Having left the slime-green lawns of the suburban sprawl of Phoenix and driven deep into the country, you will reach a well dusted junction. If you turn to the left, you will see sun-drowned mesquite trees mark their place, and beyond it a small white house with an off-placed door. If you turn right on Hanna Road, you cross one of Arizona’s many canals, and beyond it, you see Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Eloy “Detention Center”. I place the terminology used by ICE in quotes because as we know and as I hope to demonstrate, these are Concentration Camps in each and every way
However, as the photo demonstrates above, Eloy is not merely a “detention center” but rather a “federal contract facility”. Now, what does this mean? It only further demonstrates the way in which this facility, and indeed the neighboring La Palma “Correctional Center” which is also subject to a federal contract to the United States’ government, are contemporary iterations of the Konzentrationslager model. Eloy and La Palma are privately owned facilities that through their federal contract are able to place the ICE logo beside CoreCivic’s (as shown in the photo below with Eloy). This is what makes this privatized imprisonment all the more horrific as they are subject only to yearly reviews.
In a recent inspection, the United States Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs enforcement noted that of the five possible ratings (Superior being the highest and At-Risk being the lowest) the Eloy facility received a middle of the road Acceptable rating. What is more, the entire facility is only built to house 1596 “detainees” for which each individual is worth $69.45 per diem paid to CoreCivic by ICE as explained in the Inter-Governmental Service Agreement (IGSA). Travel expenses are reimbursed by ICE to CoreCivic due to their “services” to the state and CoreCivic is supposed to take care of the health of the imprisoned as stipulated in the IGSA. All this as the movement of at least $4,545,135.00 (based on the numbers stated in the addenda to the IGSA) has made their way into the coffers of CoreCivic from ICE’s Office of Detention Management a year for the Eloy Concentration Camp Alone.
Many people might object to the calling of these “detention centers” as Concentration Camps, however, they are misguided in their protestations. There is nothing else to call them because they function as just that. I will break down the similarities by delving into their shared atrocities.
(Aerial picture of the Eloy Concentration Camp in Eloy, Arizona)
As you can see here, the Concentration Camp is purposefully chosen to be as far away as possible from the prying eyes of the public, but also the nearest ICE field office which according to official documents note it is 60 miles from the Phoenix office. Eloy however, is just one of a series of camps which are run by CoreCivic, just to the southwest is the prison camp La Palma and just over in the county seat of Pinal County, Florence there is another set of concentration camps. All are laid out to provide the maximum vigilance of the prisoners and have everything be run as orderly as possible. All transport is run through buses which have blacked out windows. They rush across the falsely-greened landscape of the expanding outskirts of Arizona’s capital and then (as according to official ICE/DRO Detention documents) they are packed into the admissions hall to wait for up to twelve hours (but how often this is true, is unknown). Here, they are given their “initial assessment” where they are given a color, either Dark Red, Bright Orange, or Dark Blue which then becomes the uniforms and wristbands they are forced to wear (Classification System 3). In the same document, there are measures which detail how further “reassessments” are to take place which can result in the change of housing arrangements. All of this, at the behest of the CoreCivic employee’s own understanding of the imprisoned person. It is then that they are given their Detainee ID# which is called by ICE/DRO as an A Number.
In an official memo for Ronald Vitiello, Deputy Director and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director of ICE and others, it was noted that there were multiple charges of criminally inadequate medical and psychiatric treatment on a systemic level. To delve into just the ones from the Eloy Concentration Camp:
Complaint No. 18-10-ICE-0623 describes how an imprisoned person at the camp notified the camp’s psychiatrist several times of worsening psychosis-related symptoms for which he received no care from the camp’s psychiatrist and ended up being hospitalized and requiring emergency surgery due to harm that came about during a psychotic episode.
Complaint No. 18-10-ICE-0624 describes how an imprisoned person at Eloy was not given the appropriate treatment for their mental condition. According to the complainant themselves,the Medical Quality Management Unity (MQMU) had come to warn the ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) concerning the complainant’s increased risk of negative situations due to their auditory hallucinations and suicidal ideation. However, they were not given any antipsychotic medication and instead given an antidepressant at which time the IHSC told the MQMU to “hold off” on notifying them concerning the patient “unless and until the detainee became psychotic and suicidal again”
So, as you can see, this is hardly the benevolent private sector the Bourgeois media and Right Libertarians seem to believe is somehow the answer to all of our problems. Indeed, this shows how the Private and Public sectors are myths of the Bourgeoisie. Capital is omnigenous and omnipresent in each of these Concentration Camps. However, I do not wish to end my report here, for the horrors are not yet ended.
Whereas at the entrance of Auschwitz, it announced “Arbeit Macht Frei” or work shall set you free, CoreCivic would perhaps choose “Innovative Competition” as founders Tom Beasley and T. Don Hutto claim they changed the face of imprisonment forever a mere 31 years ago and use that phrase as their central idea. What is more, they freely admit that it was the creation of the contemporary concentration camp that “is the genesis of this company and of this industry. It should never be forgotten … We became innovative competition (their emphasis) in an arena that had never before had competition” (italics mine). In other words, we should never forget that through these “competitive” camps Capital was able to out itself as the midwife of Fascism once more.
It is in these camps where the greatest violence of Capital can be seen in some of its most palpable forms. A recent report by Hunter Walker of Yahoo News revealed that ICE (and by definition the privately owned camps as well) are spraying disinfectant sprays on detainees that according to the testimonials provided have caused severe burns, bleeding, and extreme pain. As many of the camps are poorly ventilated and detainees are not allowed outside, they are essentially subject to this painful chemical torture “every 15 to 30 minutes”. As one detainee in California related “When I blow my nose, blood comes out. They are treating us like animals. One person fainted and was taken out, I don’t know what happened to them. There is no fresh air.” This terrifying testimony is only made worse when just as with the Eloy Concentration Camp detainees there is inadequate or no care at all received for their symptoms.
(the sleeping quarters at Auschwitz)
ICE claims that this disinfectant is merely to deal with COVID-19, but that brings out a host of other issues concerning the violence and death cult that is Capitalism in its carceral iteration. The Eloy-La Palma Concentration Camps (as well as the Florence Concentration Camp) are experiencing major outbreaks of COVID-19. And just as in the complaint ICE, the La Palma detainees have come to recognize that “[they] are the merchandise and the object of negotiation” when it comes to all dealings between ICE in its State capacity and CoreCivic. Therefore, the rights of those detained are repeatedly overlooked even as according to the Arizona Mirror COVID-19 cases at the Eloy Concentration Camp have exploded by more than 460% since June 12th, 2020. This is a jump of the officially released numbers by ICE which on June 11th reported only 22 cases of COVID-19 at the camp a mere four days later, that number jumped to 123 cases. This comes as CoreCivic, as noted in the official La Palma Concentration Camp complaint to ICE, has been revealed to keep people who should be released due to being granted asylum or being the derivative of an asylum seeker who was successful in attaining it. Both Eloy and La Palma (as the official complaint from La Palma notes) do not have any social distancing in place and indeed crowd people as much as possible.
(The sleeping quarters at La Palma Concentration Camp)
All of this is done to keep the numbers of detainees high so that the daily per diem rate paid to CoreCivic (which should be noted has $2.8 Billion in property and equipment to its name as of December 2017). Thus, we can see how the realization that the detainees had, that they themselves had been commodified was true and that just as in Nazi Germany the Concentration Camps were used to propel the Nazi economy, so too are these being touted as the grand, free market solution to imprisonment. Of the revenue they procure $839.9 million comes directly from the Federal Government for all of its camps. From the individual states, such as Arizona, it garners $727.8 million of revenue. In other words, their “innovative competition” is an innovative contradiction of Capitalism. Through their very functioning as a “solution” they prove how Capital is the only economic sector which exists.
Capital is embodied most clearly perhaps in these concentration camps precisely because the United States can market them as something positive and sell them as something which is beneficent. Yet, as an Arizona Republic report by Lauren Castle and Maria Pollentta published today highlights (June 20, 2020), the NAACP has filed a lawsuit against the concentration camps of Arizona and accuses the state of practicing slavery. This after the 199th anniversary of Juneteenth should make us recall that slavery is not yet abolished when it comes to imprisonment, as stipulated in the 13th Amendment of the Constitution. Therefore, the 7,740 detained people within the private concentration camps are for all intents and purposes used merely for the generation of profits which is slavery, which is close to what Charles Fanniel himself stated. John Dacey of Abolish Private Prisons stated that “A profit motivated criminal justice [and immigration detention] system .... conflicts with individual rights that are protected by the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Constitution,” which using our Marxist lens shows the contradictions of Liberal Bourgeois Democracy and Capitalism.
Even as this lawsuit goes through the courts, the detainees in the concentration camps are in many ways trying to be made to be forgotten simply because they are placed in the middle of land that was part and parcel of the US’s last Lebensraum conquests. As the La Palma documents note, even the most basic Human Rights are denied the detainees as they are given inadequate nutrition such as:
two slice[s] of rotten ham and two portions of bread, we protested and all … of the detainees returned our meals and that day there was no dinner even though we showed them the rotted ham … Starting on May 15 until today all three meals are sandwiches in a cardboard box, which says consume within 4 hours on them and from what the kitchen workers tell us, those boxes are sometimes stored for more than 15 days
There are no excuses for what is happening in the Imperial Core but make no mistake these concentration camps are not an individual aberration of a single company or person as the Bourgeois media and Capitalists attempt to say. These Concentration Camps, Eloy, La Palma, Florence, etc. are all part of how Capital operates. It is a death cult which takes all prisoners and sacrifices them all for the sake of profit. Each death for the sake of Capital should be a call to arms for any revolutionary. These are the wretched of the earth, the colonized proletariat begging to be free but instead they are being enslaved and eliminated.
I stared as a dust devil crossed between the razor wire fence which keeps the entire concentration camp enclosed. This camp will one day serve as a reminder of the horrors of Capitalism, but in that moment, it stood as a monument to death. I kept looking to make sure I wasn’t spotted by any of the roving police that think it is their duty to stop the public from seeing this. And so, once the temperature rose to an unbearable limit, I took my stuff and left wishing with each step and then with each mile driven that one day all the victims of the camps would be liberated instead of murdered in the name of Capital.
All external photos are given credit to their respective creators.