Tuesday, December 14, 2010

USA Bábaro

Fire from Pecos prison riot/Tom Barry

(Second in a series on the death of Jesus Galindo and the Justice Department’s Privatization of Immigrant Imprisonment and Heath Care.)

Jesus Manuel Galindo was on the wrong side of the border and the wrong side of the law when he died.

Galindo came from a small town south of Ciudad Juárez. He was an “illegal alien” and a
“criminal alien.”

Torture and death in Juárez are now so common that new incidents fail to shock. The disregard for human life and official impunity thee are routine, everyday affairs.

The deaths, the mass graves, the massacres in Juárez are reported and tallied each day. New details about the involvement of the police, judicial system, military, politicians, and prison officials further illustrate what most everyone already knows.

What Mexicans are experiencing and suffering is the emergence of a modern “México Bábaro” – a revival of the barbarism and lawlessness of prerevolutionary Mexico.

Alarm and fear are also spreading throughout the U.S. borderlands.

But the narco-violence that has terrified the Mexico borderlands and many other parts of Mexico is largely contained by the border. No beheadings, no massacres at drug rehabilitation centers, no generalized violence.  El Paso is the safest large city in the county, and decreasing criminality and violence characterize the entire U.S. southern border.

Yet there is an untold story of a USA Bárbaro.

Glimpses of this horror on the U.S. side of the border can be seen in the story of Jesus Galindo. Blood isn’t flowing through the streets of the U.S. borderlands. Nor are law enforcement and the political community in the region widely corrupted by organized crime and drug trafficking bands, as is the case in Mexico, although there is certainly are cases of official corruption.

But the vaunted “rule of law,” respect for human life, and much-admired criminal justice institutions on the U.S. side hide a horrific system of imprisonment that is in many ways the more shocking and deploring than what is found across the border. 

When the tale of USA Bárbaro, as seen in the Texas town of Pecos, is told, it terrifies like no other. That’s because, as we listen, we see the horror comes from deep in the heart of America and all that we cherish – our system of “rule of law,” our heartland communities, our love of free enterprise, our caregivers, and our government agencies that protect the homeland and ensure that is justice for all.

Graciela and Jesus Galindo/Photo by Tom Barry
It is a story that is especially shocking because it comes from our legal system – the very system that supposedly separates from the impunity and corruption and injustice of Mexico. We are shocked to find that the safeguards, regulations, and monitoring systems established to prevent the kind of horrors experienced by Jesus Galindo certainly do exist.  Yet they are systematically ignored and manipulated in the interests of government bureaucrats and private companies.

As a new complaint by the Texas ACLU and two El Paso attorneys state so clearly describes, the system of the rule of law can devolve into a bureaucratic morass where life is worth little and profit prevails over justice – even in the Department of Justice.

 Galindo lived in the final years of his life in fear, as did his family members. They knew that death was coming soon if something weren’t done to rescue and protect him.  

Like the many Juarenses, Galindo -- who was 32 when his tortured body was found on Dec. 12, 2008 --  had family roots on both sides of the border. The Galindo family came from Villa Ahumada, a small town located on the highway leading south from Juárez. Like other highway towns in the northern Mexican borderland, Villa Ahumada is a narco community, historically controlled by the Juárez Cartel but since 2008 wracked by violence as the Sinaloa Cartel contests the drug plaza in Chihuahua.

As a young couple, Graciela and Jesus Galindo Sr. left northern Chihuahua, taking young Jesus with them, to seek work in chile-harvesting in southern New Mexico, not far from El Paso. Eventually they received legal residency status, and live today in a single-wide trailer along with their younger son, David, in the border colonia of Anthony, New Mexico.

That’s where I first heard the story of the life and death of Jesus Manuel Galindo. With other family members, including a couple of their son’s U.S.-born children listening, Galindo’s mother told the story of his capture, of the family’s pleas for clemency, the systemic medical neglect by his prison guardians, and of the morning she learned that her son – who suffered from severe epilepsy -- had died alone in an isolation cell after suffering a grand mal seizure the evening before.

Ever since her son was transferred to the immigrant prison in Pecos, Texas – about 220 miles from Anthony, NM – she had been calling and writing the prison receptionist to express concern about the medical condition and treatment of Jesus.

On the morning of December 12, Graciela was particularly anxious about her son’s emotional and physical health, having received from him a series of heart-breaking letters (which she has carefully conserved) complaining about not receiving medication or proper attention while locked up in solitary confinement – what the prison calls the Secure Housing Unit – for medical observation.

Crying, she said, “I wanted to talk with Jesus. I needed to know if he was okay.” As the ACLU legal complaint, filed Dec. 7, 2010 in the Western District Court of Texas, reports:
“Graciela Galindo called [the Pecos prison] on December 12 to inquire about her son’s health. Prison officials repeatedly refused to respond to her inquiries and told her that they would have to wait for the doctors to provide her with a response to her questions. Graciela begged prison officials to do something to help her son, unaware that he had died the night before. After about an hour of pleading with prison officials on the phone, someone at RCDC finally informed Graciela that her son was dead, telling her that they were “unable to do anything to help Jesus.”

According to the legal complaint against the DOJ’s Bureau of Prison, the County of Reeves, GEO Group, and Physicians Network Association: “The utter disregard shown by RCDC prison and medical staff to [Jesus’] Galindo’s repeated, beseeching, well-founded expressions of fear for his own personal safety bordered on sadistic.”

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