On Monday, Reuters published a series of aerial photos that its photographers captured of an immigrant detention camp in McAllen, Texas. The conditions immigrants were seen living in were compared to concentration camps by observers on social media.
In the photos, which appear to have been taken by drone on May 15, 2019, hundreds of men, women, and children are seen living on top of one another in makeshift conditions. The only restroom facilities appeared to be a small handful of port-a-potties. There are mylar blankets strung along the edges of the fence, which immigrants used to reflect the sun’s heat. According to AccuWeather, the high in McAllen, Texas on May 15 was in excess of 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a quote-tweet of some of the photos, podcaster Nate Bethea wrote, “yeah this is a concentration camp.”
yeah this is a concentration camp https://t.co/wfwBEBofWQ
— Nate Bethea (@inthesedeserts) July 1, 2019
The conditions at the detention camp were roundly criticized by immigrant rights’ groups. Erika Andiola, the chief advocacy officer for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), said the conditions at the McAllen detention facility were subpar.
“From what we’ve seen at McAllen, people are sleeping on rocks and stones, and without shelter,” Andiola told Reuters.
Congress recently passed a bill allowing an additional $4.5 billion in funding for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which runs the detention camps. In its request for the funding, the Trump administration said that the thousands of immigrant families crossing the border had drained the agency’s funding, and additional money was needed to accommodate new requests for asylum.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) was criticized by members of her own party for agreeing to pass the Senate version of the funding bill, rather than the House version, which imposed limits on what the money could be spent on. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) also placed blame on Senate Democrats for capitulating to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) in the Senate version of the border bill.
“Let’s focus on the fact that Senate Democrats joined the leadership behind McConnell in support of something that had no safeguards, no basic human rights for these children,” Tlaib told Politico. “What are you doing? You’re just throwing money and saying, ‘Continue what you’re doing President Trump, you’re doing a fine job.’”
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) drew ire from Republicans when referring to the immigrant detention centers as “concentration camps.” However, Jewish historian Anna Lind-Guzik said Ocasio-Cortez’s use of the term was not only “accurate,” but “necessary.”
“Applying the term ‘concentration camp’ to the indefinite detention without trial of thousands of civilians in inhumane conditions — under armed guard and without adequate provisions or medical care — is not just appropriate, it’s necessary,” Lind-Guzik said. “Invoking the word does not demean the memory of the Holocaust. Instead, the lessons of the Holocaust will be lost if we refuse to engage with them.”
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.