Monday, August 20, 2018

Carrying On With Our Lives As The Government Fills Concentration Camps


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As we go through our daily lives, our government is carrying out an operatiothat’s comparable to the Japanese internment camps from World War II and the early persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany. It’s built off of the abuses of immigrants and reactionary anti-immigrant policies that happened under Obama and other past presidents, and it’s being done after the precedents of segregation, slavery, and the genocide of Native Americans.


Right after Trump and his cabinet came into office last year, immigration officers became empowered to act more aggressively against their targets. Restrictions on who ICE could go after were removed, with ICE now able to go after everyone living in the U.S. who isn’t documented. Following along with Steve Bannon’s famous statement about how legal immigration is the real “problem,” the White House has since begun revoking citizenship for thousands of naturalized immigrants.
All throughout this time, behavior from ICE has been escalating to abnormal and openly hostile aggressions, with people being targeted while engaging in routine immigration check-ins, detained for minor immigration violations that happened decades ago, and forced to give up all their belongings at ICE’s orders.
In March of this year, the Trump White House started issuing a weekly list of crimes allegedly committed by illegal immigrants. This action was clearly meant to inflate the threat of crime from undocumented people, as evidenced by how these lists have included those who’ve only been charged with crimes. In April, the White House used this and the other precedents it had created to enact the “zero tolerance” border policy, which changed the act of illegally crossing the border from a misdemeanor to a crime.

This law-created by known racist Stephen Miller-has allowed for all parents who illegally come across the border to be separated from their children. Trump’s order in June to supposedly end the separation of families was vague and inadequate, and it was no doubt only a temporary retreat in the White House’s continuing war on immigrants. Given that the officials behind this project have shown that their goal is to target certain ethnic groups, it’s fair to call theimmigrant detention centers concentration camps.
As operations are still underway to massively expand these centers, and as hundreds of children remain separated from their parents, we’re being made to accept all of this as normal. The Trump White House is pushing through these policies in the same way that authoritarian takeovers are usually carried out, with changes being gradually made so that the public won’t notice until it’s too late. And the political establishment doesn’t care about stopping it, as evidenced by the complicity of the Democratic Party in this campaign and by the recent media blackout of the Trump White House’s ongoing attacks on the undocumented.
So most people are simply going on with their lives while this transformation happens. Sometimes, though, you see a news story about people in your community who are being targeted; last month, a story came out about Claudia Portillo, a mother in my Northern California hometown who was recently detained by the border police without cause for seven months while her four daughters struggled to keep their lives together. Portillo says that she had a mental breakdown while she was in the center, with the isolation from her children and the stress of her environment taking a severe emotional toll.
This disturbed me, but it was easy to return to my daily life and not take many
particular actions in the fight for immigration justice. Everyone always has things going on in their own lives that need attention, especially in the current time of an ongoing economic recession. This is why most others have also opted for having little or no involvement with the issue.
Meanwhile, a fascist movement is underway in America. Portillo’s daughters say that other high school kids have directed hate comments towards them during their mother’s detention-one example of how racial bullying by children has been increasing since the 2016 election. Hate crimes have also gone up in the last two years, while membership for hate groups has increased by around five percent at the same time. Many of Trump’s supporters seem to see themselves as the unofficial militant enforcers for the White House’s agenda, with pro-Trump militia groups repeatedly carrying out armed demonstrations and threatening violence if Trump is impeached.
While Trump’s mainstream opponents fixate on Russia and engage with the constant Twitter distractions the president puts out, ominous and very real changes are being made to the country. The Trump White House has declined to put white supremacist groups on the terrorist watch list, defunded tools for fighting those groups, jailed a black activist without cause under the new FBI label of “black identity extremist,” and gotten the Supreme Court to approve a partial version of its Muslim-directed travel ban.
Additionally, the Trump administration’s Jeff Sessions has escalated the drug war by eliminating the forensic sciences department, and by officially urging prosecutors to execute marijuana dealers. Sessions has also undone restrictions on having police seize property from people who’ve been accused of crimes.
These attacks on civil liberties have been fortified by an increased militarization of society, with Trump having allowed more army equipment to go towards local police departments last year and recently increased the annual military budget to $717 billion. All of this, along with the president’s repeated public encouragements for the police to use more violence, show how Trump and his aides plan to respond to popular resistance as the next years go by.
I haven’t put together this screed so that I can make anyone feel bad for not having always been politically active. Taking time away from the brutal realities of the world is important for people’s happiness, so it’s understandable that many aren’t focusing on those realities. But when people are confronted with the injustices that go on outside their personal lives, they often feel the need to take action. And that’s the kind of reaction I’m hoping to provoke from whoever reads this.