Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has called out the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol for fostering a "violent culture" after a ProPublica report revealed border patrol agents were sharing violent, threatening posts about her in a popular secret Facebook group.

The posts about AOC came on the heels of her visit today to Trump's detention center/concentration camps, including one in Clint, Texas, where agents have been accused of keeping children in inhumane, neglectful conditions. The ProPublica article included screenshots of sexist, xenophobic and threatening posts and memes from the group, targeting AOC and other congresspeople as well as horrific memes and comments joking about dead migrants. The group, which is called "I'm 10-15"(10-15 is apparently code for "aliens in custody"), has about 9,500 members from across the U.S.) and, according to the intro, is a "funny" and "serious" place to discuss working with the U.S. Border Patrol.

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Democracy

I sent both of my children on a bus on Tuesday. I knew where they were going.

The morning started rainy, buggy, and too early. To be fair, it always feels too early.

My husband and I waved from across the street as the buses pulled away, our kids, along with a hundred or so others, behind tinted glass. We waved like we were excited. Our son was likely not looking. Our daughter may have been, but she also could have not been paying attention until the bus started into motion. We won't know for sure if she saw us waving until she returns.

Returns.

Every day when I leave the house, I expect to return.

That's the default.

It's so much the default that realizing it is actually stunning. We run our lives as though anything else other than what's in our head, our routine, our privilege, is what will take place. There's that little truism that a worrier shines like a pebble in the hand: you're more likely to die in a car crash than a plane crash. Yet we are much more likely to be worried about flying because it is out of our routine. Being out of your routine awakens you to the precariousness we completely shut out in our day-to-day lives.

I put my children on a bus. My oldest will be gone four weeks, my youngest, two.

What should be normal: sending your kids to sleep away camp. What feels wholly unnatural: sending your Jewish kids to a Jewish sleep away camp in the world we're living in now. Even writing those words: JEWISH SLEEP AWAY CAMP make my fingers seize at the knuckles. I don't want you to know there are such things as Jewish sleep away camps. Even having others know that they exist feels like a danger.

I'm used to my feelings and my instincts seeming like hyperbole to others. I'm emotional. I'm tuned in. I'm hyperreactive. I have a hair trigger. I have anxiety and depression.

I also come from a genetic and cultural history of people who ended up in this country because we were hunted and pursued and needed to escape. Over and over and over again. The cells that have come to build the tissues and structures of my body and my brain have been organized by UNSAFETY.

In "normal" suburban upper-class life, this can be a huge detriment. A handicap. It can manifest in the most unhelpful and frankly, startlingly blind ways. I've spent so much of my life reacting and feeling and then trying to understand what makes me tick. I've spent so much time learning to train and control and ignore and channel.

I wasn't made for easy times. I was made for survival. I was made, like an animal, to intuit danger and get the hell out, fast. I was made in the image of fight or flight. I do both better than most people. It's not something I brag about, because it doesn't feel like a good thing most of the time.

I put my kids on a bus to Jewish sleep away camp. Because when my husband and I got married (I'm Jewish, he's not), our pact was this: if our children live in a world where historically they could be targeted and threatened because of their Jewishness (regardless of their actual observance of religion or customs), they deserved to know that being a Jew is not negative. We should give them every opportunity to be proud and happy about their Jewishness. Their belonging should help them to feel good about themselves and the world. It should help them seek connection and understanding of the human condition. They should know songs. They should sing full-throated. They should feel comfort in our traditions when they are useful to them, but never feel threatened or unnecessarily constrained by them.

Research funded by Jewish institutions and communities suggests that the number one way to help ground kids in their Jewish identity is to send them to Jewish sleep away camp. It's the glue.

And yet.

I put my kids on a bus to Jewish sleep away camp at a time when our government is putting migrant children into concentration camps.

I bought all the supplies on the list. I washed and labeled and sorted and packed. I zipped up those bags to accompany my children. And then I dropped my children off and couldn't see if they were waving back as the buses drove away.

Of course, the camp I'm sending them to has a stellar reputation. Every day they post updates on a special web site, along with hundreds of pictures of the kids in action. I send emails to the kids which are printed out and given to them. I send packages with stickers and trading cards and all sorts of goofiness so that they know they are loved.

Migrants from central America have made their way to our border with just what they could carry. (My children's bags were so heavy that neither of them could carry them. Likely at least 1/4 of what I sent will come back unused or untouched.) Migrants are following the rules of asylum seeking. They are fleeing violence and intimidation and abuse far greater than I will allow myself to imagine. They are separated from their children by a government that has no business doing so.

I, an upper-class white woman, expect my voice to be heard. I expect to be able to vote and call and hold my elected officials accountable. I know what to say to get my point across. I've given money to candidates and I know how to threaten that support in the future. I also have the privilege of time and energy with which to do it. My underlying expectation is that there are very few problems that I don't have some redress for.

Asylum-seekers, in good faith, and following the rules, have nothing left to lose. They are coming here seeking something less life-threatening than what they're fleeing. They're seeking some good will. Or, at the very least, safety. Or relative safety.

I put my children on a bus to Jewish sleep away camp knowing that in my daughter's cabin of 8 girls, there are 4 young adult counselors who are there to make sure that she's safe, happy, and her needs are being met.

I also know that last year, an asshole white supremacist antisemite decided to go to a synagogue on shabbat, the Jewish sabbath, and turn it into a bloodbath. Well before that ever happened, well before the era of mass shootings and Columbine, Jewish institutions like synagogues and preschools and JCCs have needed extra surveillance. We've had police guard our religious services and social gatherings. Even (and perhaps especially) seeking out Jewish belonging, Jewish joy, has always been a reckoning with danger and threat.

After I sent my children on that bus—the one I knew where it was going—the one where I'd shoveled their overpacked duffle bags into the bowels of the bus—I came home to a house strewn with the remnants from packing. Laundry bins with unneeded t-shirts and shorts and single socks. The cat—he normally comes to greet me when he hears the garage door open—was nowhere to be seen. I called for him. He still did not come. I came upstairs and looked in my son's room. No cat. I looked in my daughter's room—with its orange and pink somewhat darkened by the rainy skies—and there he was, tucked into a furry circle in an eddy of her duvet. I laid down next to him and lost control. The control I never really had.

Twitter this week has erupted in a jagged back-and-forth between politicians and pundits and opinion-havers about whether or not it is appropriate to call the migrant detention centers run by ICE and our government "concentration camps." I, and most other Jews I follow and know, agree they should be called exactly what they are.

Non-Jews (and, to be fair, some Jews as well), like to tiptoe around the Holocaust and any words or imagery which may in any way encroach upon the historical accuracy or singular legacy of that horrible period. To a degree, I might agree when the comparisons are used flippantly or improperly.

But the legacy of the Holocaust, we are all reminded, is NEVER AGAIN. And NEVER AGAIN means that we don't wait until something worse happens. What's happening RIGHT NOW in the United States shares that DNA.

In the same way I understood or had an inkling in my bones that the election might go a way I didn't want it to, I know this same thing: we are not ok. This is not just the start. This is halfway down the road to the place where we lose not just perceived control, but real control. For all the current administration's lies and purposeful incapabilities, know this: the cruelty that comes out of the mouth of our president and those who continue to support him in the government and in the populace is not a lie. It is predictive. They're telling us in advance what they intend to do. And then they are doing it.

In a world where I still have the ability to put my daughter and son on a bus with all their toiletries and know that they will likely arrive at their destination, I also know that our government argued for the legal right to deny soap and toothbrushes to migrant children. When anyone's children are denied such basics—human basics—no one is safe.

I know it will sound like hyperbole. I know that those who so easily dismissed my concerns early on—before this administration even took office—will still attempt to dismiss my warnings now. But do so at your own peril.

I was not built for normal times. I was built for times like these. And I haven't been wrong yet.

This post originally appeared on Outside Voice. You can read it here.

Inclusivity

Millions of Americans are seeing reports of migrants suffering abusive conditions in U.S. custody and wondering what they can do.

When you hear one story, you may assume it's an anomaly. When you hear a few stories, you might think they're just rumors. But at this point, the number of reports from on-the-ground sources documenting blatant human rights abuses on our soil cannot be ignored.

We have doctors, lawyers, public health officials, civil rights experts, and reporters sharing horrifying first-hand accounts of what is happening to people—to children—we have detained.

We have administration officials on video telling incredulous judges that children in overcrowded detention centers do not need access to showers, soap, toothbrushes, or blankets.

We have people arguing over whether our detention camps should be "technically" considered concentration camps, as if the question itself is not a sign that we've crossed a line somewhere.

We have reports of thousands of immigrant children being sexually abused in detention centers, some of them by staff members themselves.

We have innocent children dying in our custody.

Here's part of a first-hand account from Warren Binford, an internationally recognized children's rights scholar and Director of the Clinical Law Program at Willamette University in Oregon. She visited a Clint, Texas detention facility, spoke with the children being held inside, and shared what she found with PBS:

"Basically, what we saw are dirty children who are malnourished, who are being severely neglected. They are being kept in inhumane conditions. They are essentially being warehoused, as many as 300 children in a cell, with almost no adult supervision.

We have children caring for other young children. For example, we saw a little boy in diapers — or he had no diapers on. He should have had a diaper on. He was 2 years old. And when I was asked why he didn't have diapers on, I was told he didn't need it.

He immediately urinated. And he was in the care of another child. Children cannot take care of children, and yet that's how they are trying to run this facility. The children are hardly being fed anything nutritious, and they are being medically neglected.

We're seeing a flu outbreak, and we're also seeing a lice infestation. It is — we have children sleeping on the floor. It's the worst conditions I have ever witnessed in several years of doing these inspections."

A mass mobilization effort is underway to stand in solidarity against human detention camps on July 12.

There are many ways that people have suggested helping. Donating money to legal advocacy groups who specialize in immigration law definitely helps. But what if we want to make a strong, unified stand against these atrocities? Millions of us want to speak as one voice to say, "No more of this. Not on our soil. Not on our watch."

Enter "Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Detention Camps." On July 12, a mass gathering will take place at detention centers around the country, in addition to local communities, to shed a literal light on the inhumane conditions being faced by asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

The mission of Lights of Liberty is simple:

"We are a coalition of people, many of whom are mothers, dedicated to human rights, and the fundamental principle behind democracy that all human beings have a right to life, liberty and dignity.

We are partnering with national, regional and local communities and organizations who believe that these fundamental rights are not negotiable and are willing to protect them.

On Friday July 12th, 2019, Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Detention Camps, will bring thousands of Americans to detention camps across the country, into the streets and into their own front yards, to protest the inhumane conditions faced by refugees."

As of today, vigils are scheduled in 75 locations around the country and the world, with more being added every day. If you want to find an event near you or organize a vigil in your area, go here.

"Now is a time to stand for what is best in all of us, to stop the worst of us."

Organizations are lining up to sponsor the Lights of Liberty vigil. The United Farm Workers Foundation, The Dolores Huerta Foundation, Al Otro Lado, New Sanctuary Coalition, Black Movement Law Project, V-Day, the ACLU of Southern California , One Billion Rising, Code Pink, and more than a dozen other organizations have already signed up to sponsor the vigil. The main event is scheduled to take place in El Paso, Texas, where legislators, activists, organizers, and members of impacted communities are expected to speak at 7pm, leading up to the nationwide candlelight moment of silence at 9pm.

"We shine a light on the inhumane treatment of migrants and refugees by the current administration. To be silent is to be complicit. To sit this out is to be complacent. Now is a time to stand for what is best in all of us, to stop the worst of us. We must stand for one another. At New Sanctuary Coalition, we hold in our hearts a vision of a world worth fighting for," said Ravi Ragbir, Executive Director of New Sanctuary Coalition, in a press release.

"I've been inside these camps, and the conditions are beyond description. Twenty-four adults and six children that we know of have already died as a result," said Toby Gialluca, lawyer, activist and member of the organizing team of Lights for Liberty. "The world must take a stand against this administration and stop these camps before more lives are lost."

There is no doubt that it's hard to handle an influx of migrants and asylum-seekers. But that doesn't excuse torturing families and children. The administration has admitted to tearing children from their mother's arms on purpose to deter illegal border crossings, while at the same time blocking asylum seekers at trying to come legally through ports of entry. That leaves desperate people in impossible circumstances, and creates an even greater crisis.

There's no excuse for treatment like this. It's time to make our voices heard. Mark your calendars for July 12.

Heroes