June 20, 2019
Last week, the Administration’s Office of Refugee Resettlement announced it will be housing unaccompanied minors at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Fort Sill is a military base that previously was used as a prison for Geronimo and hundreds of Chiricahua Apaches, including women and children. During World War II, Fort Sill was used as an internment camp to imprison hundreds of Japanese Americans.
The organizations below are united in the belief that migrant children are harmed when they are treated in this manner. We believe, and clinicians uniformly agree, that the conditions they are subjected to while in detention negatively impact their physical, mental, and behavioral health. We condemn this decision to use Fort Sill to incarcerate migrant children seeking refuge from violence and persecution, and urge the Administration to immediately abandon this cruel policy.
National Congress of American Indians
“Fort Sill is a visceral symbol of the federal government’s policy to colonize Native people by forcibly removing them from their homelands. Many of us across Indian Country still wrestle with the trauma that policy left in its wake,” said Jefferson Keel, President of the National Congress of American Indians. “The idea that this site will be used for a similar purpose in the year 2019 is beyond reprehensible.”
Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum
“The mere suggestion of holding migrant children in the same facilities that once imprisoned Native families and Japanese American internees is an affront to the pain endured by the Native and Japanese American communities,” said Kathy Ko Chin, President and CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum. “We must not repeat these past atrocities. Detaining vulnerable migrant children in child prison camps in Oklahoma or anywhere else in America is not the solution. As a nation, we know our duty of care is to ensure the best interests of any and every child.”
Japanese American Citizens League
“It is unconscionable that we are now considering holding children at Fort Sill, a facility once used to imprison American resident Japanese immigrants without reason or cause. The intergenerational trauma to Japanese American families from the incarceration experience continues to reverberate throughout our community today.” David Inoue, Executive Director of the Japanese American Citizens League further emphasized, “This same trauma is now being inflicted upon migrant children through our government’s policy of mass incarceration for all migrants including families and children. We should instead be seeking to expand more humane means of housing these children.”
“It’s a cruel irony that the Trump Administration would consider housing innocent, unaccompanied children at Fort Sill, an infamous facility whose history is stained by its previous incarceration of Native Americans and Japanese Americans. But given its stated intent to threaten the well-being of the nearly six million innocent American children in mixed immigration status families through a policy of mass, indiscriminate deportation, it is fair to say this is not accidental but a deliberate attempt to reenact some of the most shameful episodes in our nation’s history,” said Clarissa Martinez, Deputy Vice President of UnidosUS.
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