Concentration Camps

There is some debate about whether what is going on at the border is properly described as "concentration camps." This will be an unedifying debate.

Brittanica defines them as such:
Concentration camp, internment centre for political prisoners and members of national or minority groups who are confined for reasons of state security, exploitation, or punishment, usually by executive decree or military order. Persons are placed in such camps often on the basis of identification with a particular ethnic or political group rather than as individuals and without benefit either of indictment or fair trial.
On that model, arguably FDR's Japanese internment camps were American concentration camps; but so, then, were the reservations onto which the Native Americans were forced. However, the current camps are not, because anyone who wants to leave can go whenever they want to go -- provided they go home, to their own country, rather than coming into ours.

I gather that no one is being confined, except by their own choice to remain and not leave. Nor is it because of 'identification with a particular ethnic or political group,' as people from all over are showing up right now: not just Latin America but African migrants are appearing in large numbers at the southern border. The only thing that's putting you in such a camp is being a foreigner with no legal right to enter America, insisting on entering anyway, and then insisting on remaining even after you are caught. The only reason there are camps at all is that so many people are insisting on that -- hundreds of thousands of people, probably more than a million this year alone.

We are going to need a better answer than we've got, but it isn't going to be "suspend the laws, admit everyone, and pay whatever it costs." It's impossible even to estimate what it would cost, but the people proposing we pay whatever it is are also proposing free college, universal health care, Green New Deals, maybe a universal basic income... the promises are endless, but our resources are not, especially given that our political system can't even pass an ordinary budget half the time. You want Medicare for All? First show me how you're going to pay for the Medicare we have.

1 comment:

douglas said...

I thought this line was particularly useful on Twitter- "They are also to be distinguished from refugee camps or detention and relocation centres for the temporary accommodation of large numbers of displaced persons."