PEN America Calls for Trump Administration to Open Migrant Camp to Journalists’ Scrutiny; What You Can Do to Close the Camps by Kella Hanna-Wayne

100-mile border region on the U.S.–Mexico border courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency / Public Domain

“A crude age. Peace is stabilized with cannon and bombers, humanity with concentration camps and pogroms. We’re living in a time when all standards are turned upside-down, Kern. Today the aggressor is the shepherd of peace, and the beaten and hunted are the troublemakers of the world. What’s more, there are whole races who believe it!” Erich Maria Remarque, Flotsam



Climbing the Mexico–United States barrier fence in Brownsville, Texas courtesy of Nofx221984 and generously released into Public Domain

PEN America issued the statement [below] in response to The Washington Post’s report that the Trump Administration is blocking journalists from accessing migrant detention camps on the southern border to see the facilities for themselves and speak to children, who are reportedly held in squalid conditions.

“It is shocking that the American public largely must learn about the dangerous conditions at these detention centers not through reporters being able to cover the news, but through second-hand reports from lawyers and advocates granted access under a legal agreement with the U.S. border patrol,” said Nora Benavidez, PEN America’s Director of U.S. Free Expression Programs. “The fact that journalists are being sealed off and held behind a wall of secrecy, unable to show the American people the faces and voices of those who are suffering in squalor is one more unconscionable aspect to this epic horror story on the southern border.”

“Cutting the press off from this story to hide what is going on is unacceptable and unwarranted; professional journalists are well-equipped to handle issues of privacy and consent, and this should pose no barrier to press access. The American public has a right to see for themselves what is happening in these camps through first-hand accounts, images and video documented by professional journalists. Indeed, the fact that every story that does make it to a reporter galvanizes public attention and action demonstrates the importance of that reporting. PEN America calls on the Trump administration to open the camps to the scrutiny of the press–and thus, the American people–immediately, and end this effort to keep what is happening in the detention centers a secret.”

PEN America has previously spoken out and advocated about press access to migrant detention centers and the situation for journalists covering the immigration crisis on the border. In October 2018, it hosted a panel discussion at the Texas Book Festival entitled “Stories (Un)told,” featuring journalists speaking to the challenges of covering child detention issues and immigration more broadly. Following months of tracking and public comments on the situation of lawyers and journalists being surveilled at the southern U.S.-Mexico border, PEN America joined a coalition of human rights and media freedom organizations in sending an open letter to the Department of Homeland Security in May, 2019, expressing concern for the privacy violations and explicit targeting by Customs and Border Protection of journalists, activists, and lawyers working on issues around the “migrant caravan”. Following our letter, the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged it had engaged in the surveillance and tracking of these individuals. PEN America has also condemned the unacceptable practice of the government’s surveillance of journalists reporting on this issue and authored a petition urging the administration to stop monitoring journalists at the border. That petition has garnered more than 58,000 signatures to date.

*****

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


From Kella Hanna-Wayne, poet, blogger, activist

“Today, I read something terrible; a story that possibly upset me more any other news story from our current administration and it filled me with helplessness.

“Over the past year, Trump’s immigration policies have become increasingly strict and dehumanizing. Detention centers, separation of families without keeping records, poor hygiene, inadequate access to food, water, and medical attention, children in cages– these were all themes among reports of the horrifying conditions our government was signing off on for immigrants, regardless of their documentation.

“But in the last week, it came to light that not only is Trump using Fort Sill– the base used to hold Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during WWII– to hold immigrant children, but that our government is now using concentration camps as a strategy to manage the influx in immigrants coming to the US. “

Kella goes on from these introductory remarks to provide a comprehensive list of tips and resources: What You Can Do to Close the Camps. I particularly appreciate it when folks don’t just regurgiate the bad news we’re all reading anyway but who go on to provide tools for mitigating the travesties. Bravo, Kella!

Stay tuned for a comprehensive interview with Kella here on The Poet by Day.


ABOUT

Recent in digital publications: 
* Four poemsI Am Not a Silent Poet
* Remembering Mom, HerStry
* Three poems, Levure littéraire
Upcoming in digital publications:
* Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review
* From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems)

A mostly bed-bound poet, writer, former columnist and the former associate editor of a regional employment newspaper, my work has been featured widely in print and digital publications including: Ramingo’s Porch, Vita Brevis Literature, Connotation Press, The Bar None Group, Salamander Cove,I Am Not a Silent Poet, Meta/ Phor(e) /Play, The Compass Rose and California Woman. I run The Poet by Day, a curated info hub for poets and writers. I founded The Bardo Group/Beguines, a vitual literary community and publisher of The BeZineof which I am the founding and managing editor.


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton



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