02/12/2013 No More Deaths

On Tuesday, February 12, 2013, the Chicago EMERGENCY Group and Radical Public Health (RPH) collaborated with No More Deaths to host No More Deaths: Humanitarian Aid is Never a Crime at UIC's School of Public Health (SPH). The event was co-sponsored by Latino Union of Chicago, Immigrant Youth Justice League, Minority Students for the Advancement of Public Health (MSAPH), and the Global Health Student Interest Group (GHSIG). More than eighty students and community members came together for presentations and a panel discussion on resistance and immigrant justice.

No More Deaths is an organization based in Arizona that provides emergency care to migrants traveling through the desert from Mexico into the U.S. The arduous journey leaves many dehydrated, hungry, and at risk for death. No More Deaths volunteers described working in tough conditions to treat heat flash, acute blisters, pneumonia, and other conditions people face in making the journey across the border.

The physical hardship of traveling across the Arizona desert is not the only danger that migrants face. Immigrants crossing the border also struggle against the structural and interpersonal violence of border patrol. Border guards routinely destroy humanitarian packages of water and food left by No More Deaths for the summer days and the sub-freezing winter nights; dead bodies are sometimes found near these smashed packages. Migrants also face physical, sexual, psychological, and gun violence by border patrol. These issues are largely ignored or silenced by the American media.

In their presentation, No More Deaths provided the political context for the immigration waves, tracing them to economic developments from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). They stressed that immigration is first and foremost a human rights issue. The speakers also tied the contribution of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to the system of mass incarceration, a topic RPH has covered in previous events and continues to engage with in its organizing work. Local activists Latino Union and Immigrant Youth Justice League presented about the recent raids on undocumented immigrants in Chicago, the day-laborer movements, the cooperatively run Café Chicago, and the Illinois Domestic Worker Bill of Rights. All of the groups stressed that no one is illegal, and humanitarian aid for immigrants is never a crime.

The presentations were followed by a Q&A session, in which all the groups fielded questions about the undocumented immigrant experience, the role of the health provider in treating undocumented persons and refugees, and the recent proposal to build a for-profit detention center in Joliet, Illinois. Panelists talked about their own activism and offered suggestions for how to get involved in the Chicago community. Members in the audience joined the panelists in discussing the trauma deportation has on families and communities, and several individuals spoke about their personal experiences with "illegal" immigration.

Radical Public Health continues to host events that bring radical perspectives to SPH learning, research, and practice. RPH and EMERGENCY are also collaborating to host a conference on Saturday, March 16, called War and Peace: A Public Health Perspective at the UIC College of Nursing. Please contact moc.liamg|ciu.hpr#moc.liamg|ciu.hpr or visit http://www.facebook.com/RadicalPublicHealth for more information.

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