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Health Risks to Immigrants in Trump Administration's Custody Prompt Comparisons to Nazi Camps

Just as immigrants in the custody of ICE are denied vaccines, those in the concentration camps were denied vaccines

Protesters hold signs during a demonstration

Protesters hold signs during a demonstration against migrant detention facilities on July 2, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

"A Report on the Banality of Evil"
—Hannah Arendt

That the comparison can be made is odious—so are the conditions. So is the one imposing them. He is the most odious of all and his stench pervades the country. He wasn't the first one to implement it when confronted by those he has made helpless. It happened in Hitler's Germany.

It was not a long description. It read, in part, as follows:

"The harsh living conditions, characterized by crowding, absent sanitation and poor personal hygiene led to considerable morbidity, mainly due to infections, disease and famine... Crowding was the rule, and each cot was occupied simultaneously by several patients regardless of their condition."
—"Medicine in the Concentration Camps of the Third Reich"

Just as immigrants in the custody of ICE are denied vaccines, those in the concentration camps were denied vaccines. The importance of the vaccines was shown by the steps that were taken to obtain vaccines by those not in the concentration camps. In a description in the Washington Post of the importance vaccines played in the lives of those not held in German concentration camps where vaccines were not available, Helene Sinnreich, associate professor of religious studies at the University of Tennessee, explained: "Vaccines emerged as a powerful, if expensive, tool for resistance. Smugglers found ways to bring medicine and even nascent vaccines into the ghetto... For Jews of the ghetto, vaccines were precious protection and symbolized a belief in their own future."

The Trump story is the decision made by Trumpistas not to provide vaccines to children and others in their custody. Unlike victims of the Nazi regime, immigrants in the custody of the U.S. government who were deprived of the vaccines lacked the ability to get them elsewhere.


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As of this writing only three children in Trump's custody have died. They might not have died had they been provided the flu vaccine. Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, a pediatric professor at Harvard, told CNBC that child deaths are rare events. "When I learned that multiple children had died in detention from potentially preventable causes, it truly disturbed me. The country needs urgent answers... so that children stop dying in detention." Alia Sunderji, a pediatric emergency physician, observes that normally influenza doesn't pose much of a threat to children. But when children are placed in overcrowded and generally obscene conditions as Trump has done, you have created a "death trap."

It is not only the children held in detention camps whose health is at risk. In another mark of the compassion tTrump and his cronies have for those with medical conditions, on Aug. 6, 2019 the Trumpistas brought the Medical Deferred Action Program to an end.

The beneficiaries of the program were those with illnesses that could not be treated in their home countries or whose children could not be treated in their home countries. Under the Medical Deferred Action Program, those who have entered the country in need of life saving medical care, for themselves or their children, were permitted to stay for up to two years to receive the needed medical treatment. If the need still existed at the end of the two-year period, their stay could be extended for an additional two years. Immigrants present in the United States under that program were permitted to have employment to support themselves and their families.

The program was administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Effective Aug. 7, the program was taken over by the masters of compassion, ICE, and within a week it brought the program to an end. It began sending letters to all the families who were in the United States because of the need for medical treatment and were here because of the Medical Deferred Action Program.

The letters notified the immigrants that they were no longer welcome and would have to leave the country within 33 days. The letter made no exception for those whose lives depended on being able to receive the kind of treatment only available in the United States. It applied to those who had just arrived and those who had been here for many years. In Boston alone, there are children from 20 families whose lives depend on being able to continue receiving treatment for illnesses such as muscular dystrophy, HIV, and other serious illnesses. They have been given 33 days to leave.

Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli is a columnist and lawyer known nationally for his work. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Colorado School of Law where he served on the Board of Editors of the Rocky Mountain Law Review. He can be emailed at For political commentary see his web page at

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