Prison camps for immigrant families

Some folks on the list today criticized my choice of words in calling out the Trump administration’s plan to violate the Flores settlement agreement and to hold families and children in long-term detention. See:

Trump administration to circumvent court limits on detention of child migrants

This move will definitely spur more investment and construction of long-term detention facilities–much of it already underway in the border region. In a serious plug for Mark Dow’s excellent 2005 book, American GulagI advocate for the hashtag #Americangulag. I do think it is reasonable to call these new and expanded immigration detention facilities internment camps, or even concentration camps.

A list member wrote in response:

“I think we need to come up with a new name as internment camp, concentration camp and gulag all invoke other history, motivation and circumstance. To me it needs to be something that encapsulates the fact that we’ve made migrants into a commodity for corporate profit. Also something that belies the fact that once profit is part of the equation the impetus to solve our border issues (whatever solve might mean) is diminished or removed entirely. Just like the border security industrial complex, once you create an economy, it becomes very hard to dismantle it.”

These are excellent points, but I am invoking the other history on purpose in this case as I think the parallels are real. For one thing, the detention center complexes in the border region have been called “camps” for many years by both immigrants detained there, guards who work there, judges in immigration courts, and lawyers for immigrants and for the government.  I have always thought it odd, but it is the custom.  Conversations like: “Where is your client?”  “At the camp…”  Or, I spent all day at the camp interviewing asylum seekers…”  etc. I think the terms internment and/or concentration camps are even more apt now in light of this planned expansion of family detention.
This practice of long-term, indefinite detention for immigrants and refugees parallels in many ways what was done to Japanese Americans, to Jews, to Soviet citizens and millions more people before, during and after WWII. I believe that many of the camps in Europe also began with profit as a major driver, to take advantage of slave labor performed by the people imprisoned, before they were murdered. See this recent article on an artifact of that terrible history: https://www.thelocal.de/20170222/stolen-work-will-set-you-free-gate-returned-to-dachau   The slogan, ARBEIT MACHT FREI, was suspended in iron over several work camps and death camps in Nazi-occupied Europe.  See also the book One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps, by Andrea Pitzer.
I think that immigrant detention facilities (those in existence now, those under construction, and those being planned) are an important piece of the border security industrial complex and that’s another good term for this phenomenon. But the treatment of the people inside these immigration prisons comes from a long tradition of criminalization, isolation, and torment of “the other…”
I first visited immigrants and asylum seekers in an immigration prison in Oakdale, Louisiana back in 1986. It was a brand-new compound in a clearing in a Louisiana pine forest, surrounded by razor wire, and staffed mostly by working class family guys in one of the poorest regions of one of the poorest states. Many of the people there were refugees from civil wars in the poorest places in our hemisphere–wars designed and fucked up by the CIA. For much more on the story of Oakdale see: Other People’s Blood: U.S. Immigration Prisons in the Reagan Decadeby Robert S. Kahn.
Louisiana is another place where the immigration detention industry keeps expanding, taking advantage of a bad economy, a rural population in need of jobs, and friendly politics for the private prison industry. See (for example) https://www.ice.gov/detention-facility/lasalle-ice-processing-center   and https://www.splcenter.org/news/2018/08/09/splc-fights-back-against-trump-administrations-attack-immigrants
I now visit people detained in El Paso and Sierra Blanca, Texas and in Otero County, New Mexico in the course of helping with their asylum cases. It is not possible for me to be inside of these places without a profound sense of depression and awareness of the evil committed in service to the state. While it may come across as sloganeering, these places exude the “banality of evil…”
Just one example: I visit a teenager from Guatemala in Otero. He is seeking asylum after surviving beatings and death threats in his rural community. He traveled alone for several months through Mexico, often sleeping on the ground by the side of the road. He only speaks his native indigenous language and has never been to school. He has been detained since the day he crossed the border at the end of December 2017. He has not been able to speak in person to anyone in his own language since that day. To the best of my knowledge, he has only been able to talk to one relative in the U.S. by telephone, and to one interpreter by telephone who was hired by the attorney who represents him. That is the only way we have of learning his story in order to prepare his case for asylum.
While the government is obligated to provide competent interpreters for court proceedings, they are not obligated to help in any other way in terms of legal assistance or interpretation. But so far, the government has not even managed to provide a competent court interpreter for this young man. Rather, they have provided interpreters who speak two different indigenous languages that this young man cannot speak or understand.
I have trouble imagining the level of isolation forced upon this young detainee. Two lawyers have petitioned for his release on bond or humanitarian parole so that he can travel to the place where his one relative in the US lives. All requests for relief have been denied.
And this is only ONE of so many stories that could be told. For a first hand account of what it is like to be interned, see this from Emilio Gutierrez, the Mexican reporter who spent a total of 15 months in the El Paso ICE prison: https://www.cjr.org/first_person/reporter-detained-by-ice.php
I agree (in part) with the list member who pointed our in our email discussion that:
“We are dealing with a different context and I think that, like border security industrial complex, we need to draw connections AND demonstrate how this is a new manifestation. Since we are among the people who are creating these terms, I want something that isn’t easy to dismiss as rhetoric. I feel it’s one of those subtle but important manifestations of language that can work for or against an argument. In my retrospective view, the ‘no one is illegal’ slogan had/has a similar problem because the law and order segment of our society could dismiss it so easily and, more importantly, it doesn’t effectively address our collective culpability in the immigration situation or its history. I agree with the politics but I’m not sure it served our argument. I don’t know that I have a better term right now… Your point about the ‘banality of evil’ is not sloganeering at all. I think that’s the crux of the situation: How do we frame this in a way to compel understanding that what we are doing is inhumane, reprehensible, and irredeemable. Maybe there isn’t a better term, but it seems worth the effort to think about it.”
[I hope the list member will forgive me for quoting these words from our conversation. I really value them.]
I’m not sure there is a simple way to resolve this. Though the contexts are very different (from WWII internment/concentration camps to 21st century immigration prisons), I believe that the banality of evil underlies the current persecution, isolation, imprisonment, and deportation of immigrants and refugees, and the policies become more normalized and entrenched (and thus, more evil) as the border security industrial complex grows and generates greater profits.
And as I noted when I passed on the Washington Post article early this morning, such policy announcements divert attention from the insane and incompetent leader who commissioned these policies. The venality of power and greed in our country continues to expand and corrupt. Absolutely.

Molly Molloy, Las Cruces, NM, September 6, 2018

 

182 murder victims in Juarez during August…about 900 so far in 2018

El Diario reports that the month of August is the most violent so far in 2018 with a total of 182 homicides in the city of Juarez.  The article reports the monthly totals for the year as: Jan 72, Feb 43, March 56, April 65, May 126, June 178, July 177, Aug 182–a total of 898 in the eight months of 2018. 

The Fiscalia states that the sharp increase in homicides beginning in May was the result of an internal fight in the Azteca gang (affiliated with the Juarez cartel and La Linea), now complicated by another war between the Artistas Asesinos and the Mexicles, said to be allied with the Sinaloa cartel. These eight months of 2018 surpass the annual totals for any year since 2012. The report says that 18 women were murdered in August (about 10 percent of the total), as well as seven minors.

In response to criticism that the police are not doing their job, the Fiscalia’s report points to legal issues that require those arrested for crimes to be released until tried and convicted. Thus, 8 out of 10 criminals arrested, even for crimes such as murder, are released pending trial.

The tone of the article is that all of the victims of these crimes are gang members and drug dealers, even though little evidence of their criminality is provided.

The numbers I’ve recorded for previous months differ slightly from those reported in this September 1 article in El Diario. But not by much.  We can say for certain that about 900 people have been killed so far this year in Juarez. If the average of 113 per month continues, the year will end with more than 1,300 victims of homicide.  molly molloy

Juarez 2018
January 76
February 45
March 58
April 65
May 124
June 179
July 177
August 182
TOTAL                                                                        906

Agosto, el más violento del año

S. Castro / M. Vargas /
El Diario | Sábado 01 Septiembre 2018 | 00:01:00 hrs

Ciudad Juárez— Agosto fue el mes más violento en lo que va del 2018 al cerrar ayer con 182 homicidios dolosos, derivados de dos guerras entre pandillas  –‘Aztecas Vieja Guardia’ contra ‘La Línea’, y ‘Doble AA’  contra ‘Mexicles’–, cuyos integrantes han tomado las calles de la ciudad como campo de batalla.

Al cierre de este mes, el 2018 se convirtió en el más sangriento de los últimos siete años al llegar a la cantidad de 898 homicidios contando los ocurridos de enero a agosto.

Estadísticas de la Fiscalía General del Estado (FGE) señalan que en estos ocho meses se superó –por 109– la cifra de 789 asesinatos cometidos de enero a diciembre del 2012.

Toman pandillas las calles como campo de batalla

El reporte señala que en el 2013 se cometieron 514 homicidios, en el 2014 fueron 438, en el 2015 fueron 311, en el 2016 fueron 546 y en el 2017 fueron 772, dentro de una racha violenta que desde el pasado mes de junio superó los récords de hace siete años, de acuerdo con cifras de la Fiscalía Zona Norte.

Un análisis de la Fiscalía General del Estado (FGE) y la Secretaría de Seguridad Pública Municipal (SSPM) señala que los integrantes de la Doble AA (Artistas Asesinos) y los Mexicles formaban parte en esta localidad del Cártel de Sinaloa y tienen su presencia en la zona oriente de la ciudad, donde se han declarado la guerra.

Pandillas fraccionadas

En tanto que desde mayo pasado las pandillas ‘Barrio Azteca’ y ‘La Línea’, que funcionaban como brazo armado del Cártel de Juárez, también se dividieron y entraron en una guerra sin cuartel, según informes proporcionados por la FGE.

El mes que acaba de concluir fue escenario de ejecuciones múltiples, encobijados, y homicidios en horas de entrada y salida de escuelas primarias; la mayoría de las muertes fueron con arma de fuego, entre ellas las de 18 mujeres y siete menores de edad, de acuerdo con reportes de la Fiscalía.

La mayoría de las víctimas, al igual que los 23 presuntos homicidas capturados en agosto por la Policía municipal, tienen entre tres y cinco ingresos a la cárcel por robo, narcomenudeo y daños, entre otros delitos, aseguró Ricardo Realivázquez, secretario de Seguridad Pública Municipal.

La dependencia ministerial informó que en el mes pasado 124 homicidios fueron con arma de fuego, 11 con arma blanca, cinco a golpes. Hubo dos decapitados, dos incinerados y cuatro cuerpos fueron encontrados en cajuelas o en tambos de basura.

El reporte dado a conocer por Julio Castañeda, vocero de la Fiscalía, dice que 11 de las personas asesinadas fueron envueltas en cobijas, una persona más fue mutilada, otro atropellado intencionalmente y se hallaron cinco cuerpos en estado de descomposición en diferentes eventos.

El día 3 de agosto fueron encontrados los cuerpos de 11 personas en un domicilio de la colonia Praderas de los Oasis, donde todas las víctimas murieron asfixiadas. La Policía municipal resolvió el crimen a los pocos días y se conoció que se trató de una venganza orquestada por el líder de una pandilla a quien le habían asesinado a su hijo.

El secretario de Seguridad Pública aceptó que hay una percepción social en el sentido de que las autoridades no hacen su trabajo.

Realivázquez refutó esa hipótesis y dijo que son las actuales leyes las que no permiten contener la violencia al facilitar la salida de la cárcel a los delincuentes. “Salen a matar, o a que los maten”, expuso.

Hizo alusión a que cada mes hay importantes decomisos de armas y droga y detenidos por homicidios e intentos de ejecución, pero existe una puerta giratoria. “La Policía sólo ejecuta la ley, pero no la escribimos nosotros”, dijo el mando.

El fiscal Jorge Nava insistió que las ejecuciones se están generando en el marco de una disputa por pandillas que se encuentran divididas.

La teoría es que esa fractura interna en la pandilla Los Aztecas arreció desde el mes de mayo, cuando se registraron 126 homicidios. Junio le siguió con 178 asesinatos al igual que julio, con otros 177, en tanto agosto cerró ayer con 182.

Los meses previos tuvieron el siguiente comportamiento de homicidios dolosos: enero, 72, febrero 43; marzo, 56 y abri l, 65, dice el reporte de Fiscalía.

Liberan a 8 de cada 10

En junio del 2016 entró en vigor el Nuevo Sistema de Justicia Penal Acusatorio en el Estado de Chihuahua, un nuevo modelo aplicado en toda la nación para sancionar los delitos sin la necesidad de mantener a los delincuentes en la cárcel mientras se investiga su acusación.

Entre otras cosas legisladores determinaron que no ameritan prisión preventiva los delitos como el homicidio imprudencial, portación ilegal de arma de fuego, robo, robo de auto, narcomenudeo, daños, lesiones, violencia familiar y hasta el abuso sexual (salvo en menores).

La cárcel se aplica hasta en tanto un juez resuelva por medio de sentencia la culpabilidad probada de quien cometió el delito, pero en los casos antes mencionados el detenido lleva su proceso en libertad. El juicio puede llevar hasta dos años, según el código actual.

Desde que esas leyes entraron en vigor ocho de cada 10 detenidos en la Fiscalía son liberados en 48 horas, dijo José Luis Contreras Cruz, coordinador de la Unidad de Personas Detenidas en la dependencia.

Robos, daños y lesiones, así como el narcomenudeo, son los delitos que más se cometen en esta ciudad, y apegadas al sistema de justicia vigente, las personas detenidas son procesadas en libertad, señaló. (S. Castro / M. Vargas / El Diario)

mvargas@redaccion.diario.com.mx