Chicagoans discuss Lyvita Gomes case with Consul General of India

Press Release

Chicago, February 10, 2012:  Indian community leaders from various organizations gathered in solidarity at the Indian consulate Chicago, yesterday, February 8, 2012, to express concerns on Late Ms. Lyvita Gomes who passed away on January 3, 2012, after 15-day hunger strike at the Lake County Jail.  Although this meeting was set by the Chicago consulate office a week ago, Consul General, Mrs. Mukta Datta Tomar was not present to hear the community leaders concerns that made most of the attendees very furious!  Dr. Austin D’Souza Prabhu expressed his strong opinion and said that he is totally shocked to see that Consulate General had no time to attend this very serious meeting of Indian Community Leaders from Chicagoland.

Dr.  Austin D’Souza Prabhu welcomed the gathering followed by an invocation by Rev. Dr. David V. Sagar Dadipogu.  About 20 community leaders and members who voluntarily attended the meeting gave self introduction.  Dr. Austin D’Souza Prabhu and the Funeral Director – Alfredo Miranda explained what happened to Lyvita Gomes as per the records presented by the authorities starting.

Ms. Gomes’ failure to appear for jury summon led to bizarre series of events leading to incarceration followed by death.   However, it was not very clear if the records which were presented so far are accurate.  Usha Kumaria, President of Indian Community of Niles township, Dr. Kusum Patel from Chicago Pariwar, Community activist, Dr. Peter Noronha, Past President of Indian Catholic Association of America, and Dr. Jaychand Pallekonda, President,  Indo-American Christian Federation of North America, and Queenie Mendonca, Immediate Past President, Mangalorean Konkan Christian Association, expressed their feelings and concerns.

Queenie Mendonca, asked the following questions to the Consul General:

  1. Why Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not contact Indian Embassy in October regarding Ms. Gomes deportation proceedings knowing she was an Indian Citizen, she was suicidal and her visa had expired?
  2. When there was no flight risk, why they didn’t release her on personal recognizance irrespective of her visa status. 
  3. Why the authorities didn’t contact her family sooner through her immigration papers when she was incapacitated.
  4. Three days after taking her into custody, they move her to medical unit to observe and validate hunger strike, doctor is notified of hunger strike on 4th day, Dec 18th.  Why didn’t they provide hydration?  5th day (Dec 19) they appointed public defender but they fail to inform him of her hunger strike.  Why did they wait for 5 days after taking her into custody to appoint a public defender? Why not before?
  5. On Dec 23, Nurse says Medical POD reported seeing Ms Gomes drinking water but POD log doesn’t indicate the same… what really went on inside the jail?  What is the real truth?
  6. Dec 27, after 13 days, medical doctor says she is deemed medically stable, but the psychiatrist says she is mentally incapable to participate in her treatment plan and on the same day the Lake County sheriff’s office urge the public defender to visit Ms. Gomes and also inform about her hunger strike…. all of a sudden it seems like all are interested or all are scared!  And within 48hrs she was taken to Vista Medical Center with organs failure… 
  7. Why didn’t the Indian doctor who was treating her take some initiative to contact Indian community to provide her some assistance in contacting her family?
  8. What was the purpose of keeping her in the jail’s medical unit for a week under close observation without providing her intravenous feeding knowing she was dehydrated and mentally incapable to make any decisions?  On Dec 18, her weight was 146lbs, on Dec 23, in 5 days she lost 10lbs and on Dec 28, her weight is 128lbs.  Total of 18lbs weight loss within 10days under close observation in the jails medical unit?!! Were they just watching how an incapacitated woman dies with hunger strike?  Was it really hunger strike? This is human cruelty.  People and law here treat animals better than they treated Ms. Gomes!!  Why did they wait till the organs failure to provide her treatment? 
  9. Why the consulate office didn’t contact the authorities even after learning she was an Indian citizen, had expired visa, and fatal hunger strike?  What kind of communication protocol does the Indian consulate has with US Government in these kinds of situations?  Was the protocol followed by the local authorities?
  10. Was she given fair share of justice in the jail regardless of her age, ethnic, racial, national origin, sexual orientation, mental illness or any disability?
  11. Why Ms. Gomes was taken to the hospital as a prisoner and then secure personal recognizance bond after transporting to the Vista Medical Center at a critical stage and why not when she was stable?
  12. Finally, if she was given proper hydration on time, would she be still alive today? How and where did the justice system fail?

Though immediate answers to the above questions couldn’t be provided, Consul General and the lawyer, Jan Susler, appointed by the Gomes family requested Queenie Mendonca to forward her above questions for their perusal in Gomes case.

The group demanded why the authorities failed to inform Indian Consulate, why Consulate office did not take any action after reading the report on Chicago Tribune on January 16, what actions has been taken by Consulate’s office to get answers from authorities, what Indian Embassy is doing on this issue from Washington DC, was she abused in jail by officers, etc., etc.

Consul General’s office has requested the Federal office why the appropriate authorities didn’t contact their office when they learnt herLyvita Gomes visa had expired and why none of the authorities informed and/or contacted the Consulate General’s office soon after she was taken into custody.  Consul General’s office is anticipating an answer from the Federal soon.  As per the Vienna convention the all authorities must contact the Consulate office within few days after taking into custody, which the system failed in Ms. Gomes case.

Jan Susler, one of the attorneys appointed by the Gomes family from the People’s Law office was present.  She informed they have started the investigation and they are following appropriate procedure to obtain the medical records from the hospital and detail records from the Lake county jail during Ms. Gomes incarceration.  “Is it possible for a person who is an ardent devotee of Catholic faith which is against taking their own life would go on hunger strike to end her life?” Mr. Miranda voiced his opinion.  The solution to despair and hopelessness is not suicide, but faith in God, which Ms. Gomes believed.   “It is pretty clear that she wouldn’t go against God’s will, Alfredo Miranda said.  Mr. Miranda, a non-Indian, took care of all the funeral expenses and decided to give Ms. Gomes a proper farewell as a concerned community member of the Lake County.  He was the first person to see Ms. Gomes place where she lived and her place was full of religious books, novenas, church bulletins, and a hand written prayer to help her alcoholic friend he said.

It is not very clear if Ms. Gomes was on hunger strike or what really went on inside the jail.  It was clear she was not suicidal after taking her into custody since she repeatedly informed the authorities she was not suicidal.  The question is – what was the reason behind hunger strike – for which there is no answer.  Was this some kind of abuse inside the jail – yes, apparently she had tenting skin – sign of extreme dehydration.  Jails medical staff was ordered to check her pulse every 4 hours – 11 days before she passed away.

Consul Mr. Gagnte thanked all for joining in solidarity as concerned community citizens and conveyed their sympathies to the Gomes family.  Consul, Suresh Menon, while explaining the Consul General’s roles said that the Chicago office has nine states under its jurisdiction and almost every day they receive various cases of deaths, arrests and accidents.  Most of the cases they handle cannot be made public for various personal reasons.  They did contact the Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran, but since they are not an immediate family member(s) they were unsuccessful in obtaining any information.  In fact, the consulate office couldn’t even obtain the phone number of Lyvita’s immediate family to offer their help in transporting Ms. Gomes remains to India.  Finally, one of the community person provided Ms. Gomes family e-mail to the Consulate office.

After almost two hour long meeting with three consuls, it was ended with vote of thanks from the leader of the pack thanking all community leaders for spending their valuable time to attend this meeting apart from their work and family responsibilities.  He also thanked all three consuls for attending this meeting and listening to the demands of community leaders to seek justice from authorities.  Group felt that they should stay away from all caste, creed, religion, politics and language and come together as a team to voice and fight for justice in the near future so that all authorities will know that there are concerned people who watch injustice and mistreatment to any Indian citizens in the US and demand justice.

Following leaders were present:

  1. Austin D’Souza Prabhu, Ph.D.
  2. Queenie Mendonca, Immediate Past President, MKCA, USA
  3. Susan Pereira, President, Goan Organization of America
  4. Conceicao Mesquita, Community Activist
  5. Godwin Rego, President, Mangalorean Konkan Christian Association, USA
  6. Rev. Dr. David V. Sagar Dadipogu, Pastor, Antioch Telugu Baptist Church
  7. Dr. Jayachand Pallekonda, President, Indo-American Christian Federation of North America
  8. Varghese Chacko, Community Activist, President and CEO of Prompt Services
  9. Dr. Peter Noronha, Past President, India Catholic Association of America
  10. Usha Kamaria, President of the Indian Community of Niles Township
  11. Theresa D’Souza, North Sector Coordinator, District 1A Lions Clubs International
  12. Alfredo Miranda, Director, Miranda Funeral Services
  13. Jan Susler, Attorney hired by Gomes Family
  14. Dr. Kusum Patel, Global Gayatri Pariwar
  15. Hector Lobo, Past President, India Catholic Association of America
  16. Judy Menezes, Past President, Goan Organization of America
  17. Herald Figueiredo, American Cochin Club
  18. Biji Philip,  American Cochin Club
  19. Jean Puthenparambil, Keralite American Association
  20. Shirley Saldanha, Past President, India Catholic Association of America

Chicago: How to become a US Citizen – Free workshop

By Queenie Mendonca, Chicago

The One Nation, One Dream Summit for
Immigratnt Integration: Education is Power

Chicago, February 2, 2012:  Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is offering free workshop on Become a U.S. Citizenship, Stopping Deprotation/Immigration, Learn to run for your Local School Council, Youth Civil Leadership Academy and much more at Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Van Buren on Saturday, February 4, from 9:00am to 1:00pm

Latest confirmations: Senator Richard Durbin and Governor Pat Quinn to join Gutierrez, Madigan, Schakowsky, Preckwinkle, and 32 elected officials…

The Summit begins with an opening plenary at 9am, with confirmed speaker Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.  All workshops are free to the public, and take place between 9:30am and Noon.  At Noon, we will hold a closing session for all of our members and allies.  Confirmed speakers for the closing session include:Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Governor Pat Quinn, Senator Richard Durbin, and House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Other confirmed guests include: Sen. Tony Munoz, Rep. Eddie Acevedo, Rep. Lisa Hernandez, Rep. Robyn Gabel, Rep. Greg Harris, Commissioner Jesus Garcia, Ald. Joe Moreno, Ald. Toni Foulkes, Dorothy Brown, Ald. Ric Munoz, Rep. Esther Golar, Judge Jesse Reyes, Rep. John D’Amico, Ald. Danny Solis, Ald. John Arena, Ald. Marty Quinn, Sen. Martin Sandoval, Sen. Steven Landek, Sen. Toi Hutchinson, Comm. Edwin Reyes, Ald. Rey Suarez, Ald. Ariel Reboyras, and Ald. George Cardenas; as well as SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff, City Colleges of Chicago President Cheryl Hyman, and St. Augustine President Andrew Sund.
TRACK 1: Uniting America:

1.  Citizenship Workshop 9:00 to Noon

  • You and your family can apply to become U.S. citizens.  We also encourage elected officials and allies to come at 11:30 to volunteer to help an immigrant apply for citizenship.

2.  Volunteer Fair 9:40 to Noon

  • Learn how you can volunteer in immigrant-serving communities throughout Illinois – ESL tutoring, citizenship aid, etc.

3.  Youth Civic Leadership Academy 9:40 to 10:40

  • Gain valuable leadership skills: story-telling, volunteer recruitment, and mobilization.

TRACK 2: Keeping Families Together – Stopping Deportations:

1.  What My Family Needs to Know: Prosecutorial Discretion, Family Unity Waiver Workshop – Spanish 9:40 to 10:40

  • Hear from attorney Andres Cerritos what options your family has for receiving immigration relief.

2.  What My Family Needs to Know – English 10:50 to 11:50

3.  Deportations 2012: Training for Advocates – 9:40 to Noon

  • Get connected to the information you need to help families in deportation.

4.  Training for Mental Health Professionals on Working with the Undocumented 9:40 to Noon

  • Experts including Jackie Luna from Heartland and undocumented youth from the Immigrant Youth Justice League will discuss the mental health challenges facing undocumented people and how to address them. 

TRACK 3: Education is Power:

1.  Ready for College: The Illinois DREAM Act, MAP Grants, and Financial Aid 9:40 to 10:40

  • Hear from Tanya Cabrera (IIT), Dan Burke, and undocumented youth about where the Illinois DREAM Act stands and how to fight for increased funding.

2. Running for Local School Council – English 9:00 to Noon

  • Learn how and why you should run for your Local School Council and improve education in your neighborhood.

3.  Running for Local School Council – Spanish 9:00 to Noon

4.  Early Childhood Education through Parent Engagement 9:40 to Noon

  • SWOP and LSNA report on their nationally-recognized, innovative program to engage parents in local schools.

TRACK 4: Building our Political Engagement:

1.  Strategy Session: Mobilizing the New American Vote Primary and General 2012 9:40 to 10:40

  • Get a high-level briefing with Gabe Lopez and ICIRR Executive Director Lawrence Benito on the demographic shifts and political opportunities of 2012.

2. GOTV (Get Out The Vote!) Training for Primary, General 2012 10:50 to 11:50

  • Learn how you can join ICIRR’s efforts to mobilize voters in the crucial 2012 primary elections on March 20th.

3. Ride the bus! Effective citizen advocacy in Springfield 10:50 to 11:50

  • Get ready for ICIRR’s major advocacy day in Springfield on February 29th!

4.  Framing the Message: Preaching Beyond the Choir 9:40 to 11:50

  • A discussion led by Media Commentator Ahmed Rehab, State Representative Greg Harris, and Sun-Times Columnist Alejandro Escalona about how we can use media and messaging to reach a wider audience.

TRACK 5: Keeping our Community Healthy:

1. Health Care Policy and the Immigrant Community 10:50 to 11:50

  • How healthcare reform will affect immigrant communities, and how we respond. Guest speaker State Representative Robyn Gabel.

TRACK 6: Strengthening our Economy:

1. Defending Low Wage Workers 9:40 to 10:40

  • Protecting low wage workers and the health and safety of all workers.  Featured speakers include Adam Kader from Arise Chicago and SEIU Local 1  Vice President Laura Garza.

2. Immigrants are the Engine of the Economy 10:50 to 11:50

  • Preparing our workforce for the future, by attracting and supporting immigrant entrepreneurs and workers.