The 5 Books To Read To Understand The Long, Painful History Of Detention Centers

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It seems that all anyone can talk about these days are the detention centers housing immigrant children in the U.S., and for good reason. Children are being separated from their parents, indefinitely, as soon as they cross the border, regardless of whether or not their families are applying for asylum in the U.S. If you're having trouble wrapping your head around how or why this is happening — and, let's face it, most of us are — I have five books about the history of detention centers that will help you understand.

The detention centers are an atrocious facet of the Trump administration that has captured the world's attention, and it's important to realize how long the creation of these camps has been in the works. One year ago, the administration ended the Family Case Management Program, which helped families with certain needs — including disabilities, language barriers, pregnancies, and small children — by assigning them case workers who "help them find legal assistance and work through the court process," and "also assist families in obtaining housing, healthcare, and education for their children as they await court processing." This recording of children separated from their parents is all you need to hear to know why ending the Family Case Management Program was one of the worst things the U.S. President could have possibly done.

If the child detention centers in the U.S. don't horrify you, you haven't been paying attention. Check out the five books I've recommended below:

'One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps' by Andrea Pitzer

Contrary to our cultural imaginings, concentration camps are not the sole province of Nazi Germany. In One Long Night, Andrea Pitzer traces the history of these deadly places, from Spain's camps for indigenous Americans and the Andersonville POW camp in the 19th century, to Nazi camps in Europe, and beyond.

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'Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875-1928' by David Wallace Adams

In Education for Extinction, David Wallace Adams examines the United States' long and dreadful history of forcing Native Americans to assimilate, focusing on the government boarding schools that operated with only one goal: "Kill the Indian and save the man."

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'Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment,' edited by Linda Gordon and Gary Y. Okihiro

In 1942, famed Farm Security Administration photographer Dorothea Lange documented the forced relocation of Japanese-Americans to internment camps across the American Southwest. Her photographs were censored, "impounded," and dropped in the National Archives. Examine what the mid-century U.S. government did not want anyone to see in Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment.

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'KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps' by Nikolaus Wachsmann

Nikolaus Wachsmann's 880-page history of Nazi concentration camps takes its title from their German name: Konzentrationslager. KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps analyzes the development of the camps, beginning with the placement of 170 in 1933 Berlin.

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'Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions' by Valeria Luiselli

Based on interviews the author conducted with immigrant children seeking asylum in the U.S., Tell Me How It Ends exposes the real-life conditions of migrant life, from the dangerous journey to America, to the fraught questioning process that determines whether they will be allowed entry. This one is just 106 pages, so there's no excuse for you not to read it.

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