Latina Lista has been doing fantastic work on the story of the truly evil ICE roundup of immigrant children and families, which has in many cases left American citizen children effectively orphaned. Now, we learn of American concentration camps* for brown people, holding hundreds of children, just in time for Christmas, here on mainland American soil. As allied forces liberated Europe after defeating Germany, the undesirables of the Nazi regime were set free. Who will liberate these people?
It has to be you.
I'll give you the details of the situation after the jump, but here's what we need you to do: this holiday season, while congress is out of session and your representatives are back home, please contact the local offices of your senators and congressmen and tell them this is immoral, unAmerican, and it has to stop. Now. None of these people are expecting calls on this, and certainly not during the holidays. Flood their fax machines with messages, too. If you wanted something truly good for the soul to do this holiday season, this is it. Please act. These families and children have no hope without you.
One of the more disturbing stories that surfaced after the Swift meat plant raids was how too many children were left without a parent and/or farmed out to friends and families with no immediate word on how they will be reconnected with their mami and papi.
But if news filtering out of one of the newly designated immigrant detention centers for families is any indication, no undocumented parent is going to open their mouth and claim their children if the whole family is going to be subjected to what is becoming known as the first known concentration camp on American soil in the 21st Century.
The T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas (on the outskirts of Austin, Texas) is a private detention facility operated by Corrections Corporation of America. It and a smaller center in Pennsylvania are the only two facilities in the country that are authorized to hold non-Mexican immigrant families and children on noncriminal charges.
What does this mean?
It means that at the Taylor facility of the 400 people "held" there, 200 are children. And all are families that can be held there for whatever length of time without due process conducted in a timely manner.
To top it off, as long as the men, women and children are held there, the facility's operator draws a daily profit – per person.
The children range in age from infants on up.
Jeans and t-shirts have been replaced with jail uniforms; children are issued uniforms as soon as they can fit into them and everyone must wear name tags, even the babies.
Lawyers are reporting that the families are receiving substandard medical care and becoming ill from the food being served them. Children are losing weight and people are complaining of migraine-type headaches.
Those clients who are asylum seekers, say the lawyers, are continually suffering trauma on top of the trauma they've already undergone in their home countries – all without receiving any kind of psychological treatment.
Originally, the detention facilities were touted by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff as a way to keep families together while waiting for their cases to come up for court review.
Well, they are accomplishing that goal – to the exclusion of being allowed any outside contact with the rest of the world, aside from those who have lawyers.
The plight of these families caught in a government-sanctioned Hell is slowly spreading (Texas Civil Rights Review, Austin's American Statesman Editorial,American Statesman article) but with Christmas less than a week away these families truly need a miracle to let them know that the outside world knows that they are there not to mention, the children who need to know that Santa or Los Tres Reyes, or the other Holiday entities observed by those who are not Mexican or Latin American, will know where to find them.
In closing, let me say a brief word about this whole immigration roundup policy. It's a failure and a sham on a number of fronts, as Iowa's governor Vilsack has partly exposed, in his angry letter to Chertoff:
“Governor Vilsack is now offering state help to the families of the Swift and Company workers who were arrested in last weeks immigration raid.
Vilsack sent a scathing letter to Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff… It reads in part, “Operation Wagon Train potentially jeopardized the safety of state and local law enforcement. ICEs failure to advise the Iowa National Guard of the size and scope of the raid could have led to unacceptable risks to guard personnel and property.” Vilsack also says,”The information blackout imposed by ICE following the raids further exacerbated the situation.”
But this is a bigger and more sinister sham than a logistical one. The pretense that this was about identity theft has been exposed as utter bullshit. Here's what you need to know about immigration politics in this country: everything you hear is utter cant. Here's the litmus test: no discussion of immigration reform is in any way honest or serious if it excludes serious tracking and enforcement mechanisms on employers. Period.
If we can create a point of sale system to verify credit card accounts at purchasing sites all over the country, we can create a central verification and tracking process to ensure workers hired are legal. My issuing bank tells me if there's unusual or suspicious activity on my card, and I get a regular accounting of all charges on my card that I can verify personally. I think some central system could pick up if someone is working under my name at a second full time job somewhere. This is not rocket science.
People flee poverty and oppression in Mexico, Central America and other places because American employers offer them jobs, dangerous jobs in unsafe conditions, knowing these people have no recourse but to work in horrible conditions without protest or questions asked. This is systematized exploitation, American style, of mostly brown people. American lobbyists for big corporations want it this way (like Swift, Conagra and others), and they are paying well for no one in politics to address the job supply side of this problem, which is the only place the flow of illegal immigration can effectively be managed and controlled.
These "enforcement" actions will do nothing to stem the flow of undocumented labor. Nothing. They just criminalize poor people and tear families apart. Meanwhile, all Americans suffer wage and wealth degradation as American businesses drive wages down for everyone using cheap, exploitable, unprotected labor to sustain a choke hold on the American labor market. Working people suffer, and can't educate their kids to bring them into the middle class. The middle class suffers too, because there's no security underneath them on the income ladder, even as income across one's life has become far less predictable and stable for the vast majority of Americans. Insecurity abounds. Our economy is cutting itself off at the roots, with wealthy fat cats sitting atop in a tree house with shotguns pointed down, lest others think they can grow and prosper. The whole organic system is rotting, but like the first class passengers on the Titanic, America's uber wealthy are leaving the poor and the middle class behind.
So don't talk to me about law enforcement or stemming illegal immigration. It's a dishonest charade. If you won't get serious about dealing with enforcement on employers, and creating a system they can rely upon and be held accountable to, it's all bullshit. It's all the exploitation of brown people, the criminalization of children and families, the placing of children in prison uniforms on American soil just before Christmas: American concentration camps.
Please contact your senators and congressmen during the holiday recess, and especially contact any newly elected members (Democrats) who have not yet been tainted by the big agricultural lobbyists and others on this subject. Be a George Bailey this holiday season, not a Mr. Potter. It's the right thing to do.
UPDATE: ck in the comments exposes how our government is not even interested in obeying the law. Another sham wrapped in a lie covering an unbridled moral outrage (Update II: rumi has more about corporate concentration camp profiteer Corrections Corporation of America):
*Update: Note to wingnuts: a death camp is a species of concentration camp. The difference is a matter of degree, not kind. These prison camps are racial concentration camps for American undesirables, part of your continuing cultural war against racial and religious Others. Germany had "laws" its prisoners had broken, too. It didn't make the administration of the laws just or the implicit intent of the laws any less evil. Glad I could help you with that one. Screech away, little racists, screech away.