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Disabled DACA Dreamer Held by ICE, Denied Proper Medical Care

  • Students gather in support of DACA at the University of California Irvine Student Center in Oct. 11, 2017.

    Students gather in support of DACA at the University of California Irvine Student Center in Oct. 11, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

Published 15 November 2017

In a handwritten letter to his lawyer the youth said when he asked for pain medication for his leg, he was refused.

Felipe Abonza-Lopez, a 20-year-old from Texas with DACA status, remains imprisoned after being taken to a South Texas Detention Center by ICE agents on Oct. 12. 

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The Dreamer, as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals are called, was pulled over by local authorities while driving a car in Uvalde, Texas but was then taken into custody by ICE, who claimed he was being detained as part of a “human smuggling investigation.”

ICE has not formally charged him with any crime or infraction, and Abonza-Lopez has no criminal history. The young man has a prosthetic from the knee down on his left leg and said the detention center guards and clinicians verbally abused him and kept from getting adequate medical care.

In a handwritten letter to his lawyer Abonza-Lopez said when he asked for pain medication for his leg, the clinic worker said he “doesn’t need any medicine.” A guard who took him to the center’s clinic told the youth he could put a “broom” on his leg to “sweep.”

Eventually, Abonza-Lopez received the pain medication, but no further medical treatment. He said he doesn’t want to return to the medical clinic for fear of more staff “bullying.” ICE said in a statement that Abonza-Lopez’s legal status will be decided “at an immigration hearing,” which has not been set.

Abonza-Lopez is one of approximately 800,000 DACA youth in the U.S. brought to the United States as minors by undocumented adults. The program, created in 2012 by the Barack Obama administration, enables participants to live, work and study in the country without being deported pending individual renewal. Abonza-Lopez is DACA-protected until March 2019. He was brought to the U.S. by his parents when he was 5 years old.

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In late October, ICE agents at a migration checkpoint near Laredo, Texas stopped an ambulance speeding to a local hospital with 10-year-old Rosa Maria Hernandez who has cerebral palsy on her way to emergency gallbladder surgery. Agents questioned the girl and found she was undocumented.

Border agents then escorted her ambulance to Driscoll Hospital in Corpus Christi then took her into custody the next day when she was medically cleared, despite doctor’s orders to be with her family. She was held at a migration detention center in San Antonio until Nov. 4.

Amy Fischer, policy director of Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, told Newsweek that, “ICE is going to try to terrorize communities and they’re going to try to terrorize the lives of anybody, even those who we have deemed to be the most vulnerable,” adding, “ICE and Border Patrol are both doing everything they can to try and detain DACA recipients, so long as nobody is looking.”

Fischer is aware of at least six similar cases where DACA youth have been detained without charges.

Reuters reported that the Donald Trump administration, which increased its arrests of undocumented minors from 990 in April to nearly 3,000 in August, is trying to roll back the so-called Flores agreement enacted in 1997. The provision bars the government from holding child immigrants for long periods. A Department of Homeland Security memo from Sept. 8 said the agreement is "unworkable," and is proposing ideas to end the legal protection for minors.

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