Race, Social Justice

Seriously, Texas? How it keeps getting worse

“Nobody cares about dead immigrants. They’re invisible when they’re alive, and they’re even more invisible when they’re dead.”

Alexa Diaz’s previous work for Coming of Faith can be found here.

What is the state of a nation that denies basic rights, justice and safety to brown bodies? I’ll answer that for you: it is one that is moving backwards.

Texas has bobbed in and out of the news cycle for months, from its governor issuing a statement that its citizens do not have to adhere to the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling to the suspicious “suicide” of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman who was pulled over for failing to signal a lane change.

The state’s lack of reasonable human empathy is incredible; and it seeps even more deeply with racial injustice when immigration becomes a discussion on Texan soil.

In the past year, Texas has refused to recognize United States-born children of immigrants as citizens, endangered 250 children at an immigration detention facility by giving them adult dosages of the hepatitis A Vaccine and failed to carry out due process in the investigation of the mass graves of immigrants.

These events highlight the ways in which being an immigrant can impact every stage of your life. These failures on behalf of Texas, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, raise the question of what it means to be an American and whose bodies are worthy of protection under the law, in life and in death.

For nearly 150 years the U.S. has recognized those born within its borders as citizens under the Fourteenth Amendment, regardless of the citizenship status of their parents. Although other states have tried, Texas proves to be the first state to deny this right, and only in the case of children born to Mexican immigrants.

The failure to acknowledge these rights comes as Texas refuses to recognize Mexico consular-issued identification as valid. The state says it will grant birth certificates only to mothers with U.S. forms of identification along with a visa, processes which require time, money and resources that many immigrant mothers do not have in their native countries. This same policy has been enforced against undocumented mothers from Central America.

The rogue nature of this practice is reflected by California, a border state, and large-scale agencies and organizations, including banks and the Department of Motor Vehicles, which use Matricula Consulars, IDs issued by Mexican consulates, for business with documented and undocumented immigrants. In California, matriculas are accepted to obtain birth certificates.

The birthright refusal by Texas is a direct attempt to stop the growing generations of immigrants in the U.S. and is hauntingly reminiscent of the unlawful sterilization of Mexican-American women in the early 1970s after having emergency Cesarean sections in Los Angeles. Once more, the government interferes with the body-race-politics of women and the future of their children’s lives in attempts to halt the presence of brown bodies on U.S. soil.

These children are being set-up to fail before they are even able to walk. The U.S. claims to be “A Nation of Immigrants,” but it seems that immigrants of color are demonized, denied opportunity, and now are refused birth certificates.

This lack of protection and care for immigrants starts at birth and continues throughout childhood; and strikes under the care of the federal government.

Earlier this month, about 250 children being held in a Texas detention center for immigrants were given an adult dose of the hepatitis A vaccine. There were reports of children whose legs swelled so much that they were unable to walk and one child had severe vomiting and diarrhea, though none of the children have been hospitalized.

Immigration detention centers have always been a heated talking point for their inadequate health care services, traumatic conditions for children and lasting mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorders, for those seeking asylum. Much like the reports of anti-trans conduct and sexual abuse, this event characterizes the carelessness and lack of respect and regard for safety immigrants and asylum seekers are shown in these centers.

Even if an immigrant is able to escape detainment and is buried by the hands of local governments, they are denied humanity in death.

Since 2013 the skeletal remains of more than 150 unidentified migrants, including those of infants and children, were discovered in a South Texas cemetery, all of which are presumed to have crossed the border from Central America and Mexico. The bodies were found stuffed in milk crates and garbage bags, some holding to five bodies – stripped of any human identity.

Since 1998, more than 6,000 immigrants have died crossing the southern border, primarily due to dehydration and exposure. Border Patrol and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials do not take missing person reports for such cases. An investigation by The Weather Channel in partnership with Telemundo and The Investigative Fund found that many of the migrants died while waiting hours for Border Patrol to respond to their 911 calls after crossing into the United States.

In June of 2014 the Texas Rangers launched a preliminary inquiry to determine whether any criminal wrongdoing had occurred in the processing and burial of the remains by a local funeral home, which is paid by the local county to take care of bodies after officials recover them. The submitted report found no evidence of overbilling, the use of improper burial containers, irregularities with the autopsies and “no evidence to show that human remains were buried in violation of the law.” The report’s finding halted the initiation of a formal investigation.

However, an investigative piece by The Texas Observer found a lack of thorough autopsies, clear violations of several laws and standard practices, careless dumping of remains, and a lack of essential paperwork on behalf of the funeral home. These violations have made it nearly impossible for grieving families to locate and claim the remains of their loved ones.

“Nobody cares about dead immigrants,” said Dr. Lori Baker, a forensic anthropologist at Baylor University who works to identify the remains of immigrants. “They’re invisible when they’re alive, and they’re even more invisible when they’re dead.”

U.S. resistance against Central American and Mexican immigrants, including the U.S.-born generations of children after them, bubbles up in immigration policies, popular entertainment and hate crimes. This resistance trails immigrants and their children in every facet of life, from birth to adolescence to adulthood and thereafter.

Government entities are taking this resistance several steps further in denying citizenship rights, carelessly handling migrant children and lacking empathy so much that 150 unidentified bodies dumped in a field, buried in biohazard bags are not enough to even insitute an investigation.

As coined by the Lone Star State itself, “everything is bigger in Texas.” Apparently, this applies to bigotry as well.