Audio Edition: My visit to the concentration camps, feat. AOC

  
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Happy Friday. Hope everyone had a good — and dry — Independence Day. This week I was on the U.S.-Mexico border, getting as close as I could to America’s concentration camps.

I was following a congressional delegation led by Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas. It featured most prominently Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman Democrat from New York who has done as much as anyone in the country to bring attention back to this issue.

After the tour, I sat down for a one-on-one interview with Ocasio-Cortez — much of which I published as a transcript in Mother Jones.

I had other thoughts and reporting to share as well. I’ve done that here in the first-ever Long Version podcast edition, which you can listen to using the player above. It includes exclusive audio from that interview and the scene along the border.

Please enjoy and share.

And, if you haven’t yet, sign up for The Long Version! You’ll get the backstory others missed, the details they didn’t bother to look for, and analysis you won’t get anywhere else:

Transcript (automatically generated, may contain errors)

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

Hi, this is Jonathan Katz and you're listening to a special audio edition--in fact, the first ever audio edition--of The Long Version. That's my new newsletter. I'm just back from El Paso and the US-Mexico border where I was following around a congressional delegation that was visiting Donald Trump's concentration camps. And I thought that this would be a good medium to share some of my thoughts. Some of the things that I saw when I was down there.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

I want to start off, first of all by thanking everybody who's already subscribing to The Long Version. Hello. If you have not yet I invite you to check it out. You can find it by Googling my name and the long version. Or you can go directly to katz.substack.com to sign up. That's K A T Z dot SUBSTACK dot com. And you can read some back issues there and see if you like it and sign up to get it in your inbox every week.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

So on Saturday, I was on my way back from Puerto Rico and I got where I was working on a different story and I got a phone call that a congressional delegation was about to head down to El Paso to visit some of the concentration camps. And this delegation was going to include Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

Congresswoman Ocasio Cortez is of course a freshman, 29 years old representing the Bronx and Queens, who in her, it's almost been exactly a year since she won an upset victory in the democratic primary against a long time, but little known nationally Democrat. And in the time since she's been in office, she has established herself as a significant voice and she used that voice a couple of weeks ago to make a very powerful statement.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

She said that the migrant detention centers as some people call them that were set up all along the Southern border -- but of course there are others throughout the country -- are concentration camps. Now this was a call that resonated particularly with me. Those of you who have been reading this newsletter for a little while it has been going on know that I wrote a piece in late May called "Concentrate on the Camps" where I made that same argument. I made that into a op-ed that ran in the Los Angeles Times. And sometime later the representative responded to that call and made that statement and I think we were thinking about the same thing, which was that calling them by their name using a powerful term that would resonate with people, would call attention to a crisis that to a large extent had been forgotten.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

There had been a brief flurry of attention during the so-called zero tolerance or family separation in 2018, but ever since that had been quote unquote resolved essentially by president Trump deciding to throw whole families into his camps together. It hadn't been talked about a whole lot and I thought that was wrong. I think that this is one of the signature policies of an administration that has shown clear, authoritarian and white nationalist tendencies. And I think that the Congresswoman saw the same. So I thought this would be a good opportunity to see things through the eyes of an emerging and very important public figure and get some access that I might not be able to get myself as, as a journalist.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

Now. I was not allowed inside any of the camps or any of the places that we visited. No reporters were--only the members of Congress were--but by virtue of the fact that I was sort of following them around with a small pack of, of other reporters and of course some staff, I think I was able to get more of a look than I normally would be able to. I mean, even just being able to stand up against one of these fences and look through and you know, record little videos and, and a little bit of audio, some of which I'll play for you on my phone. That's something that I probably wouldn't have been able to do if I had just gone on my own. And of course I was able to talk to the members when they came out. Especially Congresswoman Ocasio Cortez who sat down with me for an interview. And I'll be playing a couple snips of that later.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

But let me just give you a brief overview of some of the places that we saw and I'll, I'll set the scene a little bit. For those of you who've never been there before. El Paso is a really fascinating town. It's very far from other cities. I was told that if you drive east it's hours before he gets in the next major city, which is probably San Antonio. And it is really a binational city. Really it's, it's still in a lot of ways El Paso del Norte, which is what the area was originally known as. Half of it is El Paso, Texas, and the other half is Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. And you really feel that in a lot of ways. I mean the, the people, you know, families have relatives on both sides of the border.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

People are crossing back and forth every day. And by virtue of that fact, it's a very interesting place to have these camps which are primarily being used to hold people from Latin America. Now, not so much Mexico because immigration from Mexico is way down and has been way down from, from the much higher numbers that we saw, you know 10, 15 years ago. A lot of the people who are moving through right now are coming from farther South and central America from what's known as the, the Northern triangle. That's Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and a couple of other places. You also have significant populations of other people in computing interests, including interestingly enough, Cubans who are flying from Cuba often to Ecuador or to Nicaragua or countries that have good relations with Cuba and making a long and very dangerous Trek North to try to get through the border.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

And those people are being held in these places and they are places that are meant not to be seen. I think that's one of the major things that really stuck out to me from what I saw there. There, there are places that are meant to blend in with their surroundings and be ignored. So the first one that we went to was called Casa Franklin and it's a building, nondescript office building, kind of a sandy beige color brick, no signs on the outside except for some very small ones that basically tell you the troublemakers are going to be prosecuted. But you could walk right by it, which is what I did. I, it was actually very close to the hotel that, that I was staying in, which was also where some of the members were staying. And I use my Google maps to head over there and I, I walked right past it because I just didn't see that it was there.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

But if you look really closely, if you stop on the street and notice you can see that there's something strange going on. All of the blinds are really tightly drawn. No daylight is getting in or out. And of course, that means that you can't see anybody who's inside. And the people who are inside are children. Several dozen children. Again I think the majority of them from central America who have been put in there and a lot of them have actually been taken away from their families. Not parents because of the result of, of, of the outrage over the family separation policy back in 2018. But if they travel across the border with an uncle, an aunt, a grandparent, a cousin, even if they have parents who are already in the United States is my understanding. They're taken away from them and some are being put into, into this particular place. And the delegation got there. And they visited there first and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez actually came out and told us in Spanish a little of what she had seen inside

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

Aquí por un tour algunos días, pero hay tambien niños aqui que esta, you know, llegando a, como, algunos meses aqui en estas facilidades. Y tambien yo tengo preocupaciones por los niños que solo pueden hablar quiché, o mam, o otros dialectos -- idiomas,idiomas indigenas

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

And what she's saying there is that, first of all, some of the kids who were supposed to be kept there for only a matter of days had been kept there for months on my heard from one member as many as eight months. And also that she's concerned because some of those kids not only don't speak English but don't speak Spanish, they speak indigenous languages such as Mam, Ki'che, and so they're having trouble communicating with anybody from the outside. I also was told by another member of Congress who went in that one of her concerns was that there's a telephone that the children can use to call in and make a report of abuse if there are any abuses going on. But then that phone is being put in a very public area. So like you would have to be making these declarations basically in front of all of the other inmates, the other child, inmates who are being held in this place.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

Not to mention the guards. So that, that would suggest that if there's malfeasance going on, we may not know very much about what's going on inside. The next place we went was a border patrol station one El Paso. And if you've been following any of the coverage of this trip, including what I wrote in mother Jones this is where a lot of the news that you've been seeing came out of. I'll give you a little bit of background about what was happening right at the moment that we went in that morning. ProPublica had published a story about a Facebook group of border control agents who were posting racist and sexist and just awful, awful memes and jokes. Both about the migrants and sort of retaliation against the members of Congress who were about to come inspect them. Particularly AOC.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

And this story had come out, you know, just then, and when the members went inside they were already, you know, kind of nervous about what they were going to encounter. Because this Facebook group, I mean, let's, let's be clear here. It contained about 9,500 members. That's almost half of the entire border patrol. I think that's, that's like the, almost the majority of the people who actually worked for this entire agency. And I mean, one of these, one of these photo illustrations that somebody had made showed Representative Ocasio-Cortez literally being raped by Donald Trump. And that's the level of, of what we're talking about here. And so the, the members were understandably concerned. There are also some sort of weird ground rules that were being laid out that the members couldn't take phones inside. They couldn't record what was going on.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

And I just, I, I really want to underline this, like over and over and over again. Remember, press isn't allowed inside. You know, anybody who's basically below the level of a member of Congress isn't allowed inside. And even the members of Congress, I mean, these are elected officials. Some of your elected officials are being told that they can't record, they can't take any video. They can't take any audio of, of what they're seeing. Border patrol does not want you to know what is happening inside of these places. The Trump administration does not want you to know what is happening inside these places. They want to be able to get away with whatever they want to do. They want to have no oversight whatsoever. And this was understandably concerning. It was understandably concerning to a group of law makers one of whom in particular had been targeted by, by some, some pretty violent and, and sinister stuff online. But, you know, they were willing to go with this because these were the ground rules. I mean, it's, they didn't have a whole lot of choice in the matter. So during the visit well I'll, I'll let, I'll let you hear from Representative Ocasio-Cortez herself. This is from the one on one interview that she and I did just after.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

I'm listening to CBP kind of give this tour. And then I see, and I think someone else has seen it first. It was either like Madeline Dean or Rashida to leave or somebody saw the screen with the surveillance that had like all of the video feeds of all of the cells. And so I started walking up to the screen with the surveil--with all of the surveillance feeds and I started, since they made us check our phones at the door. I did have like some paper and some pen and I started jotting things down. I was writing down everything that I had seen around me and so I was counting, I kind of have my pen up and I was counting like all of the little, in one of the, one of the feeds of the cell, there was one cell that just had very large amount of people, like large -- there were so many people crowded in the cell that people could not sleep in there.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

So there were some people like sitting, some people crouched and I went in and I started counting all of the people that were in the cell and then I looked down and I kid you not, there was literally a CBP officer with their phone and they started trying to do this to take a selfie of themselves with me in the background.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

Right?! It wasn't even in the distance. She was like two feet in front of me and there was this glass perimeter in front of them and she was literally like, and that's when all hell broke loose.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

I mean, can you imagine that? Right. So what ends up happening basically is the congresswoman told me that that was the end of the scripted tour and she and some of the other members basically demanded that they be allowed access to a holding cell and that holding cell was full of women from Cuba. And that's where they had a, a conversation that has basically made the biggest headlines so far out of, out of this particular visit.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

At first, they were just like answering very clear questions like, yes, no, or how many days have you been here, et cetera.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

You're speaking to them in Spanish?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

Yeah. I was speaking to them in Spanish and eventually they started saying a little bit more and all of a sudden they all start just like sobbing, sobbing, sobbing. One of them had been separated from her one daughter, the other had been separated from her two children. Women had been in there. One woman had been in there for two months. Most of the women had been there a long time, like at least twenty days. And this was a cell that had no running water. And this was the cell where the woman said that she was told earlier today that that the toilet water is drinkable. They also told us the extent to which CBP cleaned up before we got there. So they said that they would go, they were, they were kind of officially like the policy was to give them one shower for 15 days.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

Right on. And then that changed four days ago. Four days ago is when we announced that we'd be coming here four days goes when we reached out to CPP, that this was gonna be the facility we're going to visit. And then they said that they get one shower a day, but it's in like these kind of tub things. It was hard to suss out exactly what they were describing, but it was kind of like these like seemed like they like their showers are inadequate to like they're not normal showers.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

And the toilet situation was like that picture, like where it's like the sink on top of the toilet?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

Right. Like it was, it was a toilet a lot like the one that was shown except that top sink had no water.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

Cause it wasn't working.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

Cause it wasn't working.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

And so they were told to drink out of the toilet.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

So they were told that that they could drink out of the toilet bowl. And then CBP officers were like, Oh no. Like we have water out here outside the cell. And like if they need water, they can tell us. But I'll tell you, I was in that saw, I didn't see one cup, I did not see one bottle of water. I didn't see anything that told me that these women had water to drink. Some of the women said that they were able to drink water, not from the toilet.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

Right.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

But other women told me that they had drank from the toilet.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

Cause I mean two months like, you'd die.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

Yeah. Yeah.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

Where do they get their meals?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

They get fed. They, they, they receive meals, but the meals are wholly inadequate. They get like they literally get like a Nature Valley oat and honey granola in the morning.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

Wow.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

Yeah, she showed it to me. I saw two oranges on the concrete floor and I think they get like sandwiches, but they don't get any greens or vegetables. And so these women were showing me they had like canker sores. And and because the food is so lacking nutritionally, they're developing digestive issues and other health problems.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

And to be clear, I reached out to a customs and border protection after this interview for a comment and they refuse to answer direct questions. They issued a statement essentially saying that they gave people you know, adequate food and water and that anybody who is found to be committing malfeasance will be held accountable. But they wouldn't give any further comment on, on this particular toilet situation. And, and I just, I mean, I, I think it's important to be clear here. There's, there's been just in the last couple of days since all this happened, you know, a lot of back and forth about the toilet and you know, whether this was true and what it means. First of all, there's, you know, I talked to immigration advocates, people who are experts on this. They said, there's absolutely no reason to think that this isn't true.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

I mean, if you look at these diagrams, that peo--these photos that people are sharing online as some kind of defense against the situation where they're showing that they're these units that have the, the sink up top and the toilet down at the bottom. I mean, it's already disgusting. It's man, if, if, if if, you know, if you're at home and you don't close the lid on your toilet, when you flush it, there's just particles of just, you know, like shit and piss going everywhere and these toilets don't have covers on them. The sink is built into the toilet. And so if you're drinking water out of the same sink where you're washing your hands after you go to the bathroom and it's open next to the toilet where everything's spinning around and you know, flying up in the air, like that's already a bad situation before you even get to the part where, and there's, there's just no reason to doubt this.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

And CBP -- CBP, sorry, won't as you know, deny this. They won't say that this isn't true. That the water wasn't working up top. And so they were being told to, to drink out of the bottom. I mean, it's a bad situation and I think that part of the reason why it's set up this way is because people aren't supposed to be held in these places for long periods of time, but they're being held there for a very long time. I mean, you heard there the Congresswoman talking about people who were being held there for for two months, we heard about the kids who are in Casa Franklin who have been held there for, for something on the order of eight months. And that's because these are now concentration camps. They are places that perhaps at one point were meant to be temporary holding facilities before somebody could move somewhere else.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

But they're now just the places where these people are being vanished from society. They're places where are being put and, and we're supposed to forget about them. We're just not supposed to remember that. They're there. And it's through visits like this and it's through conversations like this and it's through using correct terms like concentration camp that people are at least for this moment starting to pay attention again. The last place that we went was Clint and Clint is another CBP, a holding facility that had received a lot of attention in, in, in the time since AOC concentration camp comment because it was a place where children are held and it was a place where you know, inspectors were finding major, major problems and because it was the place that had been in the news there, there are two things that happened.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

First of all, it was the place that received the most thorough cleanup before the Congressman and women came to visit. But it was also the place where protesters came out in force. And there were some protestors who were, there were a couple dozen who were protesting against the camps. I talked to a woman from Sitka, Alaska who had come all the way down and, and had had a sign the side, close the camps, but there were also, believe it or not, America 2019, there were pro concentration camp protesters. I mean, just like, just sit with that. Like there were people who were there and they were like, these camps are good and the people who are criticizing them are bad. And they were, you know, they, they were sort of, they were occupying this kind of double space where on the one hand, they were denying all of the reports of, of of, of abuses and bad conditions inside of the camps.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

But at the same time they were saying, well, those are the fault of the Democrats. Those are the fault of, of you AOC. They were really particularly excited when she showed up, so, so that they could start screaming at her and they were holding signs that, you know we're calling for mass deportations. They were flying a big Trump flag. One of the guys was there with a, an actual megaphone. So he would drown everybody else out. And I would play you recording what that sounded like, but it just sounds like noise. I mean, people are, I mean, it's really interesting because th th to have the chance that we're going in, in opposition to one another where the were were people chanting, close the camps, close the camps, and then their sponsor that was Trump 20, 20 Trump, 20, 20, which, I mean, I, I think I think really captures it, right?

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

I mean, that's, that's what this is about. That's the point of this is that you know, one group of people are like, look, there's human rights abuses going on and this is terrible. And the other group of people is saying, we're in charge, we're in charge. This is about our power and we're going to continue. We're gonna continue our power. And one of the things that was really interesting to me, and I, I, I have to say this report, I haven't really experienced this really anywhere. So after the delegation visited the inside, they came out and a bunch of them held a press conference. It was, it was, it wasn't very far away. It was, you know, a couple of steps away from, from the front. But it wasn't in the exact spot where the, the protest had been taking place. The protesters followed them.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

And th the protestors, the maggot protesters in particular the Trump protesters, the, the pro concentration camp protesters, it didn't just follow them. They came to disrupt the press conference. They came to basically tried to drown out the press conference with their shouts. And they did that while AOC was speaking. They did that a while while all of the different members were speaking. Ayana Presley gave a, a particularly strong rebuke to them. But the, when it really opened up was when Rashida to leave. The Palestinian American Congresswoman from Michigan got up to speak. And, you know, it was interesting, the protestors, the mega protestors had gone to considerable lengths, I think to try to diffuse any criticism of them for being racist. You know, I mean for supporting the, the interment of, of, of you know, people of a particular ethnic group which is, you know one of the major things that's going on here among other things first of all, several of them were from El Paso, which is a majority miss DSO, you know, Mexican-American community.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

And so some of them came from that community. There was one man front and center who had you know, very dark skin was black. And and, and I think they thought this was very funny. I mean, they thought this was like a great thing to use to troll people. You know, that people would call them racist, the, the protesters against the concentration camps would call them racist. And then they would, you know, respond like, you know, look at me, look at me. You know, it's like they knew what they were doing. They, they, they knew that this was an effective troll. But when Rashida Talib got up, the mask fell. Just, just have a listen.

Tape:

[Inaudible] [inaudible]

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

So did you hear that? So what, what was going on was she started to speak about what she had seen inside and the pro Trump protesters were screaming at her, we don't care about Sharia law. We care about Jesus Christ and telling her to go take care of, of her own country. And when she said, I'm meaning, I guess, presumably Palestine. So I, I guess the, I guess the Trump protesters were, were recognizing a two state solution. That's interesting. Anyway, I don't know. I don't know. I mean you know, and, and, and a Congresswoman Talib was, was responding you know, I will out love your hate. But I, I mean, it's really, it's really fascinating what's going on there. I mean, these are, you know, these are people acting thuggishly, and what they're doing is they're doing essentially the work of the Trump administration.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

They're doing the work of, of customs and border protection. They're trying to keep the truth from getting out there, trying to keep people from finding out what's actually happening inside, what's happening to these people. And you know, the, the conversation devolves into, you know, arguing about the construction of a toilet and you know, people accusing people who are just trying to explain what's happening inside to human beings of being liars. And in this case, you know, foreigners, traders people trying to, you know, impose Sharia law. That's what we're dealing with here. That's what's going on. And that's the way that camps like this are, are able to operate. That's, that's why we now have a system of concentration camps in this country and what's allowing them to be there. Now, it's not all, it's not all the, the, you know, pro concentration camp forces that are out there.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

It's not all the president. In order for them to get away with this, the rest of us have to look away. The rest of us have to look for the truth, not in the facts, but somewhere in the middle between two political positions to say, well, perhaps everybody has a point here and perhaps is not as bad as these people are saying. And worse than these people are saying. And the truth must lie somewhere in the middle, but it doesn't, it lies in the facts. And you can hear what the facts here are. You've got a border force with a culture of impunity, of racism, of sexism, of hate. They hate and they fear people who are different from them. They hate and they fear people who are trying to hold them accountable. They want to intimidate members of Congress if they can.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

They want to keep them from seeing what's going on inside. They want to keep them from bringing in their phones and recording devices. They want to keep out the press. They share, want to keep out people, me who might look around and actually report on what's going on. They want to stage manage these visits. They want to, you know, keep people in, in terrible conditions, not allow them to shower and clean themselves until they find out that members of Congress are coming. And then at that last minute, start moving people around. Start emptying out some of these cells. Start a power washing the walls and they don't want you to know what's going on. They don't want you to know what's going on, and I think it's important to ask ourselves why and I think, I think the answer is, is absolutely obvious because what's going on are abuses.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

What's going on is that there's a system to take people, many of whom are legally exercising their right to seek asylum in the United States. They're coming here, they're presenting themselves, and they're being unceremoniously carted away to hidden places behind barbed wire, behind electrified fences, behind armed guards. They're being deprived of sleep. They're being held in isolation, they're being tortured, they're being underfed, they're being insulted, they're being abused and God knows what else to discourage them from coming here to have people look at the United States as a place that isn't going to be hospital to hospitable to them, and that's going to encourage them to stay home. The irony, of course, being that one of the major reasons why they want to leave those homes in the first place is because we went to those homes first because we've invaded those countries. We've occupied those countries.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

I mean, you look at the people who are coming from Honduras for example. And I'm, I'm writing about this in my book right now. Gangsters of capitalism, which will be coming out, hopefully the not too distant future. You know, we in the United States invaded Honduras and ensured that the government that would be friendliest to our interests and American business interests would, would would be empower and ensured that there will be the creation of a big export industry to the United States and in a, in a valuable crop, which was the banana. And it was because of that mixture of U S intervention and military invasion and a unstable politics in a single export dominated economy that a Williams Sydney Porter better known as O. Henry coined the term banana Republic to describe what we, what the United States had created in Honduras.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

And there's situations like that in, in Guatemala, in El Salvador in Nicaragua, in all over the world. And in Cuba. I mean, all, many of the places that these people are coming from are, are places that th th these, these problems that exist in their countries, it didn't happen in isolation. They came as a result of our involvement. And as happens, they are now trying to seek better lives here because the, the resources that we took from those places are now here. And they're trying to follow those resources and they're trying to follow that wealth. And we'd bet that's, that's a conversation for another time and, and, and a future version of, of the long version or, or many future versions of the long version. But I think that's ultimately what I came away with from this trip was realizing the links that people wanted to go to Nazi, what's going on inside and the abuses and, and they're meant to, to put fear in people and to target people.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

And I think the last thing to say is, and I, and I was really left with this, is don't think that this is just a story about something that's happening to someone else. I mean do, do think about that, right? I mean, do you think about what is being done in your name and what's being done with, with your tax dollars? Because I think those are important things to remember. But don't think of this as just a story about something that's happening to some Cubans and some Hondurans and some, some Salvadorans who are trying to come to the United States. You know, as, as Andrea Pitzer the journalist who wrote one long night which is one of the most comprehensive histories of, of concentration camps. So she keeps saying there's other people who are experts on this keep saying and as, and as I keep saying it, I'm going to say right now, once these systems get created, they don't usually stop with the first group of people that they're meant to detain.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

If people can be thrown into the ladders, into the iceboxes and the Petra narratives, the, the dog kennels, and they're able to be hidden from view and people can't get in from the outside. And even members of Congress can't really get in to see what's going on. And when they do see what's going on, they come out and people for whom it is in their political interest to deny what is happening on the inside. When they are able to, you know, so easily shout down the, the people who are are, are, are just trying to describe what's going on that can happen to you, that could happen to any of us. And I had just like a very little just, I mean really minuscule taste of that at the end of my trip after the delegations had gone home I went over to Juarez.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

I wanted to see what was going on on the other side of the border. I walked over the bridge. There was basically no customs in, in Mexico, which I thought was interesting. I was actually a little confused by, and I went around, I had a nice time. I saw some things and some food and I got on the bridge and I came back to the United States across one of the, the major crossings, the, the Santa Fe bridge. And there was a very long line. It was like almost out the door. And I have I have, I have global entry. I have, you know, I travel a lot, I travel a lot internationally and so I, yeah, I have the thing where I can, I can skip the line of customs. Right. And I thought that may be, maybe it would work there cause there was sort of a, an express line that I could get in and it didn't say global entry.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

So I wasn't sure if it was actually what it was for or if it would work. And I had a little card that they had issued me, which I thought would, you know, maybe be able to get me through to allow me to, to cut this line. And I went up and I, I showed the agent the card and I was basically asking like, is this, does this work here? Can I, can I get through this line? And the agent said what, why don't you go over to that door? And it was not the door out. It's not the door back to Texas. And I was like that to where over there he's like, yeah, just, just head over to that door and you have this like very polite kind of, you know, sing-song voice. But I realized that I was being, I was being taken off somewhere else.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

I was, I was going to secondary screening and I got back there and he told me to, I had a backpack with me, told me to take off the backpack and put it on the table. And I was thinking at that moment of texting somebody I think my wife, you know, just someone to let them know that like I, I was being taken off the grid here and he of course knew that I would probably do that. And so he told me to empty my pockets as well and put everything inside the backpack. And I went and I sat down and I was in a waiting area with a group of men. And this is one of those situations where you know, you're in the do not make eye contact with other people space, which I realized when I made eye contact with some people and they gave me a look back that was like, you know, Oh, why are you making eye contact with me?

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

Was the guy next to me with a, you know, a neck tattoo who was handcuffed to the chair. There's some fact guys, there was something guys, I mean, nobody looked like they were having a really good time. And I was in that liminal space. I was in that space where you have no control over your own destiny, where you have no real control over what's going to happen to you. And I was able to sort of watch what was going on back there and you know, customs and border protection, El Paso, again, lots of people who are, you know, of Mexican descent some of whom have been on that same land dating back to when it was Mexico before the United States took it. And they were sort of talking among themselves about what to do with the different people who were in there, the different people who were in the seating area.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

At one moment, one of the guys say, dude, I'm trying to figure out what to do with, with this a family of five. I can't figure out, you know, what room to put them in or if their space in this room. And they called them and I saw them, it was a mother and some young kids and kind of a teenage kid and they were brought back and they were put in this room and the door was closed. At one point a guy came out, a CPB, a CBP agent and you know, he was sorta wrapping his Palm over and over again with this like, you know, wouldn't Baton and kinda, you know, cop style. And I was wondering, you know, what's, what's going to happen to that family? Is that a family that's headed toward the camps now? Is that, is that a family that's going to be taken apart?

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

Are those kids going to be ripped from, from their mother right now? Or are they just going to be sent badly? Who knows? I mean, you know, are they going to be put in these camps at the United States? Is trying to get Mexico to create on the Mexican side of the border where, you know, other, other abuses may be a whole other category of abuses are happening. Or is it all just a big misunderstanding like it is with me and they're gonna, you know, continue on their way. I had no idea and there was no way for me to find out and there was certainly no way for me to find out under the circumstances when I was at that moment, if not under the heel then at least, you know, under the, under a bit of the, of the toe of the boot.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

Right. If you catch my drift. And so I sat there for a little while and finally, basically I was, you know, brought over and I was told that I hadn't, you know activated the card and so I needed to do that next time. And I don't know why they hadn't just asked for my passport. I was also told that as a U S citizen, I couldn't actually be held there, but I, I could be like, Oh, but then I could, you know, be be some sort of fine or something like that. But I had done nothing wrong in the end. And I don't know, you know, any of the other people in that room, I don't know if any of them, including the guy who had his handcuffed to the chair, I don't know if he had done anything wrong, maybe had, who knows.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

But we were all in that space where there was somebody else's power. There was somebody else who could decide our fates. And that's a space that a lot of people are finding themselves in. And a growing number of people are finding themselves in all over the country. And I think the big experience that I had of, of being down there is how normal all of this is. How hidden these facilities are. They just blend in with the landscape around them and they can kind of disappear and the people in them can disappear. And that's what the people who were in charge want. Because individually we're quite powerless against the system, this big and this powerful and this strong. But together we can do something if we are looking at it and if we are concentrating on it and if we are saying what we want to have done in our names with our tax money, with our power, we can, we can actually do something about it.

Jonathan Myerson Katz:

But it requires a certain kind of concerted action and it requires a certain kind of paying attention. And that's ultimately what this trip was about. I think it was what it was about for the Congress people. I is what it was about for me. It was, was trying to pay attention. And so I hope I hope you're paying attention and I'll continue talking about this. I, I hope that if you've enjoyed this, that you'll share it. Tell other people that this is out there and I head over to the long version. Sign up for yourself again. It's katz.substack.com. KA T Z dot SUBSTACK dot com. And I'll see you on a, a future vision, a future edition audio or, or print. Have a good one.