Last week, United States Immigrations and Customs Enforcement announced it would deport Yancarlos Mendez. Mendez is an auto mechanic with no criminal record other than driving without a license. He overstayed permission to be in the country under the Visa Waiver Program, and after his arrest (for lacking a license), ICE decided to deport him. So far, this is a pretty typical story of ICE deporting good people who were otherwise full contributors to American society.
Mendez is also the sole financial provider and caregiver to a six-year-old boy with paraplegia. The child, Ricky Solis, was paralyzed in February of 2017 when a driver crossed lanes and struck the car in which he was riding with his mother, Sandra Mendoza. As he recovered, Mendoza and Mendez were both trained in how to care for him, a key step in Ricky’s being released from the hospital. Now Mendez is in custody, ICE has denied an appeal, Mendoza had to quit her job to care for her son around the clock, and Ricky is experiencing internal bleeding. Amid tears and new surgeries, ICE is preparing to “repatriate” Mendez to the Dominican Republic.
If you are concerned about disability rights in 2018, you also need to be concerned about immigration rights. This has, of course, always been true. It’s axiomatic that campaigns for justice overlap. Cases like the deportation of Yancarlos Mendez, however, make it impossible to deny the necessity of working across categories in order to build a better world.
As ICE has intensified operations under the regime of President Donald Trump, disability-related cases and causes have routinely gotten public attention. In part, this has to do with the way that disability commands sympathy and can sometimes generate generous media coverage. It’s easier for immigrant rights groups to command national attention when there’s a disabled six-year-old at risk. But it’s also because ICE has turned rapacious, sweeping aside long traditions protecting medical facilities such as hospitals from enforcement actions.
We saw this pattern last fall, when the American Civil Liberties Union took on the case of Rosa Maria Hernandez. Hernandez is a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy whose ambulance was stopped at a checkpoint while she was being taken to a hospital for gallbladder surgery. Immigration authorities kept her under surveillance throughout the procedure, then took her to a detention center. Only widespread national outrage prompted her eventual release. The Department of Homeland Security told NPR at the time that they had no choice but to the detain the child. “By law we have to do exactly what we did,” said Gabriel Acosta, assistant chief patrol agent in Laredo.
ICE Keeps Raiding Hospitals and Mistreating Disabled Children
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