Roundups, Concentration Camps, What Comes Next?
Every American, including native-born whites, should be alarmed about the advancing Trump administration plans to build mass detention facilities, which could fast be turned into concentration camps to hold opponents of Trump policies.
Abundant signs reveal Trump administration planning for mass roundups. News of these plans is out there but easily missed in the endless flurry of stories about Trump White House chaos. This story needs, but has not received, focused attention from our mainstream news media, from the minority party and especially from principled Republicans.
The Trump administration acknowledges planning on mass detention camps designed, initially, to hold 20,000 people.
Much more disturbing is a U.S. Navy memo obtained by Time magazine that outlines plans to build concentration camps to hold 94,000 people in California alone. When Time reporters sought comment the Navy’s top spokesman, Capt. Greg Hicks said, “It would be inappropriate to discuss internal deliberative planning documents.”
The official statements and the memo, whose contents the Navy did not deny, show that the Trump administration is preparing to round up as many people as it suspects because they are not Anglo or African American, but appear to be Latino or Middle Eastern.
Our Constitution is a piece of paper. The liberties of the people depend on office holders acting with respect for it.
This was exactly what Trump promised voters, at least as it applies to people who are in the country without permission or live here with permission but have any record, even an unpaid parking or traffic ticket.
Never mind that the uncoordinated local computer systems for vehicle tickets are riddled with errors or that you carefully kept a copy of the check to pay for your 1989 ticket for riding a bike on the boardwalk after the midmorning biking time ended in, say, Ocean City, N.J. (No, I didn’t get such a ticket, but I know someone who did and still worries they may get arrested by mistake.)
During the campaign, Trump said again and again that he would round up every person. When critics pointed out that perhaps 11 million such people live in America, Trump didn’t back off, he doubled down.
The Trump campaign’s written statement was more cautious, but still chilling: “Illegal aliens apprehended crossing the border must be detained until they are sent home, no more catch-and-release.” Think mass roundups of people Trump regards as enemies can’t happen here? Who would stop it?
Our Constitution is a piece of paper. The liberties of the people depend on office holders acting with respect for it, especially federal judges and Congressional oversight. But at the end of the day, the president is commander-in-chief and the civilian bureaucracy, like all bureaucracies, does as it is told.
Already people who are American citizens or lawful residents are being caught up in raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the shock troops in rounding up suspect immigration violators.
To build popular support for mass detentions, dictators and would-be dictators rally crowds with language designed to dehumanize people –Jews in Nazi Germany, intellectuals in Mao’s China, the Rohingya currently being slaughtered in Myanmar under a government led by a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi.
Trump launched his campaign in 2015 calling Mexicans who enter the United States, legally or not, murderers and rapists.
Trump launched his campaign in 2015 calling Mexicans who enter the United States, legally or not, murderers and rapists. This year he has called some Latino people “animals” and “vermin,” though his defenders insist he meant only to refer to gangsters, not all Latinos. Given Trump’s history, we’re not giving him the benefit of the doubt. For years he insisted he had proof that former President Barack Obama was illegally holding office because he was born in Kenya, a lie that surveys show millions of Americans still believe.
Trump calls journalists “enemies of the people,” another slogan often used to justify rounding up and executing people en masse as well as to discredit inconvenient facts. Just this month ICE agents in Memphis arrested a Latino journalist, Manuel Duran, in what his lawyers say was retaliation for his reporting on policing issues including immigration enforcement.
And who are these brown-skinned people that white Americans are supposed to fear? Are they murderers and rapists and, perhaps, a few of them good people?
More than half the people apprehended at the Mexican border in the first four months of 2018 came with children under age 7, while 23% had children three or younger. Extensive additional details on border arrest statistics are available here. It’s worth your time to look over the numbers to get a sense of reality to counter Trumpian rhetoric.
Most of these people tell immigration officers and judges that they are fleeing gang violence, often after family members have been assassinated or girls forced into sex slavery.
Trump has never been to Honduras. I have. I’ve run into a burning building, survived six riots, exposed spies and foreign agents and hunted down a cold-blooded murderer, so I obviously don’t scare easily.
None of those events scared me the way my travels to Honduras, the most recent in 2015, where gangs shoot people with impunity even if they give up the money in their pockets. Owners of nice homes, not safe behind their iron gates, pay men with shotguns to patrol 24 hours a day and hire servants just to go to the bank and the grocery store.
Why is Honduras such a scary place? The failed but ongoing American war on drugs, which corrupts some of our police, prosecutors and judges. It also corrupts whole countries including Honduras and Guatemala, from which many families seeking asylum come. That our government-trained right-wing death squads, who bragged of their work to my late colleague Laurie Becklund during the Reagan era, only adds to the reasons decent people flee north.
There are two trends that should be noted, not to reassure us that everything will be all right, but that Trump’s incompetence limits the effectiveness of his assaults on the liberties of the people. At least for now.
Under Trump, arrests of people suspected of being in the country without permission and picked up more than 100 miles from America’s borders, are way down. Data from ICE show such arrests are just half what they were five years ago under Obama.
Second, a majority of officers surveyed by Military Times view Trump unfavorably. That matters because if he tries to seize power we may have enough loyal American officers to prevent what happened in Rome, when the Roman Republic, through force, became an empire with one ruler at a time until Rome collapsed. (For an excellent and readable history of this see Mary Beard’s SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome.)
Don’t just assume everything will be all right tomorrow. It might be. But events could also quickly take a very dark and deadly turn so long as Trump holds the reins of our federal government.