4 Reasons to Close Concentration Camps

Sheridan Aguirre Press Releases

For Immediate Release
Contact: Sheridan Aguirre | sheridan@unitedwedream.org | 202.793.2267

Just a few days ago, Vice President Mike Pence visited a concentration camp at the border in McAllen, Texas, where media bore witness to the cramped facilities and inhumane conditions.

These camps are being funded by the ADDITIONAL $4.59 billion that 34 Democrats in the Senate and 129 in the House, together with the vast majority of Republicans, voted to approve. The cash comes without accountability or standards that protect people from the abuse and unsafe conditions they must endure while incarcerated. 

And in spite of new horrors being revealed almost every day, conditions in these camps worsen, no perpetrators have been held accountable and the people of color being tortured in them have not been released. 

On July 20, local and national organizations will come together in Lawton, Oklahoma, to demand the closure of Fort Sill and all concentration camps that ICE and CBP have built across the country.

WHAT: #CloseTheCamps Escalation 

WHEN: Saturday, July 20th from 11 AM – 2 PM CT 

WHERE: 2999 NW Sheridan Road, Lawton, OK

MORE INFO: closethecamps.us

Below are four reasons why the concentration camps must be shutdown, Congress must hold ICE and CBP accountable and defund the deportation force.

1. Concentration Camps Are Inhumane

In south Texas, a team of doctors, lawyers and advocates were able to interview children at three concentration camps. According to CNN the conditions at the camps include: 

Children held up to 26 days in detention – [Clara] Long [with Human Rights Watch] said she spoke with children who’d been held at the facility for nearly a month. “A lot of the kids had been held for 21 days,” she said. This would be a violation of a court settlement that says children can be held in immigrant detention for a maximum of 20 days.

Children taking care of children – “I did talk to kids who were taking care of very tender age children themselves. There doesn’t appear to be child care there,” Long said, describing the Clint facility. “They’re left to fend for themselves. Older kids are taking care of the babies.”

Shortage of beds – “The kids said they were being held in rooms with windows toward the interior, but no windows to look out,” Long said. “In some rooms, there are beds, but not enough for all the kids. Many are sleeping on the floor, some with mattresses, some without.”

Inadequate clothing – [South Texas attorney Toby] Gialluca said she saw children “clad only in a diaper and a tiny T-shirt or a filthy onesie.” “They didn’t have socks or shoes, nowhere near appropriate for the conditions that they were in,” she said.

2. Concentration Camps Will Never Provide Necessary Care

The for-profit Aurora concentration camp, run by the GEO Group corporation, is known for its negligence concerning peoples’ healthcare. In May 2019, Westword reported on ICE’s two-week mishandling of Kamyar Samimi’s opioid withdrawl which led to attempted suicide and his eventual death from gastrointestinal bleeding:

“It seems to me pretty clear that they had no idea what to do with someone with methadone dependency,” says Liz Jordan, an attorney who advocates on behalf of detainees through the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center.

“They displayed a real skepticism towards him and what he was telling them,” Jordan says. “We see that quite a bit in lots of different facilities. Staff are constantly accusing people of faking it and show very little empathy and very little understanding.”

Jordan has reviewed over two dozen of these types of investigatory reports and says she has never seen such a prolonged demise. “It was over two weeks, not a couple of hours. This was someone who was having a slow-rolling medical emergency, and they had no idea how to deal with it.”

Jordan isn’t optimistic that ICE or GEO Group will change any policies following Samimi’s death. “Unfortunately, this is not the first death in ICE custody, and it won’t be the last. So far, we’ve seen no steps taken to make changes. I can’t think of any death review that resulted in a bunch of changes.”

Earlier in March 2019, Westword similarly reported on the experience of René Lima-Marín, who fractured multiple bones in his face after slipping. He was denied surgery by a doctor employed by the GEO Group:

When he finally was transported to UCHealth [University of Colorado Hospital], doctors diagnosed him with multiple facial fractures and said that he should return in a week or two for a follow-up examination and treatment, including surgery, or he risked permanent damage.

“I received absolutely no care for something that happened in their custody, in their facility, even though the doctor and specialist specifically said I needed to come back to the hospital for surgery,” says Lima-Marín.

3. Concentration Camps Make Big Corporations Richer With Your Money

In the outrage over the mere existence of concentration camps in 2019, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that our taxes are funding them. It’s even easier to be in the dark about the companies that are profiting off human suffering. According to GQ:

An unnamed official at the Department of Health and Human Services told NBC News that housing costs $775 per child per day.

Like the prison industry for the U.S. criminal justice system, private companies can make a lot of money in the immigrant-detention business. Private-prison firm Geo Group has reportedly already made $500 million from migrant detention centers since Trump’s “zero tolerance policy” began, as reported by the Miami New Times.

Southwest Key Programs, a nonprofit that set up a boys’ shelter in the husk of an old Walmart, reportedly netted $955 million in federal contracts between 2015 and 2018, according to The New York Times. A network of nonprofit groups, BCFS, reportedly received $179 million in the same time period. BCFS is the same contractor that held migrant kids in parked vans for 39 hours earlier this year, as ICE slowly did the paperwork to reunite the children with their families.

As the Texas Tribune reports, since the filthy conditions at child detention centers went public, people in Texas have been collecting donations of diapers, soap, and toothbrushes. So far, Customs and Border Protection has refused to accept the donations.

4. Concentration Camps = Sexual Abuse

In mid-2018, nearly 2 years after filing a Freedom of Information Act request for data on sexual abuse, the DHS Office of Inspector General responded to The Intercept with data on 1224 complaints between 2010-2017.

59% of the complaints identified an officer or contractor as the perpetrator. The analysis continues:

 “Sexual abuse is an underreported crime everywhere, but it is especially so in detention, and exceptionally so in immigration detention,” said Jesse Lerner-Kinglake of Just Detention International, a group that works to end sexual violence in all detention facilities. “On top of feelings of shame and the victim-blaming that all survivors face, detainees who are sexually abused by staff are faced with the horrifying prospect of having to report the assault to their rapist’s colleagues and friends.”

“Even those who are raped by another detainee face a high risk of retaliation if they make a report,” he added. “Immigration detainees must also deal with language barriers and the fear of retaliatory deportation.”

As recent as this month, Rene Lopez, a gender-nonconforming asylum seeker, was met with countless obstacles when reporting her sexual assault by another detainee. According to Rewire.News:

The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) is the primary apparatus intended to protect detained immigrants from sexual abuse.

Overseen by the U.S. Department of Justice, PREA rolled out in prisons in 2003. But the Department of Homeland Security did not adopt PREA for immigrant detention centers until 2014, and ICE didn’t conduct its first PREA audit until 2017. A bulk of the privately run detention centers in the United States do not appear to have been audited yet.

When Lopez told her medical provider at Yuba County Jail that she had been raped, the report should have immediately triggered both a PREA investigation and a criminal investigation. But it doesn’t seem that’s what happened. 

…A medical provider noted on May 7 that there was a “possible PREA incident” and that Lopez utilized the facility’s language line to fill out PREA forms.

On May 13, an official with the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office told Wiese they weren’t launching a criminal investigation into Lopez’s case because Lopez never told her medical provider that she had been raped. On May 15, officials told Lopez “the case was closed” and that they “can’t raise charges because the person who raped her was deported,” according to her attorney.

Check out thedeportationforce.com for more stories and our report on the truth about ICE and CBP.

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