Things That Matter

A Week After AOC Compared Detention Centers To Concentration Camps, Jewish Activists Arrested For Protesting ICE

Migrant detention centers have been in the news a lot lately for the inhumane and downright dangerous conditions that migrants are facing inside of them.

From reports of expired food, drinking from toilets, frigid temperatures, solitary confinement – the conditions inside these detention centers are deplorable.

But recently, it seems that there’s been even more news coverage of politicians and activists who are calling out the migrant centers for what they really are: 21st Century concentration camps.

Thirty-six Jewish activists were arrested Sunday as they protested, along with hundreds of others, in front of an ICE immigrant prison in New Jersey.

Credit: @TeenVogue

Some 36 Jewish protesters were arrested on Sunday outside a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in New Jersey as they were protesting the conditions under which undocumented immigrants are being held inside. 

More than a 100 gathered outside the facility under the slogan “Never Again,” calling to abolish ICE and for the closure of migrant detention facilities, which they deemed “concentration camps,” a term that has sparked much controversy after Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez used it last week to describe the centers.

The crowd chanted “Hey hey, ho ho, racist ICE has got to go” and held signs reading “Never again means close the camps.”

The crowd chanted “Hey hey, ho ho, racist ICE has got to go” and held signs reading “Never again means close the camps” and displaying the group’s name, according to video of the event on Twitter.

“As Jews, we cannot sit and watch as ICE terrorizes immigrant families, separating children from their parents and detaining them in deplorable conditions,” read a Facebook post by Never Again Action. “As Jews, we know that #NeverAgainIsNow.”

The group’s name comes from the slogan “Never again,” which has historically been used in relation to Holocaust commemoration. Jewish groups on the left have compared ICE’s treatment of undocumented immigrants to abuses under the Nazis and other totalitarian regimes, while other Jewish groups have said that comparisons of ICE to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust are inappropriate.

Donations have poured in for the Jewish group to help with legal costs associated with the arrests.

Credit: @LexieB2

The protest group, who worked alongside fellow immigrant rights organization Movimiento Cosecha, originally sought $36,000 in funds so they could organize nationwide protests against ICE and to “remind the world that Never Again means Never Again for Anyone.”

Posting an update on their GoFundMe page, Never Again Action said they are continuing to seek donations in order to help cover the legal costs for those arrested at the New Jersey protest and for further action materials.

“A group of young Jews, Rabbis, and people from all over the country disrupted business as usual at the for-profit, privately owned Elizabeth Contract Detention Center in New Jersey. Now we need yours and our community’s support for their legal fees,” the group wrote.

AOC tweeted in support of the protesters, saying that these actions ‘hold enormous power to change our country.’

Credit: @AOC / Twitter

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted in support of the protesters, writing that such actions “hold enormous power to change our country.”

Brad Lander, a Democratic Jewish New York City councilman, also attended the protest.

While this Jewish Latina also came out in full support of the protesters.

Credit: @gabebergado / Twitter

“Elected officials are spending more time arguing over the language used to describe these conditions than addressing the crisis itself,” the group said in a press release before the protest.

“They claim to speak for us Jews, but they don’t. We refuse to allow politicians to use our trauma as a distraction from the mass atrocities being perpetrated by ICE and CBP at the border and across the country,” they added.

And many Jews took to Twitter to defend the comparison between Trump’s migrant prisons and Nazi Germany’s concentration camps.

Credit: @rach_small / Twitter

Conditions in immigrant detention centers across the country have made headlines lately as images of children sleeping on concrete floors with aluminum blanket have caused a national uproar. 

A report released last week by the office of the Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security showed that ICE’s detention conditions are “unsafe and unhealthy” with expired food, segregation practices, failure to provide recreation outside detainee housing units, and moldy bathrooms.

In addition, the report noted that some detainees do not receive “appropriate clothing and hygiene items to ensure they could properly care for themselves.”

READ: Historians And AOC Agree That Detention Centers Look Like Concentration Camps But Conservatives Don’t Want To Hear It

ICE Tried To Celebrate Human Rights Day, Julian Castro Was Not Having It

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ICE Tried To Celebrate Human Rights Day, Julian Castro Was Not Having It

Al Dia News

Human Rights Day commemorates the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. Immigration Customs and Enforcement’s (ICE) official account tweeted the agency was recognizing Human Rights Day by using a photo of multicultural children locking hands.

ICE, who has repeatedly been criticized during the Trump administration for several human rights violations including denying children flu vaccinations, separating families, and detaining migrants in inhumane and overcrowded living conditions often compared to concentration camps, received a huge backlash on Twitter – including a clapback from former HUD secretary Julian Castro.

ICE tweeted about Human Rights Day, and Twitter implodes at the audacity. 

ICE’s tweet to honor Human Rights Day included a link to a press release congratulating themselves for being such great big champions of human rights. 

“The women and men of ICE dedicate themselves every day to protecting the dignity and human rights of people around the world. Through our work investigating perpetrators of genocide, torture, war crimes and other violations of human rights, they are committed to seeking the prosecution and removal of human rights violators seeking refuge here.” Assistant Director for National Security David Shaw said in a press release, unironically. “We will not allow the United States to be a safe haven for those who violate human rights.”

In October, Castro visited a migrant detention center in Mexico to see what the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy really looked like. 

 “A lot of families along the border who are part of this MPP program have been subjected to violence, some have been kidnapped, some have been extorted, some have been treated a lot worse than what they were fleeing from,” Castro told BuzzFeed News

Under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) policy, migrants must wait in Mexican detention centers while their cases are processed in the U.S. 

“I don’t see humanitarian shelter,” Castro said of the detention center. “I see a lot of desperate parents, a lot of desperate children, sick children. I see a polluted river… It’s a disaster. People should not live like this.”

Julian Castro had a few choice words for ICE’s tweet. 

“Delete your account,” was Castro’s simple suggestion to the agency, adding, “we need to break up ICE and build a more humane immigration system.” 

The former HUD secretary advocates for largely redistributing ICE’s duties into other departments. Senator Bernie Sanders is the only candidate that has called for abolishing ICE, according to the Washington Post

“ICE needs to be overhauled,” Castro told The Post. “My immigration policy would transfer the enforcement responsibilities of the agency to other departments such as the DOJ to guarantee higher standards of conduct and more focused prosecutorial discretion — ensuring resources are focused on targeting criminals and national security threats.”

Castro was the first candidate to unveil an immigration plan calling for a complete reformation of our immigration system. He would end migrant detention except in serious cases, create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented families who don’t currently have one, decriminalize illegal border crossings, and establish a Marshall Plan for Central America. 

“I’ve been clear that I’m not going to criminalize desperation. We need to understand that these are human beings. They’re not a criminal record or an invader or an other. They’re human beings that are simply coming — like generations have before — in search of a better life,” Castro told Vox of his plan

Unlike the other candidates, in Castro’s “People First” plan he calls for a complete investigation into the Trump administration’s immigration policies. It states, “there must be a thorough investigation of ICE, Customs and Border Protection, and the Department of  Justice’s role in family separation policies instituted by the Trump administration.”

Critics did not miss the irony of ICE’s tweet.

“Satire is dead when the authoritarian gov’t agency that violently rounds up immigrants and throws them into privatized for-profit concentration camps where parents are separated from their children also pretends to honor Human Rights Day with a stock photo,” reporter Ben Norton tweeted. 

The Interfaith Immigration Coalition released a statement criticizing the agency wherein it calls out several ICE controversies including deporting cancer patients, military veterans, and taking asylum seeker Nebane Abienwi off life support against their family’s wishes. They called ICE’s tweet gaslighting given the agency’s track record. 

“ICE is one of the principal abusers of human rights in the United States,” said Katie Adams, Domestic Policy Advocate with the United Church of Christ and Co-Chair of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition“This is gaslighting in its purest form. December 10th is about holding ICE, and others like them across the globe, accountable for crimes against humanity. Pretending ICE is somehow part of the solution is outrageous.” 

Doctors And Nurses Protested Outside CBP Office Demanding Flu Shots For Migrant Kids, Many Were Arrested

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Doctors And Nurses Protested Outside CBP Office Demanding Flu Shots For Migrant Kids, Many Were Arrested

@WendyFry_ / Twitter

United States Customs and Border Protection would not allow a group of doctors access to provide flu vaccines to children in a San Diego detention center. At least three children, according to the Guardian, have recently died in immigration custody due to the flu. They were ages two, six, and 16. 

Just recently, the death of 16-year-old Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez garnered national attention when ProPublica uncovered surveillance footage that revealed Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials did not appropriately tend to his flu symptoms. 

Groups like Doctors for Camp Closure, Families Belong Together, and Never Again Action participated in a protest and effort to provide children detained by CBP the vaccines. 

“We see this as medical negligence on the part of the US government,” said Dr Bonnie Arzuaga, co-founder of Doctors for Camp Closure, told the Guardian. “People are being held in close confinement and usually are under a lot of physical and emotional stress … and maybe malnourished and may not have access to hygiene supplies. That puts them at risk.”

Physicians were turned away at a Chula Vista border patrol station.

A group of licensed doctors went to the detention center to run a free flu clinic. CBP would not allow them in. The agents said it was not “feasible” to offer any migrants medical assistance.  

“More people will die without the vaccine,” Dr Hannah Janeway, an emergency medicine physician that was turned away told the Guardian. “There’s no doubt. They are being locked in cages in cold weather together, without any vaccination, in a year that is supposed to bring a horrible flu epidemic.”

Janeway also works with asylum seekers in Tijuana and believes the government has a moral obligation to provide vaccinations to children. 

 “Our government, who is creating these conditions and allowing them to persist, is basically saying some people’s lives are worth more than others, and it’s OK for children to die,” Janeway said. 

Doctors have repeatedly been turned down by CBP. 

Doctors have mobilized for over a month in an attempt to allow the US to vaccinate migrants. In November, they made a formal proposal to operate a free pilot clinic. CBP rejected the proposal alleging it is too logistically difficult to set up because of time constraints. 

“[Migrant detainees] should generally not be held for longer than 72 hours,” CBP spokesman Matthew Dyman told the Guardian in an email. “Every effort is made to hold detainees for the minimum amount of time required.”

Dyman asserted that the larger system in place provides adequate medical care to migrants who are in detention centers for the long-term. However, government records prove that both adults and children are often detained for longer than 72 hours, in crowded conditions — sometimes held for weeks without explanation. 

“It has never been a CBP practice to administer vaccines and this not a new policy,” an official statement from CBP said. “Individuals in CBP custody should generally not be held for longer than 72 hours in either CBP hold rooms or holding facilities. As a law enforcement agency, and due to the short-term nature of CBP holding and other logistical challenges, operating a vaccine program is not feasible.”

52 people protest in front of CBP facility demanding to be allowed to provide medical care. 

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, at least 52 people, largely licensed doctors and medical students, marched from Vista Terrace Neighborhood Park to the detention facility demanding to be let in or to let the children out to receive vaccines from a mobile clinic they set up. 

“We have the team here. We have the vaccines. It would not take 72 hours to do,” said Dr. Mario Mendoza, a retired anesthesiologist who was present. “What I can say is we are not leaving here until they let us enter. We are doctors. We are against death and we are for humanity.” 

Mendoza is an immigrant from El Salvador. He fled the dangerous country because his mother was an advocate for teacher’s rights — a noble cause that put her life in danger. 

“My heart hurts a lot for the immigrants that are here, both the adults and the children. I came here undocumented from El Salvador in 1981. We ran for 12 hours through the desert. We survived only by the grace of God and the strength of my mother,” said Mendoza. 

Doctors are arguing that it doesn’t matter how long migrants are detained, they should be entitled to life-saving services. Dr. Arzuaga believes that all CBP has to do is let them in. Others feel the fact that CBP won’t allow them to provide services is a testament of how they have dehumanized migrants altogether. 

“They are having difficulty prioritizing something like this, because they have so far dehumanized people. My question is, why not?” Danielle Deines, a neonatologist at the protest. “If you want to hold people in detention, you can provide people the basic flu vaccine … You’re saying death is acceptable to you, and that you don’t value human life.”