If Cory Gardner works from his Denver office today, July 18, he's going to have a tough time focusing.
Protesters associated with Never Again Action, a recently formed national movement that brings Jews together to protest immigration enforcement policies coming from the White House, will gather outside the Republican senator's office at 5 p.m. today.
"As Jews, we have been taught that when we see people being persecuted, we should stand up and say never again," says Laurel Eckhouse, a political science professor at the University of Denver and one of the organizers of the protest, the second in July staged in front of Gardner's Denver office. Eckhouse says the group is targeting Gardner because he's avoided meeting with local organizations like the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition to talk about issues undocumented immigrants are facing. "He has not been addressing this crisis. He has been making excuses and avoiding this issue. This isn’t a partisan issue; we’re not targeting Gardner because he’s a Republican. In this particular state, he's built himself as a moderate Republican, but he won’t stand up to legitimate atrocities being committed in this country."
Protesters associated with Never Again Action have been demonstrating outside of Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities across the country in recent weeks. On July 16, at least 1,000 Never Again protesters blocked ICE headquarters in Washington, D.C., for hours, and several were arrested, according to the Daily Beast.
Although the event in Denver is organized by Jews and focuses on themes of preventing the type of atrocities that occurred during the Holocaust, the protest is open to all.
"Everyone is welcome. We are putting this on in partnership with immigrant-rights organizations. We think it’s important to highlight the voices of people doing that work. Allies are also welcome," says Eckhouse. The American Friends Service Committee, the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, and other Jewish organizations will also be involved in the protest.
The Never Again protest comes as a debate rages over whether immigrant detention centers should be referred to as concentration camps (Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the highest-profile politician to use the term).
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Both Eckhouse and her co-organizer, Rebecca Glazer, say detention centers qualify as concentration camps, and the debate over semantics is just a distraction.
"I’ve seen that argument that they shouldn’t be called concentration camps being brought up in the context of politicians in support of ICE, CBP [Customs and Border Protection] and supporting immigrant detention," says Glazer. "To try to use Jewish trauma as a tool or a weapon to continue supporting detaining immigrants is absolutely unacceptable."
Last month, the debate over the phrase came up at the Aurora City Council. In the public comment period of the June 24 meeting, four out of nine speakers who decried the immigrant detention facility in Aurora referenced concentration camps. Françoise Bergan, a Republican member of the council, got particularly upset, saying in part, "The comparison truly trivializes the atrocities. I don’t need to hear that kind of crap."
But Glazer pushes back against this type of talking point. "When the Holocaust happened, death camps weren’t the first steps," she says. "We shouldn’t be waiting for it to get worse in order to act."