Anthropology Afflicting the Comfortable: A Review of Seth Holmes’s “Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies” – Rachel Stonecipher
Having cut my teeth in anthropology while living in the state of Texas, I am accustomed to trying to explain what, exactly, this discipline is. At Thanksgiving, distant family members ask me whether I have anything interesting to tell them about the dinosaurs. When I correct them and confess that I neither dig up artifacts (certainly not T-Rex) nor analyze crime scenes, but rather practice “cultural” anthropology, I watch their shoulders sink and eyes wander away.
Seth Holmes’ book Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies is here to change that, and in the best of directions. In a tight 200 pages, Holmes lays out a call to action for social scientists, practicing physicians, and average readers to identify and combat the structural violence perpetrated against migrant farmworkers. By accompanying his companions as they migrate, work, and seek health care, Holmes sheds light on the “ethnicity-citizenship hierarchy” that shapes the health outcomes of indigenous Triqui migrant workers on a farm in the Skagit Valley of Washington state. His goal is to perform a “critical and reflexively embodied anthropology” that will “confront the ways in which certain classes of people come to be written off or deemed less human” (40-44). The idea of reflexive embodiment is to think about one’s own ways of sensing the world – such as feeling pain, love, or success – in critical comparison to how others sensorially experience. Holmes is on a trail parallel to the recent ethnographic movement, led by Sarah Willen, to interrogate the social inequality (re)produced when undocumented migrants come to embody their abject status. However, as I argue below, his approach is more akin to discourse analysis than Willen’s “critical phenomenology,” though it would be strengthened by more of the latter. Read more…
Seton Hall University School of Law
Any effort at comprehensive immigration reform must also address the health care needs of millions of immigrants with long-standing ties to this country. Absent such reform, immigrants needing ongoing medical care will remain vulnerable to the unethical practice of de facto deportation by hospitals, which is fueled by a lack of government reimbursement or oversight of international discharges.
In fact, a recent study from the Center for Social Justice and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest cites hundreds of cases of forced or coerced medical deportations. Acting alone or in concert with private transportation companies, as my colleagues and I report, hospitals are functioning as unauthorized immigration officers and engaging in de facto deportation of seriously ill or injured immigrant patients directly from their hospital beds to their native countries.
Reading Between the Lines: Need to Know’s “Crossing the Line” Suggests a Reexamination of the Border Patrol’s Culture – Rachel Stonecipher
In 2012, a series of PBS investigations into Border Patrol abuses corroborated years of humanitarian volunteers’ reports, finding that the agency’s institutional culture cultivates a climate of medical neglect – and sometimes outright harm – toward migrant detainees. In July 2012, the PBS show Need to Know aired the second installment of its U.S.-Mexico border series “Crossing the Line,” an investigation into abuses of migrants in Border Patrol custody. The program reported that agents in the Tucson Sector, the busiest of nine regional divisions of the Border Patrol on the U.S.-Mexico border, have been accused of thousands of physical, verbal, and sexual abuses against migrants who are usually deported before they can report the crimes. “Crossing the Line, part 2” focused on the problem of poor treatment during detention, while Part I addressed agents’ excessive use of force. In light of my own research with humanitarian volunteers, the two programs prove the frequency and injuriousness of abuse. Although PBS stops short of claiming that the Border Patrol’s “war on illegal immigration” actually promotes harm against migrants, to some volunteers’ dismay (including my own), “Crossing the Line” effectively conveys that abuse is an institutional problem that takes direct and indirect forms – including impunity.
Flouting International Law: Violating the Human Rights of Asylum Seekers, Including Victims of Torture and Human Trafficking, in and en route to Israel – Laurie Lijnders
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel
My 15-year-old brother Habtom disappeared after he was released from an underground cell in the trafficking compound of Abu Khalid, where he was tortured for three months until we paid US$35,000 for his release, a young Eritrean woman told me during a visit to her home in a Tel Aviv suburb. Habtom, who fled forced military conscription and institutionalized slavery in Eritrea, was kidnapped in April 2012 from Shagarab refugee camp in Eastern Sudan by Rishyada tribesmen. Through a well-organized network of human traffickers operating in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, and Israel, he was transferred to the northern Sinai desert, near the Egyptian border with Israel.
The Israeli Ministry of Interior estimates that 60,000 African asylum seekers, mainly from Eritrea and Sudan, have arrived in Israel in recent years via the country’s southern border. According to Israeli human rights organizations, arriving asylum seekers face serious rights violations on both sides of the border.
Western University School of Medicine and Dentistry
The doctors of Canada are angry. Last May in Toronto, a group of 90 physicians clad in white coats and scrubs occupied the office of a high-ranking member of the Canadian Parliament. Since then, physicians have consistently interrupted press conferences held by Conservative members of Parliament to protest cuts to the country’s Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP), which since 1957 has provided basic health care to refugees and asylum seekers.
Under the new policy, many refugees will receive care only in “urgent and necessary” cases or if their illness is deemed a threat to public health. Ironically, these cuts came into effect on the July 1st celebration of Canada Day, when this nation of immigrants and refugees celebrates its independence and its core values of generosity, openness, and multiculturalism.
“Doing No Harm” in an Age of Medical Repatriations: Challenges and Opportunities for Health Professionals – Juliana Morris
Harvard Medical School
How often do doctors cause harm to their patients when they discharge them from the hospital? For a sizeable group of immigrant patients who are “discharged” to their countries of origin each year, the answer may be: more often than not. The story of Quelino Ojeda Jimenez, an immigrant from Oaxaca, Mexico, who became quadriplegic after a fall at his roofing job in Chicago, Illinois, is case in point.
Conceptions of Reciprocity: The Navarro Transplant Case, Organ Allocation and Undocumented Immigrants – Emily Avera
Organ donors give the gift of life, but the sheer volume of patients hoping for transplants far outstrips donor generosity. How should we make decisions to ensure the equitable distribution of a limited supply of organs? In a system that depends on the goodwill of donors and public trust, this question becomes further complicated when undocumented immigrants seek transplants – especially in the United States, where undocumented immigrants consent to donate organs more often than they receive them. In light of this fact, should citizenship be a substantial consideration? Or should allocation decisions be made according to a claim of reciprocity – i.e., that individuals or groups who are willing to donate are more entitled to receive organs than others?
When the Ward is Your Mooring: The Human and Economic Costs of Long-Term Acute Care for Undocumented Immigrants in the U.S. – Nora Kenworthy
A recent New York Times article by John Leland recounted the lengthy medical history of Raymond Fok, an uninsured and undocumented immigrant who ended up marooned at New York City’s Downtown Hospital for 19 months after surviving a stroke. Although suffering from chronic health problems, including kidney failure, and initially in need of acute care, Mr. Fok remained in the hospital long after his initial emergency because he had no other place to go.
Without insurance or public benefits, numerous immigrants in the U.S. find similar fates in public hospitals, learning that without chronic or community-based services to assist them in recovery, they cannot be discharged. Rather than qualifying for a home health aide, or getting transferred to a nursing home, Mr. Fok’s status left him in the expensive care of an already cash-strapped public hospital. As Leland writes: “Mr. Fok’s immigration status never kept him from receiving treatment, but it helped make sure that his care would be delivered in the most expensive setting possible and in a place no one wants to spend more time than necessary.” Read more…
The Psychiatric Hospital as Safe House? Strange Asylum for Undocumented Immigrants with Mental Health Needs – Nora Kenworthy
Over the past few years, stories have trickled into the U.S. national media about hospitals struggling to cope with the burden of caring for undocumented immigrants who lack insurance and are ineligible for benefits. These reports, including a recent series by New York Times reporter Kevin Sack and an even more recent NYT piece by Sam Roberts, feature accounts of chronically-ill patients being removed from dialysis, or ‘repatriated’ to their countries of origin in comas, to be cared for by long-lost and poorly-equipped relatives. As Luis Plascencia wrote on this blog a few years ago, these rare glimpses into hospital decision-making processes indicate that rising costs and non-existent legal protections for immigrants have led to a ‘privatization’ and ‘outsourcing’ of deportation by health care institutions.
To date, this meager public attention has focused exclusively on hospitals treating physical illnesses. Virtually no mention has been made of how psychiatric and mental health institutions handle undocumented immigrants. Read more…