Following a months-long surge of migrant apprehensions on the U.S.-Mexico border and reports of squalid conditions at migrant detention facilities, Jewish and Latinx human rights organizations like Never Again Action and Movimiento Cosecha are pressuring government officials and presidential candidates to meet a list of demands including the closure of what they call “concentration camps.”
On Wednesday, July 10, the House Oversight Committee heard the testimony of Yazmin Juarez, who was held in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Dilley, Texas for nearly three weeks with her 19-month-old daughter, Mariee. During their stay at the facility, her daughter grew increasingly ill and died shortly after they were released, prompting Juarez to file a wrongful death claim against the U.S. government.
“A nurse examined Mariee when we arrived and found her healthy,” Juarez said. “ Within a week Mariee got sick…I brought her to the clinic where I waited in line with many other people in a gymnasium to get medical care. [The physician’s assistant] said she has a respiratory infection and prescribed Tylenol and honey for her cough.”
Juarez said there were many other sick children in the facility and described being repeatedly turned away from the clinic as her daughter’s condition worsened.
In the instances where she was admitted into the clinic, Juarez said the treatment offered was insufficient. She said at one point her daughter was prescribed Vicks Vaporub which she later realized after doing research is not meant for children under two years of age as it can complicate respiratory problems.
“We had to go back and be turned away without receiving [medical] help and that to me seems like the most negligent thing,” Juarez said. “What’s necessary is greater attention and supervision to the health of children.”
On the same day Juarez gave her testimony, Movimiento Cosecha activists staged a sit-in at the Philadelphia campaign headquarters of Joe Biden, the former vice president and 2020 presidential candidate. The group organized the demonstration to ask an apology of Biden for the 3 million undocumented immigrants who were deported under the Obama administration and to demand that on day one as president he end all detention and deportation.
“Basically what we’re saying is the crisis that we’re seeing now under Trump didn’t start with Trump,” Movimiento Cosecha organizer Vera Parra told The Globe Post. “The public is really witnessing the full scope of the atrocities, but actually the scope of the solution needs to be bigger.”
Today, undocumented immigrants whose loved ones were deported under Obama have occupied @JoeBiden's campaign office in Philadelphia, demanding an apology.
— Movimiento Cosecha (@CosechaMovement) July 10, 2019
Jewish groups like Never Again Action (NAA) are also organizing demonstrations against the treatment of migrants at border detention facilities, even going so far as to call them concentration camps. On Monday, June 8, roughly 500 NAA activists marched to the ICE field office in Chicago, Illinois according to NAA organizer Daniel Epstein.
They prayed for the children who have died in the custody of federal agencies before moving to the offices of Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth to pressure them to support humane immigration policy which would include closing the camps as well as abolishing ICE and Customs and Border Protection.
ATTENTION CHICAGO: There will be a #JewsAgainstICE & allies action tomorrow, Monday, at 4pm! #NeverAgainMeans doing what it takes to stop business as usual for ICE and their enablers. Never again for anyone.
— ✡️ Never Again Action ✡️ (@NeverAgainActn) July 8, 2019
“It was really powerful and amazing to see something that was cooked up in our heads via video chat for only a few days become a real thing,” Epstein told The Globe Post.
“It was really inspiring just to see people who aren’t necessarily protesting all the time and have felt called to go to the streets and do something that’s a little unusual or uncomfortable for them because they feel that ‘never again’ is now.”
While some other Jewish organizations have been critical of the comparison to concentration camps, Epstein feels that the analogy is “ringing true.” He described the detention centers as a “mass atrocity” and called it the “systemic dehumanization” of a group of people.
“We feel like we’ve seen this before,” Epstein said. “When you grow up Jewish, you hear ‘never again’ all the time and stories of the holocaust; for many of us, even family stories … Saying Kaddish outside the ICE office and singing in the Mi Sheberach outside of the federal building, I don’t think that I’ve ever felt more Jewish than in those two moments.”
For those interested in getting involved with Never Again Action, Epstein said the Never Again Action Facebook page is the best resource.