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IRTF joins with 74 organizations calling on the Dept of Justice to immediately close the immigration courts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Every link in the chain that brings individuals to the court—from the use of public transportation, to security lines, crowded elevators, cramped cubicle spaces of court staff, packed waiting room facilities in the courthouses, and inadequate sanitizing resources at the courts—places lives at risk.
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The report, marked “For Official Use Only” and dated March 19, states that ICE’s (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) Health Services Corps had isolated nine detainees and that it was monitoring 24 more in 10 different ICE facilities. In June, this reporter had obtained an internal ICE memo describing multiple deaths in ICE custody as having been preventable. The memo, sent from an ICE Health Services Corps (IHSC) official to ICE’s then-director, Matthew Albence, in December 2018, stated: “IHSC [ICE’s Health Services Corps] is severely dysfunctional and unfortunately preventable harm and death to detainees has occurred.” Unsanitary conditions in both ICE and CBP (Customs and Border Protection) detention facilities are well-documented, and have led to concerns about facilitating the spread of coronavirus. In July, a DHS (Department of Homeland Security) Inspector General report found “dangerous overcrowding” and squalid conditions among its southern border facilities. Last week, two doctors who work for the DHS wrote a letter to Congress warning of an “imminent risk to the health and safety of immigrant detainees” as well as the general public in the event that the coronavirus spreads among ICE detention facilities. In addition to the two DHS doctors who warned Congress about the dangers posed by the detention facilities, 3,000 medical professionals signed an open letter urging ICE to release its detainees in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 51 ICE detainees sent a letter to rights groups warning that they were being exposed to flu-like symptoms.
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“It looked like a war,” said one eyewitness as 1,000 National Police and Military Police violently dispersed a peaceful 88-day encampment of water protectors in October 2018. Eight injured, one killed. One year later, seven Guapinol River defenders were imprisoned and, in March 2020, still sit in pre-trial detention. What’s going on? A large-scale open-pit iron oxide mine threatens their water source and way of life in the Aguan Valley near the Atlantic Coast of Honduras. Carlos Leonel George, an ex-prisoner incarcerated for resisting the mine, says that violence will escalate if the company continues with the open-pit mine because “…without that water they won’t have a way to live. It’s not a joke for them. It’s about survival.” Juana Zúniga, a leader in the Guapinol community and wife of political prisoner José Abelino Cedillo, explains why residents have organized their resistance: “We fight so we don’t have to emigrate from our country. If we cease to fight against the mining company, there are 3,500 people who would have to leave the community.” Reinaldo Dominguez, ex-political prisoner and community activist, looks out over the construction site in the distance and tells the reporter, “We live in fear every day.” #FreedomForGuapinol
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The Chixoy dam was a very profitable investment project of the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in partnership with the U.S.-backed genocidal regimes of Generals Lucas García and Ríos Montt. To clear the way, over 30 Mayan communities were forcibly evicted up and down the river. The village of Río Negro was hit the hardest. The Guatemalan government killed more than 444 villagers over the course of five large-scale massacres in 1981 and 1982. (March 13 is the 20th anniversary of the massacre of 177 Maya Achi children and women.) Since 1994, the Rio Negro survivors have courageously pressured Guatemala’s corrupted legal system to put on trial, find guilty, and send to jail nine former Civil Defense Patrollers (PAC) and military commissioners, mainly from the neighboring village of Xococ. But these were merely the “material authors.” The “intellectual authors” have never been investigated or charged. Not one single military officer in the chain of command, who ordered and carried out the Chixoy dam massacres, was captured, tried and sentenced. Not one official or program officer from the World Bank and IDB was subjected to any investigation into the role of these “development” banks in partnering with the U.S.-backed genocidal regimes of Guatemala (1975-83) in planning and carrying out all aspects of the project. On October 20, 2012, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights did find the Guatemalan government responsible for the Rio Negro/ Chixoy dam massacres and ordered the government to legally investigate the massacres and compensate surviving families. On November 8, 2014, then president and former army general Otto Perez Molina (now in jail on corruption charges) formally apologized on behalf of the government for the human rights violations and sufferings caused by the Chixoy dam project, and signed into law Decree #378-2014, “the Public Policy of Reparations for Communities Affected by the Construction of the Chixoy hydro-electric dam project.” Thirty-eight years later, a measure of reparations has been paid to some of the Chixoy dam victims. But no justice has been done for the roles and responsibilities of the “intellectual authors” in the Guatemalan government, World Bank and IDB that promoted, designed, implemented and profited financially from the project. Pointing out the impunity and corruption of the authors and profiteers of the Chixoy dam crimes highlights the enormity of this global human problem. Across the planet today, governments, “development” banks, corporations and investors push ahead with “resource development projects,” violently displacing populations and destroying habitats, violating a wide range of individual and collective rights, and ravaging Mother Earth.
News Article
Several years ago, Camila Díaz left her native El Salvador and went to the United States, looking for a place where she would be safer as a transgender woman. But she failed to find a sympathetic ear. Deported back to San Salvador, the nation's capital, she was killed just over a year later. Díaz, 30, was one of 138 Salvadorans deported from the United States who have been killed upon returning to their country since 2013, according to a report by Human Rights Watch. Mónica Linares, an activist with the rights group Arcoiris Trans (Rainbow Trans) said the group had demanded authorities investigate her killing.

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