Letter to the Editor,
1942 Crystal City & 2014 Dilley
The recently published book “The Train to Crystal City: FDR’s Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America’s Only Family Internment Camp During World War II” by Jan Jarboe Russell, brings to mind and conjures up a truly haunting and harrowing realization that history is unfortunately repeating itself.
The Department of Homeland Security in December 2014 opened in Dilley, Texas the largest immigrant family detention center.
The facility houses mostly women and children refugees from Central America claiming to seek asylum, who are apprehended crossing the southern border of the United States.
The Crystal City internment camp and the Dilley detention center are approximately 100 miles and 70 years apart; yet apparently the historical lessons have not been learned, because there are many striking similarities that are incongruously and incredulously ironic between the past and present events.
Both President Roosevelt and President Obama issued executive orders to address the pressing issue of their time.
Legally and morally, a sovereign nation has the inalienable right and responsibility to protect itself.
But why were innocent immigrant and American citizens imprisoned in Crystal City during World War II simply because of their Japanese, German and Italian heritage?
And presently why are children and women being incarcerated in Dilley simply because they are claiming to be refugees seeking asylum?
Detention centers and internment camps are debasing, demeaning and demoralizing, no matter how dressed up and decorated the facility may be.
Detention centers and internment camps are what is otherwise in reality a prison; and a prison no matter how pretty, is still a prison.
The Dilley group of detainees is suspected of fleeing from violence, of supposedly seeking to avoid from living in fear and oppression, and of allegedly fleeing from the brutality and cruelty of agents of terrorism.
And now they are further being traumatized by being placed in restrictive detention facilities deemed inhumane and immoral especially for children, but also for men and women who are desperately and urgently seeking and searching to live a life worthy of a dignified human existence.
Is the same vitriolic and virulent anti-immigrant attitude that was once exhibited to Crystal City’s unwanted population, also equally evident for Dilley’s unwelcomed inhabitants?
If that is the case, then it is regrettably and tragically “blaming the victim”, with the heartrending result of real people with real names, real faces, and real lives and not merely nameless, faceless, lifeless entities being blamed, demonized and further victimized because they are seeking a safe haven.
Both the Crystal City internees and the Dilley detainees are the result of socio-economic and geo-political agendas, of which they are merely pawns in the chess game of power plays by the prevailing leaders in whose hands rests their destiny.
The governmental policies then and now presumably intended to protect and preserve the exceptional American principles and ideals; have instead tainted and tarnished these most noble and honorable tenets of the American system of governance.
“It makes no difference whether a bird is tied down by a heavy rope or by the slenderest of cords, it can’t fly in either case.” – Saint John of the Cross
Marian Casillas, Ed.D.