U.S. Opens New Concentration Camp for Immigrants on Texas-Mexico Border

December 22, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


On December 14, Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security in the Obama administration, travelled to Dilley, Texas, to announce the opening of a new detention center for immigrants, primarily immigrant women and children. This new, privately run jail will immediately begin taking in prisoners and will reach its intended capacity of 2,400 prisoners by May 2015.

The new prison is opening shortly after a major change in immigration policy declared in an executive order by Obama last month. Obama’s order focused on the promise of temporary relief from deportation for some immigrants, and an escalation of harshly repressive measures along the border. (See “Obama’s Immigration Moves—and the Need for Increased Resistance” for a fuller analysis of Obama’s measures towards immigrants and the intense conflicts in the ruling class.)

August 2, 2014: Immigrants’ rights protest in Washington, DC

August 2, 2014: Immigrants’ rights protest in Washington, DC (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

The U.S. government gave its new children’s prison the innocuous-sounding name “South Texas Family Residential Center.” Articles in the mainstream media invariably describe its “medical care and counselors, trailer classrooms, library and email access, and a basketball court and playgrounds...”—as if the federal government contracted the infamous CCA (Corrections Corporation of America, which should more accurately be known as the Concentration Camps of Amerikkka), to build a summer camp or recreation center for poor kids. But a lawyer who has struggled to represent immigrant families held in Artesia, New Mexico, and other locations spoke to the reality of the Dilley prison: “I’m at a loss for words to imagine what Dilley will look like with so many 6-year-olds detained behind razor wire.”

Dilley is a desolate, harsh, and remote town northeast of Laredo. It is well removed from potential legal support for the immigrant detainees in Austin, San Antonio, and other Texas cities. The new prison camp is on land squeezed between a state prison unit and a so-called “man camp”—temporary barracks for hundreds of workers fracking oil and natural gas.

Other prisons for immigrant families have a well-documented history of abuse, rape, and dehumanizing conditions, including harsh abuse of children. In 2009, a CCA facility for immigrant children in Hutto, Texas, was shut down after prolonged protests against its stark, punishing conditions and accusations of vicious, ongoing sexual abuse. Another prison for immigrant women and children, in Karnes City, Texas, is facing a lawsuit charging repeated sexual harassment of women and alleging that sexual abuse, extortion, and harassment by guards is continual. Women held there report that they are constantly exhausted because they have to carry their infant children all the time—no crawling or scampering is allowed.

The Dilley prison camp is a cornerstone of the Obama policy towards repressing immigrants and controlling the border with massive militarization. It will provide the means for expediting the deportation of captured immigrants—what one official cynically called “one-stop shopping.” Immigrant families will be caged, run through a cursory and sham legal proceeding, and deported from the same facility in a few weeks.

One key aim of the aggressive moves on immigration Obama began last month has been to promote divisions among immigrants—by promising some temporary reprieve from deportation for those who qualify under government criteria to “come out of the shadows,” and even harsher repression and criminalization for those who don’t qualify. Those in the second category include people who have been in the U.S. for years and people still trying to enter el norte because of the devastation the U.S. has wreaked upon their homelands.

Jeh Johnson made this clear in his statements at Dilley when he said: “Our new policies... draw a sharp distinction between past and future. Those who came here illegally in the past, have been here for years, have committed no serious crimes, and have become integrated members of American life, are not priorities for removal. But, all those who came here illegally after January 1, 2014, in other words, beginning of this year, are now priorities for removal to their home countries. This must be clear going forward: Our borders are not open to illegal migration.” The New York Times reported that Johnson, “Standing on a dirt road lined with cabins in a barren compound enclosed by fencing... delivered a blunt message to families without legal papers considering a trip to the United States: ‘It will now be more likely that you will be detained and sent back.’”

Obama’s immigration speech, and now the opening of the family prison in Dilley, mark a significant escalation in the government’s efforts to drive immigrants “out of the shadows,” repress and control them, escalate and speed up deportations, and pile even more military and police equipment and forces into an already saturated U.S.-Mexico border. They also reveal how leading representatives of the system of U.S. capitalism-imperialism both depend on intensified exploitation of immigrants and fear their potential to be an essential part of struggles against this system.

All attacks on immigrants must be resisted by all sections of the people—and it is crucial that this resistance step up in the months ahead.

Volunteers Needed... for revcom.us and Revolution

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.