Never Again - by David Pratt

Never Again - by David Pratt

Francisco Erwin Galicia, a U.S. citizen born in Dallas, displayed a valid Texas state I.D. and his Social Security card when he and his brother were stopped by Customs and Border Protection agents. He also had a pocket-sized version of his birth certificate demonstrating his U.S. citizenship with him. When he was taken into custody anyway, his attorney came to the camp he was being detained at and presented his full-sized original birth certificate. CBP said that they did not believe it and refused to release him. His mother had taken out a tourist visa from Mexico in his name when he was younger, and so CBP, and the ICE agents they transferred custody to, decided that all of his other evidence must therefore be fake.

Galicia lost over twenty pounds in the four weeks he was trapped in an ICE center. When he was finally released, he related that he had been placed with at least 60 other men in a space designed to hold perhaps a dozen. Some were sick, but CBP had told them that if they saw a doctor they would reset the time they had spent detained. Tick bites were rampant. People asked for phone calls and were denied, being told they “had no rights.” Despite his status as an American citizen, Galicia was close to signing a deportation agreement and being shipped to a country he had never seen simply to escape the conditions of the ICE facility

The concentration camp:

“A place where large numbers of people, especially political prisoners or members of persecuted minorities, are deliberately imprisoned in a relatively small area with inadequate facilities, sometimes to provide forced labor or to await mass execution.” People can argue over the appropriateness of the term all they want, but the simple facts bear out that by the literal definition of “concentration camp,” this is what has been established upon our southern border. Men are held in subhuman conditions, women are separated from their children, children are locked in cages. Sanitation and medical care are lacking or absent. The stories of the cruelty and apathy of the guards just doing their jobs are common knowledge. Francisco Galicia was not the only American citizen to be detained, but so far no white people of any immigration status have been accused, falsely or otherwise, of being in the country illegally by ICE, so the “persecuted minorities” qualification has absolutely been met. 

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Some people argue that using the term concentration camp is a loaded term designed to engender emotion. However, when the actual operation of the camps in question fit the literal definition, what sense is there in using a weaker term? Others have argued that to invoke the image of concentration camp disrespects the suffering that victims of the Holocaust went through, but Jews are protesting ICE nationwide and going to prison for it, while rallying behind the slogan of “never again.” 

There is no debate as to whether or not these are concentration camps that the government is running on our border. The question is what narrative do you have to spin to make yourself okay with that.

In the 1930s, the actions of the German government were widely publicized. Neighbors would report neighbors for “looking Jewish,” and the secret police would raid neighborhoods where German citizens would be expected to turn over anyone suspected of the crime of being Jewish. The Jews, the slavs, the Roma, homosexuals, Socialists, Communists, whether or not they were German didn’t matter as long as they fell into one of these groups that the Nazis could claim were keeping the country from being great. The existence and purpose of the camps was not a secret, and they were widely lauded by the German people. Just as it is today, many considered the problem with the criminals, never mind that their “crime” was existing where they suddenly shouldn’t.

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Inherent in that machine that ultimately claimed fifteen million innocent lives was the willingness of the public to accept and condone the actions of the government, to hear the stories of those who were released and decide that they either did not believe the firsthand accounts or that those suffering deserved it. 

There is little difference between the beginnings of these American concentration camps and those that first appeared in 1933. Francisco Erwin Galicia’s temporary stay merely highlights the next step – when we have tacitly allowed these camps to be created, ignored the conditions within them, and turned away from holding anyone accountable for them, we have accepted that there is no due process for anyone the government feels belongs in these camps. Galicia presented three forms of identification verifying his status as a U.S. citizen but was told that they were fake. If ICE stopped you on the street and asked if you were a citizen, and then told you that they didn’t believe you and sent you to a camp, what would you do? If they denied you a phone call to the outside world? If they said you could either stay in disease-ridden conditions or remove yourself to a country you had never been to? When the right to due process and speedy review is abandoned, who would you even present proof of your citizenship to? 

When you have agreed to the creation of a concentration camp to store society’s undesirables, agreed to remove all protections they might have under the law, what do you do when society says the undesirable one is you?

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