Friday, April 8, 2016

Immigrant Detention Centers Are, Indeed, Concentration Camps

Does this detention center look humane to you?
A lot of heat has been coming my way in the past few days from people taking issue with me calling the "detention centers" where immigrants are held without charge on orders from federal authorities, "concentration camps." Let me be clear: that began as a rhetorical overkill, but upon further exploration, it is a hell of a lot closer to an accurate description than any of us cares to imagine.

The federal government wants city law officers to help them round up aliens and put them into these camps until they can determine if the immigrants are illegal. They are not charged upon arrest and their treatment is often abysmal., a legal site that I've referred to for years, has an entire article on these detention centers, of which there are 180 in the United States (here). Nolo, as is its custom, is a "just the facts, ma'am" kind of site and doesn't get involved in the politics of the moment, so when we see the clear warnings about conditions in the detention centers, we need to take note of what's being said.

Terrorist threat or just a kid?
Here is some of it:

"Some [centers] house several thousand detainees at any one time, mixing aliens who have criminal records with others who don't."

"Detention centers can feel like prisons, which can be very stressful and depressing. Also, until you obtain either 'parole' release or are granted the right to remain lawfully in the U.S., you will not know for how long you will be detained."

 "Living conditions are difficult at detention centers. ... You will likely be transported to a detention center in handcuffs, and sometimes in shackles. Your personal belongings will be taken away from you, and you will be assigned a specific bed (the guards will then refer to you based on the number of your bed or using your alien registration number)." [Referring to prisoners by number, rather than by name, is a traditional way of dehumanizing them.]

"You will not be able to move around freely. You will sleep in a large room, with other detainees. Your privacy will be limited. ... If you are meeting with visitors or your attorney during meal times, you might not be provided with food later."

Red Cross keeps them warm.
"The staff who work at detention centers can be unresponsive and even rude. ... The procedures for complaining about your treatment are very limited. ...Make notes of your grievances so you can later remember all the details, and speak to your lawyer about them. If you do not have an attorney [most immigrants who are arrested cannot afford an attorney], talk to representatives of charitable groups."

"Although detention centers have medical staff on site, they might not be responsive to your medical issues. Also, because there are no translators, you might have difficulty communicating your medical problems."

"It might be difficult and expensive to make phone calls from a detention facility. ... Mail delivery can be slow. ... Detention centers screen and inspect all incoming and outgoing mail. ...You will normally see visitors through a plastic window, and speak to them through an intercom system."

When defenders of these centers soft pedal them, remember what you have just read. Get an image in your head of third-world prison camps where prisoners--often not charged with a crime--have no rights, don't know what their status is, have great difficulty communicating with the outside, are abused by guards and prison officials, are not treated for medical conditions or even given the dignity of being able to use their names.

Is calling them "concentrate camps" over the top and unfair? I think not.

When your congressional representative Bob Goodlatte (R-6th District) criticizes Roanoke City Council candidates for favoring Sanctuary City status (300 other U.S. cities are sanctuaries), which would prohibit these concentration camps,  remember him at election time. His politics resemble those who believe concentration camps are the answer ... regardless of the question.

These women are awaiting an uncertain fate. Even illegals deserve better than this.

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