Migrant families seeking asylum in the U.S. kept in camps.

The Trump Administration Is Holding Migrant Children in Former Japanese Internment Camps Because We’ve Learned Nothing From History

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The Trump administration is using a former WWII Japanese internment camp to detain migrant children, in what is the most apt metaphor for their cruel and inhumane child separation policy. Fort Sill, an army base in Oklahoma, will be housing 1,400 children until the children can be reunited with a relative.

The move comes after reported instances of overcrowding, with Fort Sill being used as a “as a temporary emergency influx shelter”. In the first four months of 2019 alone, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has detained about 40,900 children, a 57% increase from 2018. At least seven children have died while in U.S. custody.

The overcrowding and criminal negligence is all thanks to Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy presses criminal charges against anyone illegally crossing the border. As a result, HHS and border patrol have been tasked with detaining an unprecedented amount of immigrants, straining and already weak and inefficient system and placing children and adults in in overcrowded and unsanitary makeshift camps.

The use of Fort Sill as a detainment camp serves as a stark reminder of America’s shameful history, where the government forcibly removed and imprisoned 120,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II. This knee-jerk response to the attack on Pearl Harbor remains one of the most haunting and damning civil rights violations in our country’s history.

In addition, the Trump administration is rolling back so-called luxuries for detained children, with HHS releasing a statement that they will “begin scaling back or discontinuing awards for U.A.C. (unaccompanied minor) activities that are not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety, including education services, legal services, and recreation.” This means access to English lessons, meeting with a legal aid, and outside recreational activities.

This week saw several art installations pop up in protest of child detention. The No Kids in Cages installations appeared all over New York City, depicting caged children wrapped in foil blankets while audio recordings from detainment centers played through speakers. The installations are part of a collaboration with ad agency Badger & Winters and RAICES, a Texas non-profit for immigrants and refugees.

RAICES executive director Jonathan Ryan released a statement saying, “The litmus test of any society is how it treats children. By normalizing the detention of children in cages, we’re only going further down the path of forsaking the rights of all children.”

Cops have been dismantling the artworks, but the images have taken over social media with #NoKidsinCages trending. Many took to Twitter to spread the hashtag and to condemn Trump for his treatment of detained children.

(via Time, image: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.