GOP Policies Killed Felipe Alonzo
The death of Felipe Gomez Alonzo while in CBP custody, the second such death in just over as many weeks, highlights multiple governmental failures, largely the result of GOP policies driven by the two minorities, older white nationalists and rich plutocrats, that dominate the party and our politics.
The primary failure is largely Trumpian, in that it is clear that the administration was neither interested nor prepared to deal with the results of their new border policies, nor was any effort made to ensure that the effort was funded appropriately. The system was never designed to detain every asylum seeker, especially when well over 90% of them willingly showed up for their hearings anyway, and the administration made no effort to prepare for the change in policy that required such detentions, particularly when that policy separated children from their family. Even now, the new facilities that were hastily put together are nearly filled to capacity and can not handle the influx of new detainees.
The conditions inside these detention facilities are equally horrific. The director of an organization that provides medical and legal services to immigrants has described the cramped conditions inside these detention centers as “a recipe for the spread of infectious diseases” and the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics declared that Alonzo’s death showed “our border processing facilities are no place for children” and clearly not equipped to take care of a child with fast-moving illness. Beyond health issues, these detention centers are rife with abuse, by both staff members who are usually poorly vetted and by other detainees. Reports of abuse, however, are rarely thoroughly investigated and swiftly swept under the rug.
While Trump’s “get tough” border policies appeal to his white nationalist base, a base that he desperately needs to stay firm to protect him from impeachment, it is also a business opportunity for the GOP’s plutocratic class. Immigrant detention is a billion dollar business at minimum. Of course, since ICE and CBP fall under the rubric of “homeland security”, the true cost of immigrant detention and the rates that are paid are difficult to ascertain, despite the fact that US taxpayers are picking up that bill.
In addition, many of the same companies running these for-profit detention facilities, which are essentially prisons themselves, also run private prisons for governments across the US. In many of these facilities, both prisons and detention centers, the owners rely on the inmates/detainees for what amounts to slave labor in order to provide the basic maintenance of the facilities they live in. In one facility, detainees were forced to work in order to “buy the basic necessities — including food, water, and hygiene products” that the operator refused to provide. Of course, the owners of these private prisons gave heavily to the Trump campaign so there is an incentive for the administration to keep providing bodies to fill their beds and cells.
These detention centers illustrate the destructive synergy between the plutocratic class and the GOP’s white nationalist base. You can also see that destructive synergy in the second area where the government failed Felipe Alonzo, namely the medical care he received. According to reports, which are still sketchy at this time, Felipe was originally diagnosed with a cold and a 103-degree fever. After being held for observation for just 90 minutes, he was released with prescriptions for ibuprofen and an antibiotic. It is unclear whether the hospital tested for influenza, which is apparently what killed the child, or took a chest x-ray. Either one of these might have correctly identified the Felipe’s health issue and saved his life.
As noted above, the details here are not complete. But it seems highly unlikely that a child with a 103-degree temperature who had full medical insurance would have not been tested for the flu or given an x-ray or been discharged so quickly from virtually any hospital. And the fact that this child was an undocumented immigrant, who would be extremely unlikely to be able to pay the resulting bills, seems almost certain to have influenced decisions about the child’s medical care.
This, of course, is the result of the union of conservative Republicans and the party’s plutocratic class. The white nationalists refuse to see the government provide sustenance of any kind to minorities whom they consider an existential threat. That is why so many red states fight against Medicaid expansion, despite the clear benefits that it would provide their conservative white base, and continue to fight for repeal of the ACA . The plutocrats, on the other hand, want to keep riding the gravy train that health care services provide. Obamacare was specifically designed in order to benefit private health insurance companies so that they would not fight its passage. Meanwhile, the monopolies in the drug producing and drug providing industries knowingly get patients addicted in order to keep feeding their bottom lines.
DHS Secretary Nielsen wants us all to believe that Felipe and his father were really responsible for his death. But Felipe Alonzo never should have died. And the tyranny of the two GOP minorities, conservative white nationalism and plutocratic greed, and the policies produced by the synergy between them, killed him just as surely as influenza did.
Originally published at thesoundings.com on December 28, 2018.