I strongly urge you to watch this video:
and read this article (“Inside the Former Walmart That Is Now a Shelter for Almost 1,500 Migrant Children” ) all the way through, then call your reps.
My point here: This is not a “concentration camp” by any modern conventional standard (in that “concentration camp” connotes harsh conditions, overcrowding, and general neglect if not outright abuse). Here’s a New York Times description at what they saw at this specific migrant internment center:
Most of the boys are from Central America. Many of them smiled, waved at or shook the hands of the reporters touring the site. They were asked by the reporters and Southwest Key executives, in Spanish, “How are you?”
The constant reply was “Bien, bien,” meaning “OK, OK.” The media was not allowed to interview the children.
Some were leaning back, getting a shampoo at the sinks in the shelter’s barbershop, where a striped lit-up barber’s pole spun outside the door. They lined up in the cafeteria for dinner — chicken, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables. Some played pool, or joined a tai chi session in the rec room. One teenager sat at a cafeteria table with his head bowed and hands clasped, praying silently. Another told the cafeteria worker who served him dinner, “Gracias, Miss.”
Everywhere, some of the shelter’s more than 1,000 employees hovered nearby — they sat at the ends of the cafeteria tables while the boys ate dinner, watched “Moana” with the children in the old loading docks and escorted lines of boys in the hallways.
The vast majority, Southwest Key officials said, crossed the border unaccompanied.
That said, these certainly fit within the broad dictionary denotation of “concentration camp”—in that they are “a camp where persons (such as prisoners of war, political prisoners, or refugees) are detained or confined”. (And we have no idea if other such centers are better, worse, or about the same).
Still, calling these “concentration camps” runs the risk of continuing to erode the general American understanding of the heinous magnitude of suffering endured by the Jews and others interned and enslaved by the Third Reich, or the Americans of Japanese descent imprisoned by the U.S. government, or the countless others who have been confined, reeducated, absorbed, and exterminated by the smooth-grinding wheels of governments.
On top of that, calling these “concentration camps” is a disservice to progress and to these specific children.
That said, saying that “these aren’t concentration camps” is in no way meant to suggest that what’s happening here is good; it’s getting overcrowded, it’s unsustainable, they’re starting to set up tent villages (in Texas, in the summer—lack of rigid shelter and HVAC is a huge drop in livability outside El Paso). This is precariously close to starting the inevitable slide into what we all would recognize as concentration camps.
But, goddamit, right now we are very close to doing the Right Thing™ here: Most of these kids are showing up at the border without parents or guardians; it is right and good to shelter them, feed them, protect them, show them Moana. That’s what a country dedicated to the huddled masses yearning to be free should be doing. With proper action, there is an opportunity here for these centers to level up to being well-run refugee centers.
We should call our reps, and say as much: I want unaccompanied minors to be sheltered and fed. I want those who’ve been abused, or whose home places have been made unlivable by gangs or failed governments, to have access to asylum. Kids who have braved the elements and the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, they’ve got True Grit; I want to know how they can become my neighbors and fellow citizens.🇺🇸