Wandering Eye: Remaining questions about the Sandra Bland case, poor conditions for foreign workers, and more

The funeral for Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old civil rights advocate, was held just outside of Chicago on Saturday. Bland, who was about to start a new job in Texas, was arrested for allegedly assaulting a state trooper, Brian Encinia, during a routine traffic stop when Bland failed to signal a lane change, but Bland's family, friends, and supporters are questioning the legitimacy of that arrest and the ruling of her death as a suicide. Encinia demanded Bland to step out of her car after she refused to put out her cigarette and threatened her with a Taser. After a struggle, some of which was recorded on the dashcam in Encinia's car (the footage of which, many say, appears to have been edited), Bland was taken to the county jail, were she was found dead three days later, hanging from a partition with a plastic trash-can liner around her neck. On Thursday, an autopsy report—the second after a previous report that was determined to be defective—concluded that Bland died from "self-inflicted asphyxiation," and that there was no evidence of violent struggle. According to the report, her body did show marks around her wrists from the struggle during the arrest, as well as at least 30 two- to five-weeks-old healed cuts on her wrists, and marijuana in her system. That, along with the inconsistent details in her jail suicide assessment form indicating Bland had attempted suicide earlier this year after an apparent miscarriage, have generated debates over Bland's mental health and minor criminal record. This morning, The Independent posed five important questions surrounding Bland's arrest and death that still need to be answered, even if the reports are indeed accurate: Why did Encinia escalate the traffic stop? Why does the dashcam footage appear to be edited? Why were there discrepancies in Bland's suicide assessment form? Why was she placed in a jail cell alone if authorities knew from that form that she could be suicidal? And why was the first autopsy defective? And then, there's the question Bland asked herself in a voicemail left on her friend's phone while she was in jail: "How did switching lanes with no signal turn into all of this?" (Maura Callahan)

 

BuzzFeed's sprawling H2 visa investigation is heartbreaking and worth the read. Foreign workers here legally on temporary work visas are exploited—their pay is stolen, they are charged $1,000 to live with 20 people in a trailer, they are threatened, beaten, subjected to insanely dangerous working conditions; they are sexually harassed and raped. All this happens at crawfish-packing houses, at carnivals where you take your kids. It is hidden in plain sight, and it's neither a secret nor a recent thing. But Congress does nothing about it, even under pressure from excellent advocates such as Baltimore's own Rachel Micah-Jones (who is not mentioned in the piece). "We live where we work, and we can't leave," Olivia Guzman Garfias, who has been coming to Louisiana as a guest worker from her small town in Mexico since 1997, told BuzzFeed's reporters. "We are tied to the company. Our visas are in the company's name. If the pay and working conditions aren't as we wish, who can we complain to? We are like modern-day slaves." The BuzzFeed piece makes sure to get the employers' stories, and they too are doozies. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

 

Lots of people are looking at Donald Trump's surge in the polls as a sign that the GOP has lost its damn mind. They're not entirely wrong—Trump did perform well after he said overtly racist things about Mexicans. But The New York Times warns that people need to wait a little longer before assuming Trump's lunacy has gone mainstream. You see, much of the data coming in was collected before The Donald insulted the military service of Sen. John McCain. Presumably, this will not play well with the Republican base, and Trump's numbers will drop. As the Times points out, Herman Cain was a frontrunner for a hot second last go-round. Herman Cain, people. (Brandon Weigel)

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