the right to vote, even while in prison. In others, you are not allowed to vote while under state custody (imprisoned, paroled or on probation). In some states you lose the right to vote forever once you have some number of felony convictions.
Felony disenfranchisement impacts millions of people - remember the U.S has the MOST incarcerated population on the planet. However, while this impacts every district and community, it disproportionately impacts African American voters, a community whose incarceration rate has spiked as the result of racist policing and prosecutorial practices that have become the hallmark of the so called “war on drugs” over the last thirty years.
There are multiple efforts to reinstate the right to vote for all those who have lost it as result of felony disenfranchisement laws. A constitutional amendment is unlikely to pass at this point - so the battle is a state to state one. There are active campaigns in at least ten different states with legislation pending to restore voting rights to those with a felony conviction. You can get the details, and get involved, by checking out the latest Right2Vote Report here.