Fascist Regime Moves to Step Up Concentration Camp Detention of Children and Mass Deportation of Immigrants

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On August 21, the Trump/Pence regime announced two vicious anti-immigrant initiatives. One was a new regulation that will (if not overturned by the courts) allow the government to imprison undocumented parents and their children indefinitely, and allow the government to hold children in even more wretched conditions than it does now. The other was Trump's announcement that he is “looking very, very seriously” at ending “birthright citizenship”—which, if he succeeds, would mean any infants born in this country to non-citizen mothers would not be citizens; they would effectively be regarded as “illegals” and therefore upon birth be subject to incarceration and deportation.

Taken together, these measures are intended to take the demonization and persecution of hundreds of thousands, even millions, of immigrants to new depths of inhumanity.

Institutionalized Cruelty

In the 1980s and ’90s large numbers of immigrants from Central America made the perilous journey of up to 3,000 miles from their homelands to the U.S. They were fleeing an inferno of genocidal slaughter inflicted on them by U.S.-sponsored and backed wars. (For more on this, read the revcom.us American Crime series articles on Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador.)

Most of the people not arrested at the border or caught up in raids by la Migra—immigration police—were packed into slums in Los Angeles and other cities. Many were exploited at shit jobs with low pay. Those arrested were put in “detention centers”—more accurately, concentration camps. The New York Times described the conditions at a center in Southern California that sparked a lengthy legal battle to gain decent treatment for detained immigrant children: “A barricade of razor wire surrounded an old motel ... where migrants were locked in overcrowded rooms, children and adults jammed in together for weeks, … [the children were] offered no schooling, no recreation, no doctors, no visits with relatives.”

Now, Trump/Pence regime’s edict would overturn the result of that legal battle—the Flores Agreement—which had set the legal framework for treatment of detained immigrant children for 22 years, and supposedly provided a minimum standard of legal rights and decent treatment for the children (see box).

Even with those supposed protections and guidelines, children and other immigrants have been held in squalid, overcrowded, untended, and unhealthy conditions. Children have routinely been separated from their parents. According to CBS News, at least seven children have died this year in or immediately after leaving Border Patrol and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detention and concentration camps.

Elora Mukherjee, a law professor at Columbia University, described the conditions she found this year at a concentration camp in Clint, Texas, in an interview with The Atlantic magazine. She wrote that what she witnessed was “...appalling. In 12 years representing immigrant children in detention, I have never seen such degradation and inhumanity. Children were dirty, they were scared, and they were hungry.

“An overwhelming number of children who I interviewed had not had an opportunity for a shower or bath since crossing the border [days or weeks earlier]. They were wearing the same clothing that they had crossed the border in. Their clothing was covered in bodily fluids, including urine and breast milk for the teenage moms who are breastfeeding.

“Nearly every child I spoke with said that they were hungry because they’re being given insufficient food. The food at Clint is rationed on trays. Everyone gets an identical tray regardless of if you’re a 1-year-old, or you’re a 17-year-old, or a breastfeeding teenage mother who has higher caloric needs. The same food is served every single day, and none of the children receive any fruit and vegetables or any milk.”

But to the cold-blooded fascists who hold the reins of power in this country today, all this is not enough. Trump is out to overturn Flores. Ending Flores will enable the government to hold families indefinitely and/or deport them quickly. It will give the government a green light to build concentration camps around the country, with little or no regulation of their facilities.

According to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chief Kevin McAleenan, about 475,000 immigrant families have come into the U.S. just in this year, mostly crossing the U.S. border with Mexico. Repudiating the Flores settlement, along with other measures instituted by the DHS, such as “expedited removal,” signal the government’s full intention to carry through with horrific crimes against humanity on a truly massive scale.

This Cannot Stand

The measures and threats announced this week have yet to take effect. After the new DHS regulations are officially filed on August 23, they are scheduled to begin 60 days after that. They will certainly be contested by lawsuits. Changing the law on birthright citizenship would require changing the U.S. Constitution. But the reality is that as horrific as Trump’s threat to deny citizenship to children of immigrant mothers is, the “logic of the logic” driving this white supremacist regime could lead these fascists to extend this proposed measure to other non-white sections of the people (think of Trump’s recent “send them back” rant hurled at congresswomen of color who are citizens).

The attacks spewing from Trump and his fascist thugs are part of an extremely ominous and dangerous escalation. They are already having a chilling impact on millions of immigrants in this country. They embolden and encourage white supremacists and neo-Nazi forces throughout society in their virulent, murderous hatred of immigrants. These moves tear up any pretense of legality and compassion and put in its place increasingly open repression and heartless contempt. They continue to fortify a border already militarized to a surreal degree.

Trump said on August 21 that all these attacks on immigrants are coming “together, like a beautiful puzzle.” The fascists in power are telling us what they intend to do. The question is, what will people, in their thousands and eventually millions,do?

These outrages must be defeated, and met with massive, sustained opposition, now.


The Demonization, Criminalization and Deportations of Immigrants

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Detention Center, Weslaco, Texas, June 11, 2019. Photo: Office of Inspector General, Dept of Homeland Security


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