Immigrant prisoners forced to choose between separation from kids or indefinite detention together, as government prepares military bases for concentration camps
The whole world watched in horror in June as the Trump/Pence regime showed what "zero tolerance" looks like in the hands of sadistic, cold-blooded fascists. The images of terrified immigrant children torn from parents who'd just been arrested at the U.S.-Mexico border were seared into the minds and hearts of people everywhere.
Faced with a mounting international political crisis, Trump issued an executive order on June 20 saying that the Department of Homeland Security would "maintain custody of immigrant families" while waiting for their cases to be heard in court, a process that can take months or longer. In other words, rather than separating families, they would hold the entire family in detention indefinitely.
Days later, a federal court ordered the government to reunite the families they had torn apart--beginning with the 100 infants and toddlers under the age of five they had taken away. What was revealed through all this is that the monsters running the U.S. government do not give a damn about the lives they are destroying. They do not even have the records needed to reunite many of the children with their parents. The parents of 38 of the 100 children can't be found because they were either deported or were released and can't be located. Now the government admits the parents of at least 450 children were deported back to their home countries without their children, and with no way to reunite them. And as of July 26, the court-ordered deadline for reuniting the families, the government said they still had in custody 711 children who had been separated from their parents.
It has been the law since the 1980s that the government cannot forcibly hold children in detention facilities beyond 20 days. But a July 9 ruling by a federal judge said that "parents may also affirmatively waive [give up] their children's rights to prompt release and placement in state-licensed facilities." What this means is that the government can arrest parents with their children, and hold them together in custody for up to 20 days. At that time the parent(s) must choose: to be separated from their children, and watch them be released and put into a state facility or turned over to a sponsor or to waive the child's right to be released and keep the child with them in the detention camp indefinitely.
Internment (Concentration) Camps for Undocumented Immigrants
Days before issuing the June 20 executive order, Trump declared: "The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility. Not on my watch." But the reality is that it could become a land of concentration camps for immigrants.
Trump's executive order also authorized Secretary of Defense James Mattis to "take all legally available measures to provide to the Secretary, upon request, any existing facilities available for the housing and care of alien families, and shall construct such facilities if necessary and consistent with law." The military has been called upon to provide 20,000 spaces to hold immigrant families on military bases. Three bases in Texas--the Army's Fort Bliss and the Air Force's Dyess and Goodfellow--have already been inspected for "fitness" by the Department of Health and Human Services. Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas is also being considered.
If the plans to use these military bases move ahead, it would not be the first time that U.S. imperialism has put people in this country in concentration camps in massive numbers. In 1942, the U.S. rounded up and imprisoned in concentration camps 120,000 citizens and immigrants of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast for four years, even beyond the end of U.S. involvement in World War 2.
Slamming the Door on Asylum Seekers
On June 11, Trump's attorney general, Jeff Sessions, declared that he was eliminating two huge categories for political asylum that many of the refugees have sought refuge under: domestic violence and gang violence. It was not until 2014 that the highest U.S. immigration court--the Board of Immigration Appeals--decided that women who are victims of severe domestic violence in countries like Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras can be eligible for asylum as a specific category of victims of persecution. Sessions just spit on this ruling, and 30 years of precedent along with it, knowing full well that thousands of women in fear for their lives because of domestic violence will be forced to return to their countries of origin, possibly facing death. And Sessions' declaration that those fleeing gang violence in countries like Guatemala--especially teenage men and women, who face persecution by gangs and their ultimatums to join or die--are ineligible for asylum will be a death sentence to thousands of these youths if they're forced to return.
In short, far fewer asylum seekers will be granted a "credible basis for asylum," and far more will be deported, far more quickly. This regime is perfectly willing to force thousands and thousands of refugees to their deaths, in the name of cutting the "backlog" of those awaiting asylum hearings.
Don't be fooled by the Trump/Pence regime's seeming "fits and starts" in ratcheting up the extremely vicious persecution of immigrants. They are putting into place and acting on their fascist plans. And Trump and Sessions have systematically poisoned the atmosphere toward immigrants--demonization to the point where the most ugly government actions (and those by the "unofficial" fascist forces being mobilized by this regime) against not only undocumented immigrants but all immigrants are being grotesquely justified. This is a key and leading edge of the fascist agenda of open white supremacy and ugly "make America great again" chauvinism.
The question that must be raised--and answered with the truth--is: Why are so many thousands of people putting their lives and those of their children on the line to make the dangerous trek across the border into a country where they are treated as criminals? Because they are desperate to flee the hellish situation created in their countries BY the U.S. imperialists. The great majority of immigrants now being put into the detention (concentration) camps are poor people from Central America. In the 1970s and 1980s, U.S.-backed reactionary regimes and wars drove hundreds of thousands from their homes in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Many came to the U.S., where the youth found themselves in inner cities gutted of worthwhile jobs, at the same time as police terror and mass incarceration were being ramped up under the "war on drugs." This situation, along with the dog-eat-dog morality of capitalism, stoked the huge growth of gangs in places like Los Angeles, and many people driven from Central America became caught up in this.
Then when the U.S. deported thousands of these same Central American youths in the name of a "war on gangs," they were forcibly sent to devastated countries they hardly knew. The "gang culture" that began in the U.S. was taken into these situations, and took root in ugly ways in the crowded and extremely poor and devastated Central American barrios. And this has had huge impact on the small and already impoverished countries, where much of the countryside had been laid to waste and the economies ruined. Continued U.S. intervention has served to keep a series of reactionary client regimes in power. Horrific gang violence, including battles among different sections of the police and armed forces allied with various gangs, has brought many among the masses of people to feel that their only hope for survival is to flee to the U.S. and seek asylum. These are the people that the U.S. rulers, with the fascists now at the top, are treating like animals.