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New Resources: 3-28-11

March 29, 2011

Well, some of these are not all that new. I’m kind of playing catch-up with a stack of files that’s threatening to bury me at any moment. Anyway, I think these are all things readers of this blog may want to know about.

Giving Refuge: Reflections on
Working with Asylum Seekers

Katalin Roth, MD, JD, writes perceptively and very movingly about listening to the stories of  torture survivors who are seeking asylum in the United States. “It has been an extraordinary journey for me,” she writes. “In the newspapers, we read wrenching stories about suffering in farway places…through this work, these stories have become real to me…I discovered a new dimension of myself as a physician.”
            Giving Refuge was first published in Journal of Pain and Symptom Management in July, 2010, but is also available on the website of the human rights organization, Physicians for Human Rights.
            Dr. Roth – like many others around the country – works with the Asylum Network of PHR, which helps connect physicians, psychologists – and at least a few nurses – with asylum applicants and/or their attorneys. Based on statistics I’ve seen, the involvement of a healthcare professional can easily double the chances of success in the notoriously chancy and erratic asylum courts.

“Dual Loyalty” of Professionals in Immigration Detention
Centers Can Lead to Ethics and Human Rights Violations

A new study from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) highlights the conflicts that arise when health professionals are torn between their duties to their patients and their obligations to an employer, government, insurer, or the military – a common problem in immigration detention centers, prisons, and similar environments. As it shows,
“the consequences of dual loyalties can be devastating for patients.”

The report chronicles the story of one immigrant from Ecuador who sought medical help for persistent headaches that lasted more than a month while in detention. After only receiving Tylenol from medical staff and no other treatment or screening, she fell from a bunk bed and was taken to a local hospital. At the hospital she was diagnosed with an infection of the brain that is common among Latin American immigrants, and died shortly after. A simple screening might have prevented her untimely death, but for reasons that remain unclear, the medical staff never ordered one for her.

In interviewing for our film, Refuge: Caring for Survivors, we were told a story very similar to the one above. While in detention in Texas, the young woman referred to as “M” on our Voices of Survivors page had severe  headaches after being severely pistol-whipped by police in her home country. Thrown into immigration detention after arriving in the U.S., she was refused any medication other than painkillers.
            In light of the increasing privatization and commercialization of immigration detention, the current situation represents a real healthcare crisis. As PHR notes, the 400,000 people ICE detains each year include elderly, mentally ill, and disabled people – and many who are survivors of torture and other human rights violations. They may spend months and sometimes years in detention. As PHR’s Frank Donaghue notes, “When a physician is forced to choose between the needs of their employer and the patient, someone is going to lose.”
            Dual Loyalties: The Challenges of Providing Professional Health Care to Immigration Detainees is available online. You can read PHR’s press release here.

Slamming the Courthouse Doors: ACLU Report Hits Lack
of Access to Justice for Victims of Human Rights Violations

Released on International Human Rights Day (December 10, 2010) this new report from the American Civil Liberties Union, Slamming the Courthouse Doors, includes an important section on Immigrant Rights. It focuses on the expansion of the “Stipulated Removal,” program, which “is used to swiftly deport detained non-citizens under circumstances in which these detainees are unaware of the rights they are giving up or the potential consequences that may result.”
            The report also argues that the U.S. has “circumvented its treaty obligations by transferring individuals to foreign countries that provide “diplomatic assurances” that they will not torture such individuals.” Such assurances, the ACLU states, “are inherently unreliable, not legally binding, and provide no recourse for the transferred individual.”
            It points out that people with mental disabilities who are facing possible deportation, are given inadequate protection and assistance. “Deficiencies exist throughout the arrest, detention, removal, and deportation process, violating the human rights of affected individuals and offending both American and international standards of justice.”

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