Lamar Smith Ignores Reality, Calls Immigration Detention a “Holiday”
According to a New York Times editorial, Lamar Smith, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is presiding over a hearing Wednesday on new guidelines for immigration detention that were issued last month and are now beginning to go into effect.
Lamar Smith cheekily titled the hearing “Holiday on ICE.” By so shamelessly minimizing a grave human rights issue, Lamar Smith warrants a new nickname: “The Hell-bound *#$%@#!.”
The author of the op-ed scythes through Lamar Smith’s rotten soul by providing concrete examples of how deadly the immigration detention system has been in the past:
The flippant title of the hearing shows a blatant disregard for the more than 110 people who have died in immigration custody since 2003. One of them was my uncle Joseph, an 81-year-old throat cancer survivor who spoke with an artificial voice box. He arrived in Miami in October 2004 after fleeing an uprising in Haiti. He had a valid passport and visa, but when he requested political asylum, he was arrested and taken to the Krome detention center in Miami. His medications for high blood pressure and an inflamed prostate were taken away, and when he fell ill during a hearing, a Krome nurse accused him of faking his illness. When he was finally transported, in leg chains, to the prison ward of a nearby hospital, it was already too late. He died the next day.
My uncle’s brief and deadly stay in the United States immigration system was no holiday. Detention was no holiday for Rosa Isela Contreras-Dominguez, who was 35 years old and pregnant when she died in immigration custody in Texas in 2007. She had a history of blood clots, and said her complaints regarding leg pains were ignored. It was no holiday for Mayra Soto, a California woman who was raped by an immigration officer. It was no holiday for Hiu Lui Ng, a 34-year-old Chinese immigrant with a fractured spine who was dragged on the floor and refused the use of a wheelchair in an ICE detention center in Rhode Island.
In October 2007 I testified at another Congressional hearing on immigration detention conditions, where I told my uncle’s story. Also testifying was Francisco Castañeda, an immigrant from El Salvador. In 2006 he had been placed in a detention facility in San Diego, where he was refused treatment for a penile lesion and a lump in his groin. When he was eventually released from ICE custody, he had to have his cancerous penis amputated. A few months after giving his Congressional testimony, he died.
Now you see why Lamar Smith warrants such a nasty nickname. If the deaths of the above were not caused by people working for or at the behest of the federal government, homicide charges could have been brought. The mens rea, or state of mind, of the people who caused the deaths of the above can be best described as reckless, sufficient to lodge homicide charges in many instances.
However, the federal government kills with impunity because it is the biggest power in the land. Its leader is still lauded as immigrants’ best hope in a system that is designed to destroy them.
To make matters worse, Lamar Smith mocks people who were killed at his employer’s hand. Deplorable.