New York Times Catches Up on Hysteria Over Oklahoma 'Internment Camp' for Migrant Kids

June 23rd, 2019 2:42 PM

The New York Times must have regretted missing out on the misleading and slanted coverage of the rest of the press earlier this month, when multiple outlets blared the claim that housing child migrants at Fort Sill in Oklahoma would be locking them up in a former Japanese “internment camp.” But the paper made up for it with Ben Fenwick’s coverage of a subsequent protest in Sunday's edition: “Protesters Denounce Camp Plan for Child Migrants.

The previous press stories shamelessly played on the emotional fact that Fort Sill had been used by Democratic president Franklin Roosevelt as an internment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II. They really piled on the partisan bias by either leaving off or burying the inconvenient fact that the Obama administration had also housed child migrants at Fort Sill -- 1,200 unaccompanied migrant children, for around four months in 2014.

For Satsuki Ina, who was born in a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II, the news that the United States would detain undocumented migrant children at this Army base in Oklahoma felt like an unwelcome wallop from the past.

The base, Fort Sill, Okla., once held 700 Japanese-Americans who lived in tents in desertlike heat, surrounded by barbed wire and guards. They were among the more than 100,000 residents of Japanese ancestry who were rounded up by the government during the war and placed in detention camps around the country.

Ms. Ina and more than 200 demonstrators arrived at Fort Sill on Saturday to protest the government’s latest plan for the base: to house 1,400 undocumented children who arrived in the United States without a parent or a legal guardian. The protesters called the plan, which was announced this month, a return to one of the nation’s great shames.

“We are here to say, ‘Stop repeating history,’” Ms. Ina, 75, said at a news conference on Saturday, standing in front of a howitzer display outside the base.

It will not be the first time in recent history that the base will house migrants. The Obama administration held several thousand immigrant children at Fort Sill in 2014. Ms. Ina protested then, too.

It is, however, the first Fort Sill protest that it bothered to cover, based on a search. The Times covered the housing of child migrants at Fort Sill in 2014 sparingly and neutrally and made no mention of Fort Sill’s previous use as an internment camp. Only when the Trump Administration became the culprit did the same act acquire sinister overtones in the media.

But the announcement this month came amid sharply escalating rhetoric over the country’s immigration policies, and as the country’s network of detention facilities struggles to keep up with an influx of new arrivals. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, ignited a furor and took criticism from some members in her own party this past week when she referred to migrant detention centers as concentration camps.

Regardless of how they are characterized, the facilities have been stretched thin. Many are operating well past their capacities and reports of grim and dangerous conditions have roiled an already tense debate. The Trump administration has tried a number of measures to respond to the migrant surge, from building tent cities in Texas to enacting family separation policies and rules meant to deter new asylum seekers.

At least an online photo caption noted: “The base also housed migrants under the Obama administration.”

For descendants of the Japanese-Americans and the Native Americans who knew Fort Sill as a prison, not the verdant military training ground and national landmark it is today, the government’s new plan raised bitter questions about whether the nation had truly reckoned with its darker past. After the news conference on Saturday, the protesters moved to a nearby park when the police ordered them to leave the base....

But for Ms. Ina and others at the protest -- where they shouted “No more concentration camps!” and “Reunification, not separation!” – there were still far too many unsettling parallels between past and present.

"Parallels" that the media blissfully skipped over during the Obama administration.

Fenwick never mentioned Ina's protest group, Tsuru for Solidarity, or its foundation and law-firm backers.