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In the wake of allegations of forced sterilizations at ICE detention centers, here’s how you can offer support

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In an explosive complaint filed on September 14, an ICE whistleblower alleged that unwanted hysterectomies, a surgical operation that removes the uterus, were performed on immigrant women in ICE custody at a Georgia facility without their consent. The complaint is currently awaiting a full investigation by the Department of Homeland Security. 

The whistleblower, Dawn Wooten, a nurse formerly employed at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Georgia, maintained that while some women experienced medical conditions requiring hysterectomies, “everybody’s uterus cannot be that bad.” 

The reported high rates of performed hysterectomies (including allegations from Wooten that “just about everybody” who sees a particular gynecologist gets a hysterectomy) were coupled with allegations that many detained women were not given “proper and informed consent” about the procedures they received. The New York Times was unable to verify that women at the facility had their uteruses removed without their consent. 

The complaint also alleged other instances of “jarring medical neglect” at ICDC. This included allegations about a lack of adequate COVID-19 protocols, as well as a “general lack of medical care.” 

Asked for comment by Mashable, an ICE senior official performing the duties of director Tony Pham said: 

“The recent allegations by the independent contracted employee raise some very serious concerns that deserve to be investigated quickly and thoroughly. ICE welcomes the efforts of both the Office of Inspector General as well as the Department of Homeland Security’s parallel review. As a former prosecutor, individuals found to have violated our policies and procedures should be held accountable. If there is any truth to these allegations, it is my commitment to make the corrections necessary to ensure we continue to prioritize the health, welfare, and safety of ICE detainees.” 

In response to the complaint, more than 170 Democratic Congress members signed a letter to the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General, Joseph Cuffari, requesting an “immediate investigation” of the allegations. 

“Everyone, regardless of their immigration status, their language, or their incarceration deserves to control their own reproductive choices, and make informed choices about their bodies,” the letter read, noting that the allegations “cause grave concern for the violation of the bodily autonomy and reproductive rights of detained people.” 

For many, the allegations of unwanted hysterectomies brought forth by Wooten tracked with a longer, disturbing history in the U.S. of compulsory (or forced) sterilization, which refers to government programs and policies that remove reproductive abilities. Between 1907 and 1937, 32 states legalized sterilization procedures. In different forms, the practice has continued: The Center for Investigative Reporting found that nearly 150 women were sterilized in California prisons between 2006 and 2010, without the state’s approval. 

In the U.S., these practices have often been tied to eugenics, and targeted women of color, incarcerated people, and people with disabilities. 

Here are some resources if you’re looking to support those fighting back against unwanted hysterectomies and other abuses, many of which were shared in this Instagram post from Aurelie Colon. 

1. Educate yourself on the history of forced sterilization 

Forced sterilization has a much, much longer history in the U.S. than the allegations surfaced on Sep. 14. Even since the initial complaint, more women have come forward alleging unwanted surgeries and medical procedures that occurred while at the ICDC. 

Representatives from United We Dream, a leading immigration organization, told Mashable that people should look into resources to educate themselves on the history of forced sterilization and its role as a tool of white supremacy. 

A United We Dream representative recommends resources like this Twitter thread from the Latina Institute, a reproductive justice organization, as well as other deep dives from reputable outlets that they find elsewhere, like this piece from PBS

2. Support the GoFundMe for Dawn Wooten 

Jordan Ifueko, an author, launched a GoFundMe in order to raise money for the installment of a security feature at Wooten’s home, as well as six or more months of private security. Ifueko’s GoFundMe states if Wooten “needs the funds for something else, such as a legal team or even everyday support after giving up her job to reveal this corruption, she is free to use the funds as she wishes.” 

A GoFundMe representative, as well as Wooten’s representatives as a whistleblower, the Government Accountability Project and Project South, have confirmed that Wooten is the sole beneficiary of the GoFundMe, and funds will go directly to her. 

3. Look for protests in your area 

Immigration or other social justice organizations might be organizing protests in your area against ICE and its treatment of detained people in response to the latest allegations. United We Dream representatives recommend looking for protests, and using them as an opportunity to also educate yourself on the larger context of how ICE has operated. 

You can use Mashable’s past coverage of locating protests to help you out. The advice was written in the context of Black Lives Matter protests for George Floyd, but stands if you change relevant search terms (ICE, ICE detention, forced sterilization) and look into local advocacy groups that have organized protests concerning ICE or immigration issues before. 

4. Support organizations defending detained women in Georgia 

Four nonprofits filed the complaint on behalf of the detained immigrants and Wooten: Project South, an organization that promotes grassroots action for racial and economic justice in the South, South Georgia Immigrant Support Network, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), and Georgia Detention Watch

You can support the organizations in a variety of ways. A representative for Project South asks that first people share the story of Wooten and those detained at Irwin on social media. 

You can also donate to Project South here. Their representative maintains the funds “will support the collaborative, grassroots fight for long-term justice for immigrant and Black women who are brave enough to call out these atrocities.” 

A representative for the South Georgia Immigrant Support Network (SGISN) told Mashable over email that the organization is currently supporting those detained at ICDC and their loved ones, primarily with “commissary support (for phone calls, stamps, hygiene supplies, extra food, and/or to have travel funds if deported or released) and lace-up shoes.”

SGISN does not have an online donation option, but checks made out to the SGISN can be mailed to SGISN, P.O. Box 1966, Tifton, GA 31793. 

A Georgia Detention Watch representative points to this petition as a way for people to support the organization’s work. (The other organizations listed here, as well as Detention Watch Network, are co-sponsors.) 

Georgia Detention Watch only accepts donations for specific causes, according to the representative, and there is currently one fundraising campaign for a woman, Pauline Binam, who was harmed by medical procedures at ICDC. The representative told Mashable over email that the group is working on “several fundraisers for affected women, but most of the cases are not yet fully public,” though the group is “hoping to have more [fundraisers up] by the end of this week.” 

Mashable is waiting for a response from GLAHR. We will update the story as needed.  

5. Understand the big picture

Even as the recent allegations have alerted many people to abuse faced by immigrant detainees in ICE custody, a representative for United We Dream maintains that patterns of abuse within ICE detention centers were already known. 

Because of existing instances of abuse, as well as the new allegations, groups like United We Dream and Project South are calling for the abolishment of ICE, which was founded in 2003. 

United We Dream representatives suggest signing this petition from their organization, which calls for ICE to let detainees go. 

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The Trump campaign celebrated a growth record that Democrats downplayed.

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The White House celebrated economic growth numbers for the third quarter released on Thursday, even as Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential campaign sought to throw cold water on the report — the last major data release leading up to the Nov. 3 election — and warned that the economic recovery was losing steam.

The economy grew at a record pace last quarter, but the upswing was a partial bounce-back after an enormous decline and left the economy smaller than it was before the pandemic. The White House took no notice of those glum caveats.

“This record economic growth is absolute validation of President Trump’s policies, which create jobs and opportunities for Americans in every corner of the country,” Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign said in a statement, highlighting a rebound of 33.1 percent at an annualized rate. Mr. Trump heralded the data on Twitter, posting that he was “so glad” that the number had come out before Election Day.

The annualized rate that the White House emphasized extrapolates growth numbers as if the current pace held up for a year, and risks overstating big swings. Because the economy’s growth has been so volatile amid the pandemic, economists have urged focusing on quarterly numbers.

Those showed a 7.4 percent gain in the third quarter. That rebound, by far the biggest since reliable statistics began after World War II, still leaves the economy short of its pre-pandemic levels. The pace of recovery has also slowed, and now coronavirus cases are rising again across much of the United States, raising the prospect of further pullback.

“The recovery is stalling out, thanks to Trump’s refusal to have a serious plan to deal with Covid or to pass a new economic relief plan for workers, small businesses and communities,” Mr. Biden’s campaign said in a release ahead of Thursday’s report. The rebound was widely expected, and the campaign characterized it as “a partial return from a catastrophic hit.”

Economists have warned that the recovery could face serious roadblocks ahead. Temporary measures meant to shore up households and businesses — including unemployment insurance supplements and forgivable loans — have run dry. Swaths of the service sector remain shut down as the virus continues to spread, and job losses that were temporary are increasingly turning permanent.

“With coronavirus infections hitting a record high in recent days and any additional fiscal stimulus unlikely to arrive until, at the earliest, the start of next year, further progress will be much slower,” Paul Ashworth, chief United States economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note following the report.

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Black and Hispanic workers, especially women, lag in the U.S. economic recovery.

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The surge in economic output in the third quarter set a record, but the recovery isn’t reaching everyone.

Economists have long warned that aggregate statistics like gross domestic product can obscure important differences beneath the surface. In the aftermath of the last recession, for example, G.D.P. returned to its previous level in early 2011, even as poverty rates remained high and the unemployment rate for Black Americans was above 15 percent.

Aggregate statistics could be even more misleading during the current crisis. The job losses in the initial months of the pandemic disproportionately struck low-wage service workers, many of them Black and Hispanic women. Service-sector jobs have been slow to return, while school closings are keeping many parents, especially mothers, from returning to work. Nearly half a million Hispanic women have left the labor force over the last three months.

“If we’re thinking that the economy is recovering completely and uniformly, that is simply not the case,” said Michelle Holder, an economist at John Jay College in New York. “This rebound is unevenly distributed along racial and gender lines.”

The G.D.P. report released Thursday doesn’t break down the data by race, sex or income. But other sources make the disparities clear. A pair of studies by researchers at the Urban Institute released this week found that Black and Hispanic adults were more likely to have lost jobs or income since March, and were twice as likely as white adults to experience food insecurity in September.

The financial impact of the pandemic hit many of the families that were least able to afford it, even as white-collar workers were largely spared, said Michael Karpman, an Urban Institute researcher and one of the studies’ authors.

“A lot of people who were already in a precarious position before the pandemic are now in worse shape, whereas people who were better off have generally been faring better financially,” he said.

Federal relief programs, such as expanded unemployment benefits, helped offset the damage for many families in the first months of the pandemic. But those programs have mostly ended, and talks to revive them have stalled in Washington. With virus cases surging in much of the country, Mr. Karpman warned, the economic toll could increase.

“There could be a lot more hardship coming up this winter if there’s not more relief from Congress, with the impact falling disproportionately on Black and Hispanic workers and their families,” he said.

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Ant Challenged Beijing and Prospered. Now It Toes the Line.

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As Jack Ma of Alibaba helped turn China into the world’s biggest e-commerce market over the past two decades, he was also vowing to pull off a more audacious transformation.

“If the banks don’t change, we’ll change the banks,” he said in 2008, decrying how hard it was for small businesses in China to borrow from government-run lenders.

“The financial industry needs disrupters,” he told People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper, a few years later. His goal, he said, was to make banks and other state-owned enterprises “feel unwell.”

The scope of Mr. Ma’s success is becoming clearer. The vehicle for his financial-technology ambitions, an Alibaba spinoff called Ant Group, is preparing for the largest initial public offering on record. Ant is set to raise $34 billion by selling its shares to the public in Hong Kong and Shanghai, according to stock exchange documents released on Monday. After the listing, Ant would be worth around $310 billion, much more than many global banks.

The company is going public not as a scrappy upstart, but as a leviathan deeply dependent on the good will of the government Mr. Ma once relished prodding.

More than 730 million people use Ant’s Alipay app every month to pay for lunch, invest their savings and shop on credit. Yet Alipay’s size and importance have made it an inevitable target for China’s regulators, which have already brought its business to heel in certain areas.

These days, Ant talks mostly about creating partnerships with big banks, not disrupting or supplanting them. Several government-owned funds and institutions are Ant shareholders and stand to profit handsomely from the public offering.

The question now is how much higher Ant can fly without provoking the Chinese authorities into clipping its wings further.

Excitable investors see Ant as a buzzy internet innovator. The risk is that it becomes more like a heavily regulated “financial digital utility,” said Fraser Howie, the co-author of “Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China’s Extraordinary Rise.”

“Utility stocks, as far as I remember, were not the ones to be seen as the most exciting,” Mr. Howie said.

Ant declined to comment, citing the quiet period demanded by regulators before its share sale.

The company has played give-and-take with Beijing for years. As smartphone payments became ubiquitous in China, Ant found itself managing huge piles of money in Alipay users’ virtual wallets. The central bank made it park those funds in special accounts where they would earn minimal interest.

After people piled into an easy-to-use investment fund inside Alipay, the government forced the fund to shed risk and lower returns. Regulators curbed a plan to use Alipay data as the basis for a credit-scoring system akin to Americans’ FICO scores.

China’s Supreme Court this summer capped interest rates for consumer loans, though it was unclear how the ceiling would apply to Ant. The central bank is preparing a new virtual currency that could compete against Alipay and another digital wallet, the messaging app WeChat, as an everyday payment tool.

Ant has learned ways of keeping the authorities on its side. Mr. Ma once boasted at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, about never taking money from the Chinese government. Today, funds associated with China’s social security system, its sovereign wealth fund, a state-owned life insurance company and the national postal carrier hold stakes in Ant. The I.P.O. is likely to increase the value of their holdings considerably.

“That’s how the state gets its payoff,” Mr. Howie said. With Ant, he said, “the line between state-owned enterprise and private enterprise is highly, highly blurred.”

China, in less than two generations, went from having a state-planned financial system to being at the global vanguard of internet finance, with trillions of dollars in transactions being made on mobile devices each year. Alipay had a lot to do with it.

Alibaba created the service in the early 2000s to hold payments for online purchases in escrow. Its broader usefulness quickly became clear in a country that mostly missed out on the credit card era. Features were added and users piled in. It became impossible for regulators and banks not to see the app as a threat.

ImageAnt Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China.
Credit…Alex Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock

A big test came when Ant began making an offer to Alipay users: Park your money in a section of the app called Yu’ebao, which means “leftover treasure,” and we will pay you more than the low rates fixed by the government at banks.

People could invest as much or as little as they wanted, making them feel like they were putting their pocket change to use. Yu’ebao was a hit, becoming one of the world’s largest money market funds.

The banks were terrified. One commentator for a state broadcaster called the fund a “vampire” and a “parasite.”

Still, “all the main regulators remained unanimous in saying that this was a positive thing for the Chinese financial system,” said Martin Chorzempa, a research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

“If you can’t actually reform the banks,” Mr. Chorzempa said, “you can inject more competition.”

But then came worries about shadowy, unregulated corners of finance and the dangers they posed to the wider economy. Today, Chinese regulators are tightening supervision of financial holding companies, Ant included. Beijing has kept close watch on the financial instruments that small lenders create out of their consumer loans and sell to investors. Such securities help Ant fund some of its lending. But they also amplify the blowup if too many of those loans aren’t repaid.

“Those kinds of derivative products are something the government is really concerned about,” said Tian X. Hou, founder of the research firm TH Data Capital. Given Ant’s size, she said, “the government should be concerned.”

The broader worry for China is about growing levels of household debt. Beijing wants to cultivate a consumer economy, but excessive borrowing could eventually weigh on people’s spending power. The names of two of Alipay’s popular credit functions, Huabei and Jiebei, are jaunty invitations to spend and borrow.

Huang Ling, 22, started using Huabei when she was in high school. At the time, she didn’t qualify for a credit card. With Huabei’s help, she bought a drone, a scooter, a laptop and more.

The credit line made her feel rich. It also made her realize that if she actually wanted to be rich, she had to get busy.

“Living beyond my means forced me to work harder,” Ms. Huang said.

First, she opened a clothing shop in her hometown, Nanchang, in southeastern China. Then she started an advertising company in the inland metropolis of Chongqing. When the business needed cash, she borrowed from Jiebei.

Online shopping became a way to soothe daily anxieties, and Ms. Huang sometimes racked up thousands of dollars in Huabei bills, which only made her even more anxious. When the pandemic slammed her business, she started falling behind on her payments. That cast her into a deep depression.

Finally, early this month, with her parents’ help, she paid off her debts and closed her Huabei and Jiebei accounts. She felt “elated,” she said.

China’s recent troubles with freewheeling online loan platforms have put the government under pressure to protect ordinary borrowers.

Ant is helped by the fact that its business lines up with many of the Chinese leadership’s priorities: encouraging entrepreneurship and financial inclusion, and expanding the middle class. This year, the company helped the eastern city of Hangzhou, where it is based, set up an early version of the government’s app-based system for dictating coronavirus quarantines.

Such coziness is bound to raise hackles overseas. In Washington, Chinese tech companies that are seen as close to the government are radioactive.

In January 2017, Eric Jing, then Ant’s chief executive, said the company aimed to be serving two billion users worldwide within a decade. Shortly after, Ant announced that it was acquiring the money transfer company MoneyGram to increase its U.S. footprint. By the following January, the deal was dead, thwarted by data security concerns.

More recently, top officials in the Trump administration have discussed whether to place Ant Group on the so-called entity list, which prohibits foreign companies from purchasing American products. Officials from the State Department have suggested that an interagency committee, which also includes officials from the departments of defense, commerce and energy, review Ant for the potential entity listing, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Ant does not talk much anymore about expanding in the United States.

Ana Swanson contributed reporting.

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