AOC has recently taken a lot of heat after calling the detention centers at the border concentration camps. Critics from both sides of the aisle say that the use of the term is extreme and makes a very unfair comparison to the death camps of Auschwitz. So, is it an unfair comparison? In my view, the answer is no.
These detention centers are detaining people seeking asylum and taking their children. The kids are forced to endure cold temperatures, lights on around the clock, filthy conditions, inadequate food and water with little to no contact with lawyers or relatives. This is torture. The US is torturing innocent children.
Children are forced to care for toddlers/infants and pack limited supplies for incoming separated kids. Illness is common due to overcrowding, moldy bathrooms and spoiled food. Kids have no diapers, soap, toothpaste or clean clothes. Guards wear face masks to protect themselves from the unsanitary conditions. Concerned US citizens have tried to donate supplies to the suffering children only to be turned away.
This is all horrible, but is it a concentration camp? Well, let’s start with the definition:
A place where large numbers of people, especially political prisoners or members of persecuted minorities, are deliberately imprisoned, for reasons of state security, exploitation or punishment, in a relatively small area with inadequate facilities, sometimes to provide forced labor or to await mass execution. Persons are placed in such camps often on the basis of identification with a particular ethnic or political group rather than as individuals and without benefit either of indictment or fair trial
Now, here are all the examples that prove that this situation at the border is in fact America running concentration camps.
A place where large numbers of people are held in a relatively small area? Check.
The Homeland Security inspector general has found “dangerous overcrowding” at a CPB facility in El Paso, Texas.900 people were found in this facility when the capacity is only 125! People were forced to be in standing-room-only conditions for weeks! Can you imagine? We don’t treat our dogs like this..
Cells designed for 35 occupants are holding 155 people. 80,000 people are currently in custody with more coming everyday. The requests for more detention space made by Border Patrol get denied by the government, the agencies continue to detain noncriminals and there’s constant miscommunication between HHS, CPB, DHS and ICE causing many to be held longer than legally allowed. Unbelievable.
The detained are often members of a persecuted minority? Check.
Trump, Fox News and some employees of border agencies constantly dehumanize these asylum seekers. There are countless examples of Trump trashing immigrants on his twitter. We all watch him call them animals, rapists, bad hombres along with language like people crossing the border is like an infestation of our country. There’s no question that he doesn’t care one bit about the well being of the people at the border.
Fox News recently had a segment that argued that these kids aren’t our kids trying to downplay what is happening to human beings at the hands of this government. Seriously? A kid is a kid no matter where they are from! Innocent little souls that have no choice in this matter whatsoever. The only reason they say these things is to make migrants seems like human or less valuable so Trump supporters will support these horrible policies. Sadly, this strategy seems highly effective.
Right wing websites and media take every opportunity they can to paint immigrants in a terrible light. We’ve all seen it. Accusations of migrants carrying deadly disease into the country, taking our jobs, mooching off the system, murdering innocent women and the like. Viral videos zoom around social media of people yelling go back to your country or chanting build a wall at people of color. It’s so discouraging to see.
There are many examples of border agents and other employees of the government treating people under their care with cruelty. Remember the audio of the agent making fun of the crying children after their parents were removed? Or how about the agent that mowed down a man with a government truck? Text message exchanges between agents reveal a disturbing culture among the people charged with caring for migrants. “Fucking beaners”, “guats” and “subhuman shit” are just a few terms that are commonly used.
Wow… these are the people we are trusting to care for immigrants? It makes me sick.
People are detained for reasons of state security, exploitation or punishment? Check.
The Trump Administration is constantly citing national security as a justification for ‘cracking down’ on migrants.
- State Security: Do I even need to explain? How many times have we heard that Trump is the only guy that wants to keep Americans safe from rapists (except if it’s him), drugs, MS-13 and the rest? Close the border then! Keep America safe! It’s the entire premise behind building that wall.
- Exploitation: There are numerous reports of sexual abuse and assault within these facilities. People in power preying on those that have no protection, no support and no way to get justice is the definition of exploitation in my view. Based on the culture among the agents highlighted in my last point, I assume there are agents that detain vulnerable potential victims or work to hide their misconduct.
- Punishment: Jeff Sessions said that zero tolerance would be used as a deterrent. In other words, if you cross the border you will be punished. Also, as highlighted in the latest IG report, agents routinely punish people by withholding rec time, segregating them from others and using restraints without holding the required hearings before punishments are used.
Detained with inadequate facilities? Check.
The Office of Inspector General found “immediate risks or egregious violations of detention standards at facilities.” They did unannounced inspections at 4 facilities. Here is what they found:
- Spoiled, moldy and expired food in kitchens
- Thawing meat with no indication of how long it had been sitting out
- “At Essex, the food handling in general was so substandard that ICE and facility leadership had the kitchen manager replaced during our inspection”
- Raw chicken leaked blood all over refrigerator
- Outdoor space unavailable at 2 facilities (no fresh air or direct sunlight)
- Bathrooms in poor condition
- Mold in walls, ceiling, vents, mirrors and shower stalls
- Peeling paint on walls, floors and showers
- Unusable toilets
- Improper sizes of clothing given and never replaced (3X and 4X only)
- No underwear in stock
- No shampoo or lotion given
- Required detainees to purchase toiletries at commissary
And this inspection didn’t include the Texas facility that all those lawyers went to! In addition to the IG’s findings, there have been multiple reports of no showers, no beds, no blankets, no diapers, no clothes, no soap, no toothbrushes, served frozen food, inadequate water, no contact with the outside, no medical care and no idea what is going on.
Detainees sometimes provide forced labor? Check.
The children are caring for the toddlers/infants.
Any parent knows how much work it is to care for infants and toddlers. Most days I can’t wait to get in bed after spending the day with my two little ones. Caring for children is hard even when you have diapers, beds, food, activities, tv and everything else. My love I feel for my own children also helps get me through the hardest moments. I’m capable, 33 years old and have all the support I need. Child rearing still breaks me fairly regularly.
Now, imagine a 7 or 8 year old child being forced to care for a child that they don’t know, that is sick, hungry, sleep deprived, dirty, relieving themselves with no diaper, snot stained clothing, confused, clingy and crying all the time with little to no adult support. Even the strongest of adults couldn’t deal with this situation. Lawyers interviewing the children reported some children falling asleep during the interview due to exhaustion from caring for one another. Forced labor happening right before our eyes.
People detained without proper indictment or fair trial? Check.
Do asylum seekers and people detained by ICE get their day in court? Eventually, but the average stay for asylum seekers in a detention facility is 102 days. Then, they wait another 577 days for their case to reach an immigration court. So, all this happens before a judicial proceeding:
- Immediately detained
- The children are removed
- Remain in custody for 102 days where they must endure conditions akin to torture
- Released with little support and perhaps an ankle bracelet
- Track down their children without help from the government
- Attempt to repair the trauma inflicted on themselves and their children (if they were able to find them)
- Live in fear of ICE for roughly two years while waiting for the courts
- Endure citizens/President treating you like subhuman for roughly two years
- Can’t legally work
Plus, how fair are these court proceedings? I’ve seen clips of two year olds facing the judge by themselves! I’ve read of agents giving ultimatums to parents forcing them to sign their own deportation documents to get their children back before they are able to face a judge. The government destroys families and makes it impossible for them to advocate for themselves. This isn’t what America is supposed to be.
By definition, concentration camps are alive and well in America. This should make every person in this country outraged and uncomfortable. Don’t look away. The course of this nation is in our hands. Stay informed, keep the pressure on and most importantly cast a vote against Trump in the next election. It may be the only thing we can do for these little ones now.