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The inhumanity of Trump’s deportation machine has been on display this week in three cases where the federal government has shown a callous indifference to immigrants’ lives, whether they are 17-year-old minors or parents who have lived in the US for decades and have deep ties.
In a story that has made national headlines, a 17-year-old girl in a Texas detention facility has been unable to terminate an unwanted pregnancy because the Trump Administration won’t let her. She came to the US from Central America in September, sought asylum, was put into detention, and requested an abortion for her 15-week-old pregnancy.
She would be paying for the abortion herself, but the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) — which oversees the detention of unaccompanied minors like her — has a policy of “refusing to facilitate abortions” except in “very limited circumstances.” They’ve refused to let her visit a clinic and refused to transport her themselves, effectively “holding her hostage”, according to Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.
The government has said that she could request to go back to her country of origin and have her abortion there, but that clearly shouldn’t be a choice at all considering she fled that country. This week, US District Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that the girl could have an abortion, pointing out that it was ridiculous for the government to force her to either return to a country she fled or to have the baby against her will.
HHS however, appealed the ruling, and the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a temporary stay. The stay is expected to be lifted, however, allowing her to have the procedure today or tomorrow.
Still, it’s been a story “straight from dystopian fiction,” said Susan Hays, legal director of Jane’s Due Process: “A young woman is being held against her will, intimidated and shamed for her decisions, forced to undergo coercive counseling and medical procedures, and physically barred from ending an unwanted pregnancy.”
Amiri said in a statement that the government had “no shame and no regard for a woman’s health….Her decision has been disregarded and she’s now been dragged into a protracted legal battle over her ability to get the care she needs.”
In New York, a single father has been deported to Bangladesh after being denied a one-year stay so that he could arrange care for his daughter, who has severe autism.
Ambia is the main caregiver of 15-year-old Faeeza, and has lived in the US since the mid-’90s. He has been in ICE’s system ever since 2009, after he was caught trying to obtain a visa to visit his cancer-stricken father in Bangladesh. His wife returned to Bangladesh in 2008 in order to take care of her own sick mother, and was denied a visa to return to the US. While she had originally taken their children with her, Bangladesh has few options for special needs schools.
Ambia’s two other children, both in college, are now left to care for Faeeza. Ambia had asked for a one-year stay of his deportation because next spring, his older daughter Fariha will graduate from college and be able to take care of her sister, but ICE denied the stay. Ambia’s lawyer is pursuing humanitarian parole for him, but ICE has so far not acknowledged receiving Ambia’s petition.
Meanwhile, in San Diego, a single mother and union worker has been deported after living in the US for 24 years. Silvia Ocampo Ortiz was forced to leave behind three children, one of whom is an 8-year-old with special needs. As her bio from Unite Here Local 30 says:
As of today, her daughter is still unaware where her mother is, and it is affecting her at school and missing her at home. It is causing her emotional stress not to know what happened to her mother and why she was never picked from school last Wednesday. This has been the longest she has ever been without her mother.
In 2009, Silvia and her husband were charged with perjury relating to their driver’s license applications. (California did not allow undocumented immigrants to legally drive at the time.) Her lawyer gave her bad advice, and Silvia pleaded guilty, not knowing that a felony would put her in the deportation system. Her husband was deported first, and since then, Silvia has raised her family on her own.
During the Obama Administration, Silvia, like Ambia and thousands of other immigrants, were allowed to keep living their lives as long as they checked in with ICE once a year. But that changed with Trump’s election. In July, Silvia went for an ICE check-in and was told to come back in three months. When she showed up last week, she was taken into detention and deported.
California Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher expressed her outrage over the case:
Deporting Silvia Ocampo is heartless and sickening. She is a hard-working, tax-paying member of this community and she has two children who are U.S. citizens, including an 8-year-old daughter with special needs. What will happen to her kids after their mother is deported? Are we now a country that takes relish in separating parents from children? I’m absolutely devastated and horrified.
These cases aren’t the only time we’ve seen a complete lack of humanity toward immigrants from the Trump Administration. In September, Pedro Hernandez was also deported despite being a father of four and primary caretaker of a son with severe cerebral palsy. The same week, Border Patrol agents arrested the parents of a 2-month-old who had taken him to the hospital for a serious operation. Earlier this year, ICE tried to deport a cancer patient back to Honduras, where she would be unable to receive care. It’s almost like immigrants are less than human to the Trump White House, and they’re being treated that way.