Manzanar to Mesa Verde:
a walk to #CloseTheCamps
Huge thanks for following along these weeks of blogging! Your support and kindness has astounded me. The following is adapted from what I spoke yesterday at our vigil at the Mesa Verde ICE Center in Bakersfield, CA. Almost exactly one year ago, my dear friend Jo and I were stuck inside an immigration detention center… Read more
Today, let’s meditate on Colossians 3:11. Read through this verse slowly, letting our imaginations wander through how the call realistically applies to our present circumstances: Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as… Read more
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Why Manzanar? Why Mesa Verde?
During World War II, Manzanar was an American concentration camp used to incarcerate Japanese Americans in the dry open lands west of Death Valley National Park, California. The swells of nationalism and fear led to the incarceration of thousands of United States citizens, regardless of the detainees’ innocence.
Today, as families and individuals make treacherous journeys from their home countries to seek asylum in the United States, they find themselves detained in the hundreds of now-infamous concentration camps across the country. Mesa Verde ICE processing and detention center in Bakersfield, California currently detains migrants.
Isn’t it a bit of a stretch to call these “concentration camps”?
While “internment” and “detention” have widely been used to describe the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII and migrants to the U.S. today, respectively, such terms are euphemisms. A source as mainstream as Merriam Webster describes a concentration camp as “a prison where large numbers of people who are not soldiers are forced to live during a time of war, usually in very bad conditions”. Andrea Pitzer, author of “A Global History of Concentration Camps” defines the term as a “mass detention of civilians without trial”. Historians and Holocaust survivors alike have come forward to clarify that the facilities ‘housing’ migrants in the United States need not worsen to be classified as concentration camps; to term them any less would mean denying the obscene injustices being comitted. (Read more on the impact of terminology here)
I decided to journey from Manzanar to Mesa Verde in Bakersfield to physically link the two sites of our government’s crimes. Some of us have walked the haunting present-day museum at Manzanar: reading children’s words about growing up surrounded by barbed wire and gun barrels, standing in the place of former barracks overlooking the miles of desert wasteland, scanning dizzying lists of names attempting to give homage to the thousands once locked away. Such remnants compel us to easily understand the incarcerations at Manzanar as wrong and regrettable.
I hope that walking from Manzanar to Mesa Verde helps bridge the understanding that the current treatment of migrants in the U.S. is no less deplorable and condemnable than that which occurred during WWII. Throughout my time walking, I’ll share a variety of resources through this blog: prayers for immigrants, information on the current migrant crisis, practical actions to support immigrants in our communities, and other reflections to challenge and encourage myself and others. I hope for others to journey with me towards increased empathy for migrants through these spiritual, economic, and social explorations of the current crisis concerning those seeking asylum in the United States.