On the Concentration Camps at the Border

Border concentration camps
Border concentration camps

Countless firsthand accounts of CBP and ICE’s cruel and inhumane treatment of immigrants have surfaced ever since the Tr*mp administration established (by White House senior policy advisor Stephen Miller) and enforced (by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions) their Zero Tolerance policy last year, which effectively separated thousands of immigrant children from their parents. When I participated in the Keeping Families Together march last summer, I was livid about all of the innocent families separated and locked up at the border. The brutal stories were plentiful and common– blameless immigrant parents fleeing from their home countries to America where they seek asylum and are instead forced into barbaric concentration camps where they are packed by the hundreds into freezing cages meant for a dozen or kept outside in the sweltering heat with nothing more than a foil blanket to protect them from environmental factors. Most of the people are given access to only one or two restrooms with no soap or toilet paper for hundreds of people and CBP agents even chastised immigrant women by telling them to drink water out of the toilets if they’re thirsty. These concentration camps have always been just that, but have increasingly become more malicious as children and parents keep dying while in Customs and Border Patrol custody.

According to the ACLU, at least seven children have died after being detained by CBP since the policy took effect. A 17-year-old boy in one of the concentration camps talked about the torture he’s faced, saying, “At Ursula, we have not been able to shower. The toilet is out in the open in the cage, there is no door for any privacy. There is water but no soap to wash our hands. There are no paper towels to dry our hands. We have not been given a toothbrush or toothpaste to brush our teeth.” The Tr*mp administration has repeatedly violated the Flores Agreement, which is national policy that sets standards relating to the treatment of and care for immigrant children in detention facilities. The National Conference of State Legislatures features information about the Agreement born out of 1987’s Flores v. Reno as the website reads, “The Flores settlement requires that minors in INS custody must be housed in facilities that meet certain standards, including state standards for housing and care of dependent children.” Based on the Flores Agreement and multiple testimonies from children currently held in these concentration camps, the Tr*mp administration and CBP are in numerous violation of these lawful standards. A Justice Department attorney recently argued in court that children are not actually entitled to specific care and safety, stating that they don’t need toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, or blankets while in custody, much to the circuit court judges’ horror. Another 17-year-old boy commented on his time in the camps, claiming, “I am in a room with dozens of other boys. Some have been as young as 3 or 4-years-old. Some cry. Right now, there is a 12-year-old who cries a lot. Others try to comfort him. One of the officers makes fun of those who cry.” Innocent children in these camps are being tortured by CBP guards and the “president’s” administration that has created this abuse.

Recently, a Facebook group of current and former Customs and Border Patrol agents was brought to light due to heinous racist, sexist, and xenophobic comments and memes about immigrants and Latinx members of Congress. There are currently 20,000 CBP agents and 9,500 are members of the Facebook group, which means that nearly HALF of these monsters in charge of innocent immigrants have celebrated migrant deaths or abuse and threatened to assault women members of Congress including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez visiting the camps. A screenshot of one of the posts showed a vulgar depiction of Ocasio-Cortez engaging in oral sex with an incarcerated immigrant, among other disgusting visuals. One of the members posted a story about a 16-year-old child who died in custody, and many of the other members cracked jokes about the death, replying with responses such as “Oh well” and “If he dies, he dies.” Unsurprisingly since 2004, 97 people have been killed or died at the hands of CBP agents. Claudia Gómez González’s murder was one of the more well-known stories as she was unarmed when a CBP agent shot and killed her last May. Last year in another case, CBP agent Matthew Bowen was charged with running over a Guatemalan immigrant with his pickup truck after hurling racist slurs at the man. After federal investigators searched Bowen’s phone, they found countless texts between him and other agents with some reading “PLEASE let us take the gloves off trump!…Disgusting subhuman shit unworthy of being kindling for a fire” and “Did you gas his corpse or just use regular peanut oil while tazing?? For a frying effect…G**ts are best made crispy with an olive oil from their native pais.”

It’s impossible to read these firsthand accounts of abuse by CBP agents in the concentration camps and not be livid that this torture is allowed to continue. I often find myself struggling to focus on daily tasks because I remember the parents and children who are slowly dying after trying to find a better life, not knowing what would be done to them in America. When the news is too overwhelming, it’s important to not give up and become apathetic toward this brutality. If you want to do something to help all of the innocent people locked up, please donate to RAICES who uses the proceeds to pay people’s bonds and release them from US CBP custody. Please also contact your Congresspeople and urge them to visit these concentration camps and see for their own eyes what is being done to all of the people at the border. Instead of witnessing injustice and going about our days, let’s act on our rage and fight for all of our immigrant siblings.