In June it was finally settled, the short-term detention centers run by the U.S. Border Patrol were—quite technically—concentration camps. While they are not the extermination camps of the Holocaust, the rounding up and mass incarceration of people who haven’t seen a judge fits the definition exactly, according to expert Andrea Pitzer. The legal definition of concentration camps are “places of forced relocation of civilians into detention on the basis of group identity.”
But then the debate stalled out before getting to the broader context. The prison camps are not just an anomaly from a nativist Trump administration, they are something that has been happening for years and years. I’m not only referring to short-term Border Patrol detention, but also the mass round-up, incarceration, expulsion, and banishment of non-citizens that has been happening in a sustained way in the United States since the 1990s, and through a variety of huge operations before then. And it’s not something that is just limited to the United States. While the concentration camp may vary from country to country, it is one of the cornerstones of a global border system designed to arrest and confine uprooted, displaced, and dispossessed people. Many are on the move because of the current global economic and political system (globalization and the free market neoliberal economic model) that has long privileged the wealthy elite and protected the interests of multinational corporations, all else be damned.
The Global Detention Project, for example, has identified more than 2,000 detention centers worldwide. While those numbers are in fluctuation (and thus unreliable) given the constant closure and opening of such prisons—when seen visually on a map, these detention centers cluster in and around the United States, Europe, and Australia. Worldwide, there are more than 70 border walls, billions upon billions of dollars worth of surveillance technology—from sophisticated cameras to biometrics such as facial recognition—and tens of thousands of armed agents, police, and soldiers guarding the dividing lines between the Global North and Global South tasked with arresting unauthorized people. From the United States to Europe to Australia, but also from Mexico to Libya to Papua New Guinea the planet has prison camps crammed with tens of thousands of people—many forcibly separated from their families—who dared to cross a border. There is a violent global war on migrants.
Read the rest here on the Verso Blog.