a place where large numbers of people, especially political prisoners or members of persecuted minorities, are deliberately imprisoned in a relatively small area with inadequate facilities, sometimes to provide forced labor or to await mass execution. The term is most strongly associated with the several hundred camps established by the Nazis in Germany and occupied Europe in 1933–45, among the most infamous being Dachau, Belsen, and Auschwitz.
Right now, the US is operating concentration camps of men, women, and children, who came here legally come here seeking asylum, within our borders. Make no mistake, these are exactly what they are and are not new. But apparently the US does not wish to learn anything from history. The US has been responsible for the use of concentration camps before. The internment of Indigenous Americans, before and after the Trail of Tears, During the Civil War at Andersonville where some 13, 000 men died from neglect and disease, and The Japanese Internment Camps of WWII. The concentration camps (What Jewish people call The Shoah) were not the only instance of such camps, and Hitler himself credited the American versions of such camps, with influencing his idea to create his own.
Now we have repeated history again. The situation is complicated by Republican attempts to hold onto their power by pandering to his base constituents,. In service to their grasping for power, trump has created policies that have resulted in the unnecessary separation of children from their families, and the pointless detention of thousands of immigrants that come to America’s southern borders seeking asylum.
Do not listen to propaganda!
Seeking asylum is not illegal!!!
According to UN Convention of 1951, in a ruling that the US helped to craft:
That “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution” is enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rightsof 1948 and supported by the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugeesand the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. Under these agreements, a refugee is a person who is outside that person’s own country’s territory owing to fear of persecution on protected grounds, including race, caste, nationality, religion, political opinions and participation in any particular social group or social activities.
The immigrant situation has been further exacerbated by events in Guatemala and other Central American countries.
The CIA has a long history of involvement in Guatemala, having helped to orchestrate the army’s overthrow of a democratically elected government in 1954. … In 1977 the Guatemalan government rejected $2.1 million in U.S. military aid because it was conditioned on improved performance on human rights.
And now we have this:
This photo was taken sometime between May and December 1944. These people are enjoying a bit of “down time” before going back to work. At Auschwitz.
Not because I think what we’re doing is like what the Nazis were doing in 1944, but because this looks so normal. These people didn’t think of themselves as “evil,” any more than the people chanting at the Trump rally do.
Here’s the point: the Holocaust didn’t drop out of a clear blue sky in 1941. The concentration camps had been operating since 1933.
The first people sent to the camps weren’t Jews at all. It was socialists, communists (remember that if you run across someone who tries to claim the Nazis were actually socialists), Jehovah’s Witnesses (because their faith prevented them from swearing allegiance to the Reich or serving in the military), homosexuals, and other people considered “socially deviant.” The camps weren’t awful places in 1933. Guards who abused prisoners were disciplined and sometimes prosecuted.
By 1935, this changed. As Hitler consolidated power, he pardoned the guards who had been convicted for abusing prisoners and made it clear that that behavior was now acceptable. Jews were now sent to the camps, starting with ones who had come to “civilized” Germany as refugees from pogroms in Eastern Europe. They were described as “invaders,” accused of spreading disease and stealing jobs from Germans. I understand if that last sentence sent a bit of a chill down your spine.
There were dozens, probably hundreds of concentration camps in operation by 1937. Many prisoners died there from abuse or simply from being worked to death, but they still weren’t places people were specifically sent to die; it was just that no one cared whether they died or not.
By 1939, mass killings of Jews had started. Not in the camps; the Nazis weren’t bothering to round people up and transport them just to kill them. They would typically be rounded up by the Nazi army and shot en masse and buried in mass graves.
Mass killings of civilians proved to be bad for morale even for Nazi soldiers, which led to the Final Solution. Eight extermination camps were built and went into operation by 1941. None were in Germany proper, so the scale of what was happening could be more easily kept from the German people. Six were in Poland, one in Serbia, and one in Belarus. Some (like Birkenau, sometimes called Auschwitz II) were on the same site as concentration camps (Auschwitz), and some (like Treblinka) were completely separate. Most were in Poland because that was where the largest number of Jews in Europe lived.
These women worked as typists, telegraph clerks, and secretaries in Auschwitz, and were called Helferinnen, which means ‘helpers. Their racial purity had been established—should an officer be looking for a girlfriend or a wife, the Helferinnenwere intended to be a resource.”
The point of these photos is that the Nazis were not all Eichmann and Mengele. Their horror was possible because of the many, many people who went along with what they were doing or at least were willing to look the other way. And it didn’t start with Chelmno and Sobibor. It started with people being willing to vote for Nazis out of fear of the communists and responding to their appeals to “true Germans.”
This photo shows people reading the Nazi newspaper Der Stűrmer (The Attacker) in 1935. The sign above it reads “The Jews Are Our Misfortune”.
How far, really, are people who would chant “send her back” about an American citizen at a political rally from the people calmly reading that newspaper? Remember, that was still four years before the war, six before the extermination camps. It was when the groundwork for those things was being laid.
Let’s talk about our camps for a moment. Pro Publica recently published a long story about someone who works for the Border Patrol and spent time working at one of the camps. Here are a couple of excerpts:
The Border Patrol agent, a veteran with 13 years on the job, had been assigned to the agency’s detention center in McAllen, Texas, for close to a month when the team of court-appointed lawyers and doctors showed up one day at the end of June.
Taking in the squalor, the stench of unwashed bodies, and the poor health and vacant eyes of the hundreds of children held there, the group members appeared stunned.
Then, their outrage rolled through the facility like a thunderstorm. One lawyer emerged from a conference room clutching her cellphone to her ear, her voice trembling with urgency and frustration. “There’s a crisis down here,” the agent recalled her shouting.
At that moment, the agent, a father of a 2-year-old, realized that something in him had shifted during his weeks in the McAllen center. “I don’t know why she’s shouting,” he remembered thinking. “No one on the other end of the line cares. If they did, this wouldn’t be happening.”
No one on the other end cares. If they did, this wouldn’t be happening. Let that sink in for a moment.
The CBP agent in the story is in his late 30s, a husband and father who served overseas in the military before joining CPB.
It’s kind of like torture in the army. It starts out with just sleep deprivation, then the next guys come in and sleep deprivation is normal, so they ramp it up. Then the next guys ramp it up some more, and then the next guys, until you have full blown torture going on. That becomes the new normal.
This is how it happens. Step by step, we become the monsters. Look around the country. Try to remember how things were in 2012 or so. How many things that are simply accepted now, often with a “what can we do about it?” shrug, would have seemed possible then?
Referring back to the grim conditions inside the Border Patrol holding centers, he said: “Somewhere down the line people just accepted what’s going on as normal. That includes the people responsible for fixing the problems.”
“What happened to me in Texas is that I realized I had walled off my emotions so I could do my job without getting hurt,” he said. “I’d see kids crying because they want to see their dads, and I couldn’t console them because I had 500 to 600 other kids to watch over and make sure they’re not getting in trouble. All I could do was make sure they’re physically OK. I couldn’t let them see their fathers because that was against the rules.
“I might not like the rules,” he added. “I might think that what we’re doing wasn’t the correct way to hold children. But what was I going to do? Walk away? What difference would that make to anyone’s life but mine?”
When asked whether he simply stopped caring, he said: “Exactly, to a point that’s kind of dangerous. But once you do, you feel better.”
This man is a father. He watches hundreds of kids. He had to stop caring on order to do his job.
Let’s say that again: he had to stop caring in order to do his job.
Just like, I imagine, the Helferinnen had to stop caring. To look the other way. To learn helplessness against the system.
I know, there are a thousand reasons why we can’t change this. They broke the laws. The President says so. What will we do with all of them if we don’t do this? It will encourage others if we don’t do this.
Know this: those are all justifying inhuman behavior. I’m not saying the people running the camps or the people in the government are Nazis; every historical moment is different. But they’re using many of the same tools the Nazis used. And the same tools are being used against the Uighur in China. And the Rohingya in Myanmar.
Andrea Pitzer is a journalist who has written extensively about the history of concentration camps. Here’s what she had to say on Twitter this morning:
When I went into the Rohingya camps in Myanmar in 2015, I also talked to people in town who were happy their former neighbors were in camps. Insisting they weren’t racist or bigots, many said all they really wanted was for the government to deport the Rohingya to another country.
They claimed the Rohingya were illegal immigrants, rapists, and terrorists. If I mentioned a Rohingya they actually knew, they would sometimes acknowledge maybe *that* Rohingya person wasn’t a criminal. They often argued that the Rohingya should be deported as a group anyway.
It was heartbreaking. I was there just after Trump had declared his candidacy in the US, and it was the same rhetoric, almost word for word. A little over a year later in Myanmar, the military drove hundreds of thousands of Rohingya over the border amid terrible atrocities.
Send her back. Send them back. We’re really not racists. Jews will not replace us.
Do you honestly believe it can’t happen here?
Right now, the American government in the form of Homeland Security and ICE ,are grabbing up migrants, and immigrants, (whether they have legal status, or not), and deporting them, or sending them to the camps. Tumblr and Twitter have done a great job of disseminatng information to protect individuals from ICE raids, (which are often announced in advance by the president, as a distraction from whatever government coverup he is currently engaged in.)
Protect yourself! Know Your Rights!
thalia: “The difference between an ICE warrant and a JUDGE warrant.”
ACLU: “The ICE warrant on the left does NOT authorize agents to enter a home without permission. La orden de ICE a la izquierda NO autoriza a los agentes a entrar al domicilio sin permiso.”
If ICE agents show up at your door:
1. Don’t open the door, but be calm. You have rights.
2. Ask what they are there for (and ask for an interpreter if you need one).
3. If they ask to enter, ask if they have a warrant signed by a judge, and if so, ask to see it (through a window or slipped under the door).
4. If they do NOT have a warrant signed by a judge, you may refuse to let them in. Ask them to leave any information at your door.
5. If they force their way in, don’t resist. Tell everyone in the residence to remain silent.
6. If you are arrested, remain silent and do not sign anything until you speak to a lawyer.
If ICE agents come to your place of work:
1. Ask if you are free to leave. If so, you may calmly walk out.
2. You have the right to refuse consent to a search. Say out loud that you do not consent to a search of your belongings.
3. You have the right to remain silent. You do not have to discuss your immigration status with anyone, such as about where you were born, whether you are a citizen, or how you entered the country. But if you have valid immigration documents, you should show them. Never provide fake documents.
4. If you’re arrested, say that you wish to remain silent until speaking with a lawyer.
5. You have the right to record your interaction with immigration agents as long as you do not interfere.
Know your rights! It has been reported that these tactics have worked successfully at a number of locations.
Most of the detention center refugees are being held in ICE detention facilities, and private prisons operated by corporations such as the GEO Group. This post provides a list of such facilities:
2600 Magazine has compiled a full listing of Customs and Border Patrol stations, a number of which are being used to imprison migrants, immigrants, and/or refugees, many of whom are children. In the interests of openness, we are sharing that info here. Please note that not every facility in this list is being used for this purpose, but many existing camps are either at one of these addresses or are being managed there. And the potential for expansion is ever present. This is also only a partial list of the total number of camps, as others are operated by different branches of the government, as well as by private companies. We will be updating it as we receive and compile more data. If you have additional info to add, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our SecureDrop page at www.2600.com/securedrop where you can find out how to anonymously submit info to us.
Things to do with a list such as this:
- Spread it.
- Download it, keep a back up.
- Publish it offline as well, put it in your local anarchist zine, print posters.
Things to do with the location of camps near you:
- Spread that specific information in your area.
- Get people together. Talk about this. Consider what you can do to spread more information and get more people together. Maybe distribute information at crowded local places.
- When you have a good lot of people, hold some solidarity rallies outside the camps. Inform yourself about your rights before hand. Don’t get yourself all arrested if this is your first step into action and you don’t know each other well.
- If you have a good reliable group of people together and have done some minor actions, start first talking about and then training for more direct actions. Learn your legal rights. Invite activists who can help you as a medic, legal team, etc.
- When you’re ready, blockade the traffic going in and out of these camps.
- Consider moving to more disruptive actions from there.
But there is good news in response to the Ice raids, (which are meant to keep Immigrants silent, and terrified, and distract everybody from the hideous garbage fire going on in the White House.
i wanna share with y’all a great thing that happened in my city yesterday. early in the morning, ICE tried to kidnap an undocumented man while he was leaving for work with his son in the car. this man had no warrant and no criminal record, and had lived in his home with his family for the past 14 years. these ICE agents, un-uniformed and in unmarked cars, blockaded this man’s driveway, while he and his child sat locked in their van, for 4 hours. (obviously this isn’t the good part.)
the man’s neighbors were the first to gather and confront ICE. phone calls were made, and dozens of local organizers, lawyers and activists showed up, in addition to more neighbors. they bought gas and siphoned it into the man’s car so he could keep the AC going. they passed water and food through the car windows. the city government was flooded with calls, and a few city council folks showed up in support of the man.
and ICE left.
the man’s neighbors & the activists formed a human chain around the car so the man and his son could get back into their house. and later, his whole family was escorted to a safer location.
today, that man is still with his family. his children, though undoubtedly shaken and scared (especially the son who was with him the whole time, and was so frightened he threw up at one point) still have their father. one of the neighbors said: “they picked the wrong neighborhood on the wrong day” and “I know they’ll be back, and so will we.”
I know a ton of posts get shared about doing this exact thing, but i want you to know that IT WORKS. community works. so please, above anything else, get to know your neighbors. keep an eye out for each other. don’t let people disappear. keep each other close, keep each other safe.
Direct action gets the goods.
“Neighbors and activists gathered for hours in a Hermitage driveway Monday morning while they said two Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers attempted to talk a man and his 12-year-old son into getting out of their van.
Eventually, more than 10 bystanders linked arms around the van, creating a pathway for the pair to enter their house.
ICE public information officer in Nashville Bryan Cox said the officers then drove away to deescalate the situation.”
“ICE has taken 35 of 2,000 people they were trying to deport into custody. They are blaming community defense efforts for their lack of success. Keep it up y’all.”
“Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested only 35 migrants targeted as part of an operation targeting families with court-ordered removals, that President Donald Trump had touted on Twitter, the agency announced Tuesday.
The raids were planned to target around 2,000 migrant families who had been ordered removed by an immigration judge, but the latest numbers show the arrests fell far short of that goal.”
This is depressing. This is demoralizing, but remember, cruelty, not just ot immigrants, but to the rest of us who witness these atrocities, is the point. To make us look away. To try to ignore it. To tell ourselves its not really happening.
Don’t do that.
We ,the good decent people in this country, outnumber the frightened, and hateful. We are the majority. We have power. We can do something.
In the meantime, there are several things that ordinary citizens can do. They can contact their representativesto ask what they are doing about the conditions in detention facilities. They can volunteer and/or donate to groups involved in the fight. The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, a California-based nonprofit, lists several “organizations actively working for just and humane border practices in the United States and Mexico.”
- Pledge your frequent flier miles to Lawyer Moms of America and Project Corazon, which have teamed up to help get pro bono lawyers and migrant families where they need to go.
- Launch a Dignity Not Detention Campaign in your state. You can learn more about that on the Freedom for Immigrants website.
- Write a letter to the editor to your local newspaper. These reach a broad audience and are often monitored by elected officials. You can find tips on the ACLU website.
In Maine, legislators, community leaders, nonprofits, donors, and volunteers, including immigrant Mainers—who know how hard it is to start anew, with nothing—are joining forces to welcome these migrants to our state.
“These are people who arrived here in Maine with their families after traveling thousands of miles over the course of many months to flee violence and escape hostility and brutality,” said Governor Janet Mills. “They’ve undergone this dangerous journey in pursuit of freedom and liberty, concepts and principles that are the cornerstone of our nation’s principles . . . .”
Americans often wonder why good Germans didn’t do enough to stop the Holocaust. But good Americans didn’t do enough to stop the Japanese internment camps on our very soil, and now here we are again.
• KIND—Kids in Need of Defense—has been leading advocacy efforts for kids in immigration detention.
• The Women’s Refugee Commission is leading national efforts against family separation and child detention to preserve access to asylum, increase use of alternatives to detention, and improve detention conditions.
• The Catholic Legal Immigration Network plays a crucial role coordinating legal services in response to administration-created crises.
• The ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Projectis litigating these and other policies at the border.
• RAICES is the largest immigration nonprofit in Texas offering free and low-cost legal services to immigrant children and families.
• Al Otro Lado serves indigent deportees, migrants, and refugees in Los Angeles and Tijuana, Mexico.
• The Florence Project provides legal and social services to detained immigrants in Arizona.
• Lawyers for Good Government suggests that you can contribute to the Project Corazon Travel Fund to send more lawyers (particularly Spanish-speaking immigration lawyers) to the detention centers and refugee camps. You can also pledge your frequent flier miles to help get more lawyers to the border and volunteer as a lawyer or translator.
• Justice in Motion has created a network of human rights lawyers and nongovernmental organizations across Mexico and Central America to find parents deported without their children and help families reunite in their countries of origin.
• Immigrant Families Together supports bonds, living expenses, and medical and legal needs of migrant families.
• Innovation Law Lab builds tools for immigration-related crisis response, aiming to improve representation and due process.
• ActBlue has a one-click button to support many of these organizations at once.
• Lights for Liberty is doing local event coordination and is organizing nationwide protests and vigils being planned for July 12.
• United We Dream, the American Immigration Council, and the National Immigration Law Center are organizing to help immigrants in the event of raids.
• Human Rights First is a national organization with roots in Houston that needs help from lawyers.
• The National Immigrant Justice Center represents and advocates for detained adults and children facing removal, supports efforts at the border, and represents parents in the interior who have been separated from their families as a result of aggressive enforcement.*
Finally, the administration has ramped up “ordinary” immigration enforcement against individuals and families all over the United States, many of whom have lived here for years and even decades. Many have valid defenses against deportation that they are unable to assert because they lack the resources to pay immigration counsel. In our home states of Michigan and Virginia, two organizations that meet a fraction of this need are the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center and the Legal Aid Justice Center. Your state has an organization too. Google “indigent immigration defense” and your state’s name, and you’ll find it.
Update, June 25, 2019: This article has been updated with more organizations that are helping families at the border.