The New Concentration Camp of America: A Resource Guide

Some details in this post and links herein have extensive, detailed descriptions of inhumane and abusive conditions. Most linked pieces lack content/trigger warnings. Please be mindful of your exposure and mental stability while engaging.

Pictured above: goods and necessities taken from holocaust prisoners, some found near the Buchenwald concentration camp following liberation. Taken in Germany, May 1945


“Extermination is not the actual goal of concentration camps, although many do die in them. They are a form of administrative detention — a way to detain civilians without a trial. Concentration camps made civilians into proxies in order to get at combatants who had dared defy the ruling power.”

Andrea Pitzer, author of One Long Night: a Global History of Concentration Camps


WHAT IS HAPPENING?

Families and individuals from countries including Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico are coming to the American border seeking aid. As poverty, violence, and politically triggered crime continue to consume Honduras and Guatemala in particular, for some fleeing has become the only option offering any semblance of hope. The current Trump administration’s “no tolerance” policy, which was designed as a deterrent for migrants, has proven to be woefully ineffective, even with the risk of separation and captivity. This alone should prove the desperation they are struggling through, and the severity of their situations.

On February 20th, a young woman named Mirian arrived at the Texas border carrying her 18-month-old son. They had fled their home in Honduras through a cloud of tear gas, she told border agents, and needed protection from the political violence there. She had hoped she and her son would find refuge together. The agents ordered her to place her son in the back seat of a government vehicle, she said later in a sworn declaration to a federal court. They both cried as the boy, only a year and a half old, was driven away. One week later in a Congressional hearing, a Department of Health and Human Services official admitted that the government had lost track of about 1,500 migrant children.

Human beings like you and I are being held at migrant camps along our southern border. It’s happening, right now. They are living in crowded, unsanitary, and cruel conditions intended only to break the spirits of those detained. There are children, many of whom are sick. Six have died since last year. Most of the young detainees of these facilities have not been able to shower or wash their clothes since they arrived. They have no access to toothbrushes, toothpaste, or soap - all of which are confiscated upon arrival. Many, some as young as 2 years old, have been locked away for over a month. Consider how you feel after not bathing for a few days. Add closed quarters, and a lack of fresh air and water. Thousands of families have been separated, many who will never be reunited again.

At Fort Sill Army post in Oklahoma, where the Trump administration plans to indefinitely detain 1,400 immigrant and refugee children starting next month, Japanese elders and World War II Japanese-American internment camp survivors held a peaceful protest of these conditions, along with the descendants of survivors and others who joined in support.

Tsuru for Solidarity member and former Japanese Internment camp child incarceree Dr. Satsuki Ina says, “seventy-five years ago, 120,000 of us were removed from our homes and forcibly incarcerated in prison camps across the country. We’re here today to protest the repetition of history. Unlike 1942, when America turned their backs on us while we were disappearing from our homes, our schools, our farms and our jobs — we’re here today to speak out, to protest the unjust incarceration of innocent people seeking refuge in this country. We stand with them and we say, ‘Stop repeating history.'"

Have we collectively forgotten that seeking asylum in this country has long been a basic right? Are we simply too distracted by our own reflection to care? People seeking refuge being treated so shamelessly, detained illegally, and turned a blind eye to collectively is a sad and inhumane retelling of history. One that is now happening in droves. It will continue, unless the public decides to take it upon themselves - ourselves - to enact change.

ENACT verb

en·act | \ i-ˈnakt

To establish by legal and authoritative act specifically : to make into law- enact a bill.

Photos of confiscated goods and necessities belonging to migrants, from project entitled, “El Sueño Americano,” by Tom Kiefer, previous border patrol janitor. 2012.


Read these descriptions from a series of recent news reports from the border, describing in detail the horrors that we are tolerating.

From The Associated Press:

“A 2-year-old boy locked in detention wants to be held all the time. A few girls, ages 10 to 15, say they’ve been doing their best to feed and soothe the clingy toddler who was handed to them by a guard days ago. Lawyers warn that kids are taking care of kids, and there’s inadequate food, water and sanitation for the 250 infants, children and teens at the Border Patrol station. Three girls told attorneys they were trying to take care of the 2-year-old boy, who had wet his pants and had no diaper and was wearing a mucus-smeared shirt when the legal team encountered him.”

From an ABC News report on Friday:

“At another Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas, attorney Toby Gialluca said all the children she talked to last week were very sick with high fevers, coughing and wearing soiled clothes crusted with mucus and dirt after their long trip north. ‘Everyone is sick. Everyone. They’re using their clothes to wipe mucus off the children, wipe vomit off the children. Most of the little children are not fully clothed,’ she said.”

ABC News also obtained a medical declaration from board-certified physicians who visited two border patrol holding facilities in Texas two weeks ago. In that declaration, physician Dolly Lucio Sevier wrote: “The conditions within which they are held could be compared to torture facilities.” The children were experiencing extreme cold temperatures. They were in holding areas where the lights were left on 24 hours a day. They weren’t able to wash their hands. Teen mothers weren’t able to wash out bottles for their babies. All the children seen at these facilities showed signs of trauma.


WHAT CAN WE DO?

There is all at once so much information to take in, and several resource guides to consider. Routes can be very difficult to navigate. Indecision, guilt, and grief are stressful and draining. With these aspects being recognized, my first suggestion is this:

Pick one specific action and commit to it. It’s completely okay to start small. Please try to not judge your actions before they even begin. Otherwise you will likely remain frozen, inactive, and locked by overwhelm.

⫷ FACILITATE, EDUCATE, DISCUSS AND SHARE

It’s really daunting to be the only person willing to bring a heavy handed topic to the table. One that nobody in a comfortable environment is asking for. However, these realities will only continue and brutality will win if people aren’t first willing to look at the reality. Discuss these issues at work, have dialogues with your partner(s), roommates, friends and children. Do not be afraid of asking yourself and others questions like, “how am I holding myself accountable? How are we holding each other accountable? What would we be able to do within our own community to help? How can we further the visibility of these individuals and their situation?” Do your best to avoid cross-talk, interruption, or argumentative tones.

A good place to begin is to google “immigrant justice” along with the town or city you live in. Find out what you can do at home too, because exploitation and erasure exists everywhere. Working from where you live is a step in dismantling the fabrics of white supremacist ideology that we all take part in. Discuss the rights and plights of others, and consider what the experience is like for folks other than yourself. Educate yourself as if you were in their shoes. Why are they seeking asylum? What is life like in their home country? What are their rights? These are the very things that we should be working to reinforce, understand, and support. A simple starting point is this short video by the ACLU.

United We Dream is a wonderful resource for dialogues of all kinds, from open family gatherings to one on one meetings with friends.

⫷ DONATE MONEY

For immigrants detained in the United States, freedom is expensive, ranging $1,500 or as high as $80,000. Posting their bail is the fastest way any of these individuals can be helped, and there are organizations and nonprofits working to collect donations and distribute them to grant these people their deserved freedom as well as legal representation. Several of these options also include the chance to ensure people have access to basic human rights, such as fresh water, medical care, shelter and hygiene, clean clothes, and hot meals. Reference the National Bail Fund Network to find information about where you live.

  • Angry Tias & Abuelas delivers financial support to local shelters; transportation to and from bus stations, airports and shelters; and emergency food, water, clothing and toiletries to individuals and families seeking asylum. They are accepting donations.

  • RAICES is a nonprofit that provides free and low-cost legal services to immigrant children, families and refugees in Texas. It’s accepting donations and volunteers at its website

  • Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley provides a place for men, women and children to rest, have a warm meal, shower, change into clean clothes, as well as receive medicine and other supplies.

  • Border Kindness provides migrants, refugees, and the displaced with comprehensive services that include food, shelter, clothing and medical care. Our programs and interventions are designed to identify, protect and nurture the most vulnerable – including women, children, elderly and families.

  • The ACLU has worked to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and has done for almost 100 years.

  • Immigrant Justice Now is working to provide supplies, like bus tickets, Pedialyte, shoes, prepaid cellphones and underwear, to immigrant families and children.

  • Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center provides legal representation to asylum seekers, currently accepting donations.

  • The Human Rights Initiative of North Texas provides free legal services to immigrants who are seeking asylum in the U.S. and immigrants who are victims of violence.

  • The Migrant Center for Human Rights is providing free and low-cost legal services for detained asylum seekers in Texas.

  • The Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition supports refugees by providing them with access to phones, restrooms, showers, laundry and warm meals. 

  • The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights is accepting donations that will go toward providing more child advocates for immigrant kids inside the detention centers weekly and accompany them to immigration proceedings.

  • Together Rising is collecting money that'll go toward defenders, prosecutors and advocates who are working to reunify immigrant children with their families.

⫷ CONTACT CONGRESS, YOUR MAYOR, AND YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVES NOW

Yes this comes up around every issue, and rightly so because it’s effective. Furthermore, it takes you so little time. Don’t know who your reps are? That’s okay, reference THIS WEBSITE and find out in a flash. From here, you can click on each representative and get their number and address. Call and write.

RAICES has provided a very fast and simple way to send a drafted letter to your state reps, which you are able to edit at your discretion. CLICK HERE to partake and follow these incredibly easy steps.

SUGGESTED WRITTEN TEMPLATE:

Dear [Representative/Senator],

I am deeply concerned and saddened by the announcement of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids coming to my community. The raids are inappropriately named "Family Op" and they couldn't be more detrimental to all American families. My friends and neighbors are scared and many of them feel they are under attack. This amounts to domestic terrorism. ICE plans to target 2,000 families but even one raid in my neighborhood will spread fear across my entire community. We DO NOT want this to happen in our community. Will you join with me, my friends and neighbors to defund ICE, put pressure on local ICE offices, and stop the immigration raids? We need to stop this. Mass indiscriminate raids are NOT the answer.

Please help our neighbors.

FOR OVER THE PHONE:

Hi, my name is ______ and my zip code is______. I demand that you do not use my taxpayer money to provide funding for the Department of Homeland Security, immigration policies, increased detention, or an unnecessary border wall or barrier. These are serious violations to human rights. Thank you for your time.

Hi, my name is ______ and my zip code is______. Please do your part in defunding ICE, putting pressure on local ICE offices, and stopping the immigration raids. These are our valued community members who are afraid for their lives, and I ask you do your part in protecting them. Thank you for your time.

⫷ HOST A COMMUNITY GATHERING, PROTEST, OR VIGIL

Protest marches and other civic actions to end detention camps are expected across the country in the coming weeks. These can only happen through the bravery of those willing to initiate them. Start with a group text, a mass email, or a Facebook post. Pick a day, and ask friends to help you organize. Remember, protest changes society, creates visibility, and tells people that they are not alone. Protest is your right. Protest is powerful, and does create change.

Lights for Liberty is aiding in the organization of public peaceful displays of protest. Reference their work and website HERE for more information. They plan to hold a nationwide vigil on July 12 at 9 p.m. local time.

⫷ PREPARE FOR THE NEXT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Human rights should be at the forefront of any viable candidates policies. Be sure you are checking in on what they each plan to enforce while also reflecting on their past policies. Think and consider critically, and when able, ask them questions directly. Take to Twitter, attend rallies, and pose questions on public forums. The New York Times recently interviewed the Democratic presidential candidates on their plans and objectives, which you can see HERE.

The governmental system is not one I agree with, though it is what we currently have to work with. To turn away from the responsibility of partaking in democracy is to hand a feral country to the next generation. Do your part by taking part.

⫷ TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF, TAKE CARE OF YOUR COMMUNITY

This is heartbreaking, grief inducing, numbing and often spirit snapping work. It’s essential that you take time to come up for air. It’s very easy to get unknowingly sucked into these tragedies, draining all hope from ourselves which leaves us in an even more emotionally vulnerable and unreinforced state than before. Like preparing for a marathon, take time to train. Make space in your day to ingest news and partake in dialogue. Limit your time to half an hour when you’re on your own. Take breaks. Set an alarm if you need to. The sensation of lostness will not support anyone, and the debilitating guilt is a product of culturally reinforced white and wealthy fragility that must be looked past for progress to take place. Use, don’t abuse your platform and privilege. Rest, meditate, cry, laugh. Partaking in the beauty of life is essential to its survival. Be sure to engage in art and creativity while employing resistance. These can and must coexist.

Check in with others around these issues. Ask folks how their hearts are, and if they need anything. Reach out to others if you are in need, too. Let friends and family know when you are feeling particularly resilient and strong, or when you are unable to cope and need either support or space. Act with love, listen with love, speak with love.


The names of the six children who have died in US detention centers:

  • Darlyn Cristabel Cordova-Valle, 10, of El Salvador

  • Felipe Gomez Alonzo, 8, of Guatemala

  • Wilmer Josué Ramírez Vásquez, 2, of Guatemala

  • Carlos Hernandez Vásquez, 16, of Guatemala

  • Jakelin Caal Maquín, 7, of Guatemala

  • Juan de León Gutiérrez, 16, of Guatemala