Henry Lappen: No one enters ‘camps’ voluntarily

Published: 9/8/2019 10:00:08 PM

Richard Fein makes many good points in his column questioning the use of the term ‘concentration camps” (Aug. 26 Gazette).

It is important to not use these words lightly. I don’t believe, however, that U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did so.

On three points, Mr. Fein is wrong: First, suggesting that the migrants came of their own free will is like suggesting my Jewish grandparents came of their own free will. The migrants are escaping truly horrific conditions in their home countries — rape, torture, death and loss of their homes — just as my grandparents faced in Eastern Europe. Why else would they risk the unbelievably dangerous journey to find a safe place to exist?

Second, they are not arriving illegally. Seeking asylum in the U.S. is not a crime! And one must by law cross the border to ask for it. What is illegal is the closing of the border and the harassment of the migrants by the Mexican government, at our president’s urging.

Third, the fate of these Central American migrants is very much tied to their ethnicity. If they were white northern Europeans, they would not have been put in such barbaric conditions. I’ve been to the border and heard firsthand the stories of these people, people who are just trying to find a way to survive and raise their children.

The migrant imprisonment may not be as horrific as the Nazi concentration camps (though they are quite similar to the internment camps of Japanese-Americans back then), but they are still miserably inhumane. Whatever we call the camps, nobody — not one migrant — is there voluntarily, and we must do all we can to fight for safe and sanitary conditions, an end to the separation of families and a just immigration policy.

Henry Lappen

Amherst




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