Say No to ‘Black Sites’ on US Soil

Oregon’s junior senator, Jeff Merkley (D), paid a visit to an immigrant detention center in Brownsville, Texas this month. His intention was to shed light on the effects of Trump and Session’s new, flagrantly anti-human rights policy of separating immigrant children from their families at the border. We caught wind of that strategy over a year ago but it stayed relatively under the radar until its recent enactment.

Yet, the full and oppressive weight of a hostile US government wasn’t just on display during this visit. Furtive, clandestine concealment was also the order of the day when Senator Merkley arrived at the center and officials didn’t just prevent him from entering, they actually called the police on him.

You can watch the livestreamed video below:

This cannot stand. A detention service for non-citizens that is shielded from scrutiny is a recipe for human rights abuses and above-the-law behavior.

This country has come a long way since the secret extra-legal administrative maneuvers and moral failings that characterized the early 2000s. During the Bush administration’s War on Terror campaign, secret black sites were set up and operated by American government employees on non-US soil, and individuals suspected of having ties to terrorist activities, often on the basis of very little evidence, were detained indefinitely, denied most of their legal rights, and tortured. This is one of America’s greatest moral failures in recent times, and part of what made it possible was a lack of transparency and accountability.

Honest American citizens need to draw a line in the sand: no so-called “black sites” on US soil.

We are calling on Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security, to open up immigrant detention centers to unimpeded visits by duly-elected lawmakers who must make informed decisions about national immigration policy. Access should also be granted to watchdog groups and journalists so that American citizens can also be informed about the reality of both legislation and departmental policy as it is implemented.

In a democracy, the standard of evidence for arguing government operations should be hidden from the public and their duly-elected representatives is and must be high. Legitimate, fully-articulated security or other concerns must be provided for independent verification if there is to be any legitimate limitation to the transparency we should all expect of our government.

Secretary Nielsen, you have defended what you called the Trump administration’s “tough, impassioned talk”  on immigration. If you stand by current policy as enacted and enforced by the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, then you should have nothing to hide. Prove to us that this is the case, and let all Americans see, with both eyes open and for better or worse, what this administration’s immigration policy actually looks like.

This goes beyond one site, or even general immigration policy. This is one battle in a larger war against a presidential administration that truly believes it is above the law.

The Trump administration has broken presidential and constitutional norms and laws to an unprecedented degree, and is under multiple criminal investigations for everything from election law to high treason. This ever-shifting group of sycophants and co-conspirators has shattered previous records for lying to the media, the American public, and the world. Trump’s Cabinet secretaries and the man himself are buried under a still-growing tsunami of ethics investigations and lawsuits.

Update #1:

After this story was filed but before it was published, Senator Merkley was finally granted access to this specific detention center. Children are being kept in cages and sleeping on concrete floors with no mattresses. We must insist these sites are kept open for visits like this and we must stay outraged at this abuse.

Update #2:

Thanks to public pressure (our petition already has over 25,000 signatories–keep it going!) journalists have also been provided some access and reported on what they have seen. We need to keep shining a light on this so that further human rights atrocities do not happen.

Take Action!

So with all this said, transparency and accountability are more important than they have ever been before. If concerned citizens and citizen groups, journalistic organizations, government officials, and elected representatives do not stay on top of Trump and his cohorts, further human rights abuses, rampant government corruption, and even the dismantling of the machinery of democracy, could be the result.

Please help us by signing and sharing this petition far and wide.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

58 comments

Marie W
Marie W2 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Freya H
Freya H8 months ago

"Black sites" are a symptom of an oppressive regime. Sometimes I wonder if I should curry favor with my acquaintances in other countries, but other times I realize that the best thing to do is probably stay and fight. RESIST, PERSIST, INSIST!

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Dave fleming
Past Member 8 months ago

America used to be a country you looked at and thought all was good , Now things are changing so much i am loosing faith in a once great place .

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Dave fleming
Past Member 8 months ago

Signed

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silja salonen
silja salonen8 months ago

america america what are you doing.... where is your compassion

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Cindy S
Cindy Smith8 months ago

thanks

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Roslyn M
Roslyn McBride8 months ago

Sounds really bad.

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Winnie A
Winn Adams8 months ago

Thanks

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Winnie A
Winn Adams8 months ago

Signed

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Teresa W
Teresa W8 months ago

well said, Tammy

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