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Brig Fire Sparks Political Debate

On March 29, 1996, several "illegal aliens" allegedly used electrical wire to ignite toilet paper, sheets and mattresses at a military brig at Miramar Naval Air Station in California. The resulting fire, and especially the smoke, created havoc. Panicked prisoners began to riot.

"What they did not calculate is that the facility would fill up with smoke which it did rapidly," said U.S. Attorney Alan Bersin. "That's what lead to the major disturbance and the upheaval in the institution. It was a question of survival for the 174 inmates."

There were 384 prisoners in the brig at the time, 174 federal "illegal alien" detainees and 210 incarcerated military personnel. The brig was opened to INS detainees just a week before the fire. Official reports indicate the fire was started by 10 of the INS detainees who were protesting inadequate canteen privileges. The prisoners were moved into the brig's recreation yard and then transferred to a federal detention center in San Diego. The fire was extinguished in just over an hour. The political debate surrounding the incident, however, still smolders.

The policy of using the brig to house illegal aliens was announced last fall by Attorney General Janet Reno as part of Clinton's "Operation Gatekeeper" program. Republican opponents immediately opposed the use of the brig to house illegal aliens, arguing the "care" of the immigrants diverts services away from the military base community.

"If one of my loved ones was in a car crash and I found out there was an illegal felon being transported in an ambulance and it wasn't available, I think I'd be pretty upset," said Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.).

Bersin, who is Clinton's "Southwest Border Czar," countered by proclaiming, "This was a group of thugs who seized on something as petty and trivial as peanuts and a lack of Coca-Cola to set fire and nearly cause the death of many, many people. These are the kinds of thugs we want to keep in prison," he said. "These are not the kinds of thugs we want on the streets of the city."

When the political debate is defined by the so-called "left" (Democrats) wanting to imprison immigrants -- even if it means using military brigs -- and the "right" wanting immigrants to ... to ... what? Disappear? It sounds like we're only a heartbeat away from overt fascism and genocide as a matter of official national policy.

Source: Corrections Digest

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