Holding of Migrant Children at Army Base, Site of Former Internment Camp, Degrading and Abusive

Washington, D.C. — Human Rights First today condemned a decision by the Trump Administration to hold 1,400 migrant children at Fort Sill, an Army base once used as an internment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II. The Oklahoma base will hold the children until they can be transferred to adult relatives. In response to the decision, Bishop Garrison, director of national security outreach at Human Rights First who served two tours of duty in Iraq with the U.S. Army, issued the following statement:

This is not an invasion for our military to respond to, but a humanitarian crisis that should be answered by civilian authorities properly trained and resourced. The tactics on display by the administration will very likely have lasting and severe effects on these innocent children while simultaneously degrading our country’s reputation. This type of outright cruelty against children, in a military facility once used to perpetrate a grave injustice, no less, tells the world we are not the proud and free nation we once purported to be. These children deserve our empathy and grace, and they won’t find that in a detention camp.

Yesterday’s announcement on Fort Sill shortly preceded new reports that Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) are housing migrants in overcrowded outdoor facilities for weeks at a time. One observer compared one such facility to a “human dog pound.”

This morning, Human Rights First welcomed provisions in the House of Representatives’ defense bill (The National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA) that bolster national security and uphold America’s commitment to human rights. In part, the bill prohibits the use of national defense funds and military construction funding to build a wall on the southern border, it also restricts the use of military personnel and funding for other immigration-related purposes.

“The administration says it is taking these actions in an effort to protect the United States, when in actuality, this undermines our national security and make us less safe,” added Garrison. “These policies erode the military’s readiness by reassigning service members to border operations, when they should be either training to prepare for real threats facing our nation or receiving much needed rest with loved ones given the operational tempo of 18 years engaged in conflict. The addition of this poorly conceived plan will only continue to overtax and stress an already well-worn military. It’s not fair to our service members or their families who sacrifice daily.”

Bishop Garrison is also director of Veterans for American Ideals, a project of Human Rights First.


Published on June 12, 2019


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