Japanese Americans who survived being jailed in internment camps by their own government during World War II have not been silent, spending years now warning about repetition of history. “When we were disappeared from our homes, jobs, and classrooms,” said Dr. Satsuki Ina, one such survivor, “there was no organized protest, no marches, no petitions, only silence as Americans turned their heads as we were taken away.”
We continue not to listen. Oklahoma’s ”Fort Sill, [a] 150-year-old installation once used as an internment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II, has been selected to detain 1,400 children until they can be given to an adult relative, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,” Time magazine reports.
This is not the first time the base has been used for purposes of mass-jailing migrant children, though: “In 2014, the Obama administration placed around 7,700 migrant children on bases in Texas, California and Oklahoma, including Fort Sill.” It was cruel then, and it’s purely barbaric now, because the Trump administration has gone further by, quite possibly illegally, taking steps to strip detained kids of recreation (including soccer), English classes, and even legal aid.
This is intentional. The Trump administration currently has over 13,000 migrant kids in U.S. custody, including at least 1,600 at a prison camp in Homestead, Florida. Places such as Homestead are commonly described as “shelters” that “house” children, but these are prison camps. They’re worse. In personal testimonies, children jailed at Homestead described not even being able to console one another through hugging and being threatened with prolonged imprisonment if they broke the rules.
“I was sad to leave my parents but I had no choice because of violence directed at me in my country,” said a 17-year-old from El Salvador. “I miss them and even though today is my birthday, it is hard because they can’t call me and I can’t call them. I get two days a week for 10 minutes each to call people and since I called them yesterday, I can’t make another call today. It’s disappointing because I can’t even access the phone to talk to my mom on my birthday. Nobody has sung happy birthday to me today.”
Warning about repeating mass incarceration, Dr. Ina and a number of other survivors took part in a protest at a migrant family jail in Dilley, Texas, in March, where they hung thousands of paper cranes, lovingly hand-folded by Americans all across the country, on the fence surrounding the facility. “There is a deep sense of outrage that mass incarcerations are happening again in the United States,” Mike Ishii of the New York Day of Remembrance said at the time, “and we intend to be the allies that we needed during WWII.” They’re warning us. Listen.