- Mexican authorities have uncovered several mass graves with a total of 116 bodies in pits near the US border, many of them migrants apparently on their way north including some from Central America. Reports indicate that the country’s violent Zeta and Gulf drug cartels have begun abducting passengers on buses in the area, and a total of 17 suspects had been detained in connection with the killings. As a result, the U.S. State Department yesterday issued a new travel warning for the states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo León and San Luis Potosi. This has further fueled discussions of the region as a “failed state.”
- More than 250 people, including women and children, were missing after their boat capsized off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa in the worst shipwreck since thousands of migrants began traveling to Italy because of the unrest in North Africa. Some 48 were rescued by Italian authorities, and three were saved by a fishing boat, but 20 deaths were confirmed and at least 130 people are unaccounted-for. Watch a video of the search for survivors here.
- In Libya, African migrants claim that they were abducted and forced to fight with Gaddafi’s forces. According to one Ghanaian worker, “They asked us why we were trying to leave the country and that we must stay to fight for when the Americans come.”
- A boat from Libya carrying more than 200 migrants, most of them sub-Saharan Africans, capsized on Wednesday off the Italian island of Lampedusa and more than 150 are still missing.
- A hastily built refugee center in Italy is an example of the logistical challenges that Europe faces as thousands of immigrants flee the unrest in North Africa.
- Officials in California shut down a “maternity tourism” house where, they say, Chinese women paid tens of thousands of dollars to stay and deliver.
One week after the start of the disaster in Japan, earthquake-induced power outages, food shortages, and the fear of radiation has prompted migration out of some regions and in some cases out of the country altogether. One news analyst even asks: Is the nuclear refugee the next type of environmental migrant?
The devastating impact of the earthquake and tsunami upon Japan’s largely invisible population of unauthorized immigrants remain to be seen. The January 1995 Kobe earthquake that killed 5,300 people and left 300,000 homeless prompted many unauthorized migrants to seek exit visas to leave Japan at their own expense. As this historical example shows, unauthorized migrants are not entitled to housing or other assistance that is made available to quake victims. Yesterday, the Migration Policy Institute posted a snapshot of the most recently available statistics on foreign nationals in the country, along with a link to their 2006 report on Japanese immigration policy. According to the information, 91,000 people overstayed their visas, plus another 13,000 to 22,000 estimated to have entered the country without authorization. Together, unauthorized migrants represent about 5 percent of the foreign nationals in Japan.
Some reports over the past days indicate that relatives of migrant workers from the Philippines have been unable locate them on official lists of the missing. The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) lists over 4,300 Filipinos in Japan. The DFA’s Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs has set up a crisis management center for those concerned about the welfare of their family members.
Access Denied welcomes any reports on the situation of unauthorized migrants in Japan following the disasters. You can send us information at firstname.lastname@example.org or simply post replies here.
News from the US:
- Happy St. Patrick’s Day! As the Irish have done for the last 150 years, many continue to leave the economic situation in their homeland in the hopes of finding something better in New York. Still, many lament that American laws make it exceedingly difficult for immigrants without work visas to find a legal job.
- A court-appointed guardian’s decision to remove the feeding tube of a Rwandan immigrant, Rachel Nyirahabiyambere, exposes the debate over caring for patients in persistent vegetative states. Three weeks later, a judge has ordered that a Nyirahabiyambere be given nutrition and hydration immediately.
- Many states have pledged to toughen up on illegal immigration. Now, with some legislatures winding down their sessions, the lack of consensus that has immobilized Congress has shown up in the legislatures as well, and has slowed — but not stopped — the advance of bills to penalize illegal immigrants.
- In the first move by a state to extend legal recognition to illegal immigrant laborers, the Utah Legislature has passed immigration bills that include a guest worker program that would allow unauthorized foreigners to work legally in the state.
- As many state legislatures consider laws to expand the role of local police departments in immigration control, police chiefs across the country say they are reluctant to take on these tasks and want clear lines drawn between local crime-fighting and federal immigration enforcement, according to a new report by the Police Executive Research Forum.
- Tens of thousands of migrant workers, mainly Egyptians, continue to flee Libya’s turmoil. In excess of 140,000 people have fled for neighboring Egypt and Tunisia.
- The film “Strangers No More,” which features a south Tel Aviv school attended by children whose families hail from 48 different countries, won the Academy Award for best short documentary on Sunday. Despite the attention, 120 children and their families face deportation from Israel in the coming week. In the coming days, AccessDenied will discuss this case in more depth.
- Up to 50 migrants have been hospitalized almost five weeks after going on hunger strike in Greece.
- The Philippine government announced last week that it was suspending the processing of labor applications for its citizens to work in Libya, Bahrain and Yemen as unrest continues to sweep the Middle East. Anthropologist Andrew M. Gardner is cited in the article. His recent book, City of Strangers, offers a glimpse into the fragile social contract of low income migrant workers in Gulf nations.
- Sweden has seemed immune to the kind of anti-immigrant sentiment blossoming elsewhere in Europe. Nearly a quarter of the population is now foreign born or has a foreign-born parent. But increasingly, Swedes are questioning liberal policies and anti-immigration parties are on the rise. Read more…
Updates from the US:
- This week, the Arizona State Senate voted on Bill SB 1405, which mandates that hospital staff verify the citizenship status of patients before providing any service. Despite the input of health care providers and hospitals during the last night’s session, including vocal protest, the bill passed 8-5.
- Other bills on the AZ table include a pair that challenge the birthright clause of the 14th Amendment, along with SB 1611, which one Arizona Republic reporter has called “SB 1070 on steroids”.
- Meetings of European Union ministers this week to address change in the Middle East were dominated by the possibility of increased migration from North Africa if regional unrest grows. Meanwhile, the EU will deploy Frontex experts along with aerial and naval support to assist with the rush of immigrants in Lampedusa.
- On a lighter but none less disturbing note, Dutch right-wing extremists have called for the deportation of illegal immigrant Scottish Highland cattle and Polish ponies.
University of South Florida
Current talk about excluding immigrants from health care reform raises crucial questions about the relationship between health care access and immigration status. Who deserves access to medical care, and why are immigrants sometimes viewed as less deserving of care?
Mounting evidence suggests that the current health care reform proposals – whatever their fate – will do little to address immigrants’ health care barriers, as Feet in 2 Worlds notes, citing a press release from New Yorkers for Accessible Health Coverage and the New York Immigration Coalition. In some respects, current proposals would create additional hindrances for certain immigrant groups. Read more…
It has now been three weeks since the earthquake in Haiti. The coverage of dramatic rescues is giving way to efforts to treat the injured, the struggle to obtain food, the grief of burying the dead, and plans for rebuilding. This news round-up highlights several trends in the news coverage that are relevant to the themes of ACCESS DENIED.
Our most recent post on ACCESS DENIED by Heide Castañeda responded to reports that medical flights from Haiti to Florida had ceased due to disputes over who would pay the hospital bills for evacuees. By Monday, the NYT reported that flights were resumed. Florida governor Charlie Crist claimed the dispute was over the capacity of hospitals to handle the influx of patients and was not a fight over payment. Read more…
Sarah S. Willen
Just as we were dotting ‘i’s and crossing ‘t’s for this latest news round-up, Nina Bernstein’s front-page article in today’s New York Times, “Officials Hid Truth About Immigrant Deaths in Jail,” hammered home the risks and dangers of being ill or injured in a United States immigration prison. The piece foregrounds the 2007 deaths – in ICE custody – of Nery Romero, originally from El Salvador, and Boubacar Bah, originally from Guinea.
Bernstein’s reporting was facilitated by the recent release of thousands of pages of confidential documents – among them memos, draft reports, “talking points,” and Blackberry messages – to the NYT and the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act. Read more…
News Round-Up (12/23/09) – Unspeakable Exclusion: Immigration and the Politics of U.S. Health Care Reform
Sarah S. Willen (SMU) & Nolan Kline (University of South Florida)
Although politicians on both the right and the left have expressed their reservations, the legislative push to pass health care reform before Christmas eve appears to be moving forward at full steam – importantly, without any substantive discussion of whether excluding unauthorized migrants and immigrants makes sense.
However the chips fall, we are left with one key take-home lesson from this lengthy, dramatic legislative saga: Americans of all stripes are, and remain, woefully ignorant about the scale and scope of unauthorized migrants’ and immigrants’ health needs; about the interconnectedness among im/migrants’ health concerns and those of citizens and authorized residents; and about the reasons – practical, financial, legal, and ethical – why helping im/migrants obtain health care might be in the collective best interest.
During the most recent debate, a few rare voices have bucked this trend. In a New York Times op-ed titled “Coverage Without Borders”, for instance, Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles, argues that, Read more…