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Yes, Trump’s Detention Centers Are Concentration Camps

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Protesters chained together at the wrist block traffic on the road to the Otay Mesa Detention Center during a demonstration against U.S. immigration policy that separates children from parents, in San Diego, California, on June 23rd, 2018.

Every time I drive from my home to the airport, I pass the ruins of a concentration camp. I live in the Twin Cities, in Minnesota, where the Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport sits next to Fort Snelling. In the 1860s, United States soldiers imprisoned over 1,600 Dakota people in Fort Snelling, keeping them in horrible conditions as part of what the Minnesota Historical Society now acknowledges was a set of “genocidal policies pursued against Indigenous people throughout the U.S. … a campaign calculated to make them stop being Dakota.” Between 130 and 300 people died of cold and disease before the survivors were eventually forcibly expelled from the region, exiled from their lands, and driven to reservations further west.

Fort Snelling, built on the beautiful spot where the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers flow together, a place the Dakota called Bdote, is the concentration camp next door.

Is it fair to use the phrase “concentration camp” to describe the Trump administration’s string of prison camps, detention facilities, and other installations meant to incarcerate immigrants in highly concentrated numbers? That question has been a subject of national debate since at least the summer of 2018. Thanks to President Donald Trump‘s new plan this week to expand the prison camp system, including the repurposing of a former Japanese internment site, the debate over semantics has arisen once more.

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