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Tsuru For Solidarity is joining Detention Watch Network’s #FreeThemAll campaign to release immigrants in ICE detention to prevent migrant jails from becoming epicenters of COVID-19 spread. In doing so, Tsuru For Solidarity will share stories of how illness and disease in the WWII camps impacted Japanese Americans, and why this history is relevant in today’s ICE jails. The stories will be shared from Tuesday, March 24 to Friday, March 27, culminating in a National Day of Action on Friday, March 27, 2020, to drive phone calls to urge officials to close the camps and release all people so they can find safety – not sickness – in this moment.
- Video: Wednesday, March 25
“Sickness was a familiar way of life for many of us inside the prison camp during WWII. Due to the overcrowding and substandard health care, we were subjected to significantly higher rates of communicable diseases that included tuberculosis, polio, and typhoid. We suffered repeated epidemics of scarlet fever and flu.” Satsuki Ina, Co-Chair of Tsuru for Solidarity and Tule Lake Concentration Camp Survivor.
The history of Japanese American incarceration during WWII makes clear that detention facilities are breeding grounds for the spread of disease and infection. Outbreaks in World War II U.S. concentration camps included a polio epidemic at Amache; dysentery, mumps, and valley fever at Gila River; and measles and chicken pox at Tule Lake. Poorly equipped hospitals and inadequate medical staff only exacerbated these problems. Imprisoning individuals in such conditions was inhumane then, and it is inhumane now.
Despite drastic steps taken by other government agencies to contain the spread of COVID-19, ICE and many other law enforcement agencies are going on with business as usual. According to the Los Angeles Times, ICE agents are continuing to arrest immigrants, including a 56-year old man who is the sole breadwinner for his family; the agents arrested him when he left his home to work and buy groceries that would have prepared his family for coronavirus lockdowns. And while a number of sheriffs and police departments are wisely responding to community pressure and public health guidance by rampingdown enforcement of low-level offenses, many are continuing to book people into jail even for minor misconduct.
Tsuru for Solidarity is a nonviolent, direct action project of Japanese American advocates working to end detention sites and support front-line immigrant and refugee communities being targeted by racist, inhumane immigration policies. We stand on the moral authority of Japanese Americans who suffered great injustices in U.S. concentration camps during WWII, and we say, “Stop Repeating History!”