METRO/GUEST VOICE | Elaine J. Cohen : Cassandra’s curse and the usgov detention centers

Briefly thought extinct, the idea of ‘family detention’ has returned to the horror of those who battled it at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas.


Cassandra: Seeing the truth.

By Elaine J. Cohen | The Rag Blog | November 10, 2014

AUSTIN — I recently watched an extraordinary segment of Democracy Now! — on the journalist, Gary Webb, who dug into the story about the collusion between the CIA, the contras, and the eventual crack attack on the ghetto. Webb suffered the fate of my beloved Cassandra: to see and tell the truth — but never to be believed. This curse was placed on Cassandra for spurning the amorous approaches of Zeus. Moves more resembling rape than sincere admiration and passion.

Thus the patriarchy would punish a woman for expressing her need for freedom of choice. And so the journalistic brotherhood poured down scorn and did everything they could to emasculate Gary Webb, who finally succumbed to suicide. He was a truth teller.

But what does the body, the design of his investigative work of usgov chicanery in Central America and its ties to the murderous Contras teach us about what is happening today? I cannot get out of my heart/mind that this is precisely what is going on today in Honduras and El Salvador, suffering the violence of the gangs and bandillas. When Mel Zelaya was ousted from Honduras and forced into exile — when usgov put their guy in the chair — is when the cartels and violence really began to amp up.

The violence and brutality of the gangs — and their terrorizing control — keeps amplifying.

I have not been farther into Central America than Chiapas, but after listening to close to three years of stories from women from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua I have come to have images in my mind, from the stories the women have related to me — and to my other friends who visit in the detention centers. So, when I tell you that the violence and brutality of the gangs — and their terrorizing control over the lives of literally everyone — keeps amplifying, it is to tell you that I believe it is, in part, because of the impunity of those haciendo los hostias contra el pueblo.

A note: this thought came out in Spanish — and I have struggled to translate it into the English that I speak now. More or less I write of the impunity of those who are terrorizing and harming the people. The actual terrorists of today are on no usgov list — but they are those in the many uniforms of federal, state, or municipal authority and force and their primos hermanos (cousin brothers, i.e. first cousins) of the cartels, las bandillas.

But what is Honduras exporting beside drugs? Is it not exporting women and children to be fed into the voracious mouths of the private prison industry and their exploding growth into prisons for the poor of Central America and beyond?

The 3-plus billion dollars a year made by the U.S cartels known by their proxy names — CCA, GEO, CEC, etc. — comes from the incarceration of refugees, and has been for many years now. Many are getting rich off the misery of criminalizing immigration, not just the owners and shareholders of private prisons. Think of the security systems they employ, the weapons they pretend not to have, the horrible food that is brought in. The graft of all that. It would make even an alderman in Daley’s Chicago blush.

Then there are all the children thrown into the vast cps system, with its varying degrees of competence and compassion — after their mothers and fathers and aunts and abuelitas are torn from them.

Finally, one must admit the terrible reality that the Northerners of usgov have always looked at Central America as a kind of vast refrigerator filled with tropical delights for the taking and at once a place to sell weaponry and arms to enrich the purveyors of violence. What worked well for the CIA and the contras in the ’70s and ’80s seems to be working again. This time it is Honduras that dances with the urbane but devious usgov. At this moment in time, however, usgov has gotten better at manipulating the bounties that come from what has been named as disaster capitalism.

The unchecked violence in Honduras causes the mass migration of thousands.

The unchecked violence on civil society in Honduras causes the mass migration of thousands. These thousands first enrich the palms of los vuitres that hover over them, as they make the perilous voyage north. Crossing the river into usgov terrain can lead to death in the desert, extortion by coyotes and different gangs or into the hierleras of the Border Patrol and eventual placement into detention centers, contracted out to the private prison privateers.

karnes city detention center 2

Detention center in Karnes City, Texas: Y’all come, y’hear? Photo from NBC News.

Briefly thought extinct, the idea of family detention has returned to the horror of those who battled it at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas. This time ICE and the private contractors would not repeat the error they made in placing a Family Detention Center a mere hour from Democratic Austin. The new family detentions are as far away as possible from lawyers, universities, and those of conscience who would protest.

Get out your map of the Southwest and find Artesia, New Mexico, Karnes City, Texas, and Dilley, Texas. Usgov just had to review their playbook for the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII to see the value of placing these gulags far from the casual or progressive eye.

Many are involved in the hard work of representing children and mothers caught in the terrible ICE palaces that are scattered over the continent. Others visit, some advocate. Long gone are the days of manifestos or lists of demands. In today’s mediaEnglish I can say that the ask to those that adjudicate the laws of both this land and of international civil society is that these prison camps be closed. That is how the “immigrant detention centers must be seen — as gulags that profit those who sell privatized prison. They are islands of vast misery, sadness, and abuse of the most vulnerable.

They must be closed. Now.

[Elaine Cohen moved to Austin in 1997 after she found Accion Zapatista’s website. Her involvement with immigrants began when she started work as a bilingual substitute for AISD. After another stay teaching in Mexico (2005-2010) she returned to Austin and discovered the Hutto Visitation Program. She has just completed her third year of visiting women in detention there. Being part of the struggle to close immigration detention and working with the women affected by it places her at the intersection of these fields.]

This entry was posted in Metro, RagBlog and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to METRO/GUEST VOICE | Elaine J. Cohen : Cassandra’s curse and the usgov detention centers

  1. VIctor Escobar says:

    Great article!

  2. Rebel says:

    thank you for this!

  3. Rosemarie Doucette says:

    Thank you Elaine for an unflinching report! You are so right about putting the new detention centers away from public view. Justice, however, knows no bounds so we will continue to fight for just immigration reform!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *