Jewish Activists Who Slammed ICE Detention Facilities as 'Concentration Camps' Arrested for Protesting

More than 100 Jews gather outside facility under slogan 'Never Again,' calling to abolish ICE and for the closure of migrant detention facilities

Jewish protesters demonstrate in front Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center under the slogan 'Never Again,' New Jersey, NY, June 30, 2019.
Gili Getz

NEW YORK — Thirty-six Jewish protesters were arrested outside a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in New Jersey Sunday while protesting the conditions under which undocumented immigrants are being held inside.

More than 100 Jewish demonstrators gathered outside the facility under the slogan “Never Again," calling for the abolishment of ICE and closure of migrant detention facilities, which they deemed “concentration camps." That term sparked much controversy after Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez used it last week to describe the centers.

Jewish protesters arrested as they demonstrate against ICE’s detention conditions, New Jersey, NY, June 30, 2019.
Gili Getz

Some in Congress, as well as in the Jewish community, condemned Ocasio-Cortez's comparison between immigrant detention and the Holocaust

During Sunday's protest, participants held signs reading “Never Again Means Now” and recited the Kaddish (Jewish mourning prayer) for six children who have died in ICE custody. 

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“In the past few weeks we’ve heard a lot of politicians, many of them not Jewish, claiming to speak for our Jewish community about this crisis, expressing more outrage about the word used to describe the conditions in these camps than they ever have about the conditions themselves,” one of the organizers told the crowd. “Jews won’t stay silent while our historical trauma is weaponized to distract from the trauma being unleashed on these communities right now.”

Jewish protesters hold signs reading 'Never Again for anyone' in protest of ICE detention conditions, New Jersey, NY, June 30, 2019.
Gili Getz

The protest organizers, a new group called Never Again Action, called on similar protests to be held by Jewish communities across the United States this week, asking people to take action in their hometowns. 

“As Jews, we’ve been taught to never let anything like the Holocaust happen again,” the group wrote on its Facebook page. “Now, with children detained in unacceptable conditions, ICE raids targeting our communities, and people dying at the border while seeking safety in the U.S., we are seeing the signs of a mass atrocity. We refuse to wait and see what happens next.

“This crisis isn’t happening just at the border,” the statement continued. “It’s happening in our communities all around the country, and we need anyone and everyone to throw themselves into the gears of the system.”

The group added that until politicians take “drastic action to shut down ICE immediately and ensure safety for people fleeing to the United States,” it is going to “make it impossible for ICE to do business as usual.”

Conditions in immigrant detention centers across the country have made headlines lately as images of children sleeping on concrete floors with aluminum blanket have caused national uproar. 

A report released last week by the office of the inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security showed that ICE’s detention conditions are “unsafe and unhealthy,” with expired food, segregation practices, failure to provide recreation outside detainee housing units and moldy bathrooms. In addition, the report noted that some detainees do not receive “appropriate clothing and hygiene items to ensure they could properly care for themselves.”

Similar demonstrations have been scheduled by Never Again Action at ICE detention centers in Boston, Providence, Los Angeles and San Francisco this week.