The Los Angeles Times published an op-ed piece written by Jonathan Katz, a national fellow at New America, titled, “Call Immigrant Detention Centers What They Really Are: Concentration Camps.” According to the piece’s deluded author, judicially monitored civil detention in a U.S. facility is exactly the same thing as being detained in a Third Reich internment camp.
Clearly that’s a hyperbolic claim intended to cast the president and his cabinet as “a racist, lawless administration.” But it is woefully inaccurate. The temporary incarceration of foreign trespassers, in modern detention centers, monitored by the judiciary and pursuant to laws passed by our democratically elected legislature, isn’t the least bit comparable to the imprisonment of political opponents by an authoritarian government.
The German konzentrationslager, the Russian gulag and the Chinese lao gai existed solely to punish any actual or potential adversaries of the ruling regime. Men, women and children confined to these facilities were often detained on the flimsiest of charges, frequently without review by any court. They were locked up specifically to punish them for failing to think and act in the manner demanded by a totalitarian state. And they rarely lived long enough to walk out the prison gate.
But that’s not remotely the case with aliens detained in the United States. All aliens held by the Department of Homeland Security have either broken our immigration laws or have arrived at our borders without a visa, asking for asylum. None of them are American citizens, with a legal right to remain here. And all of them will eventually be released, whether in the U.S., in their country of origin or in a third-party state.
Aliens are held in civil detention not as a form of punishment but in order to ensure that they attend a hearing before an Immigration Judge. And the purpose of that hearing is to determine whether they have any lawful basis for remaining in the United States.
Ultimately many migrants will be paroled into the interior of the United States and permitted to await their day in court on their own recognizance or subject to a bond. Many others will prevail before the Immigration Court and obtain legal authorization to make this country their new permanent home. That’s a far cry from facing forced labor, starvation and execution in some secret gulag hidden on the edge of nowhere.
Colorful invective is often a part of political debate. However, the current tendency for illegal alien advocates to equate the policing of our borders with crimes against humanity is as offensive as it is off-base. Doing so cheapens the suffering of the countless millions who suffered and died under Hitler, Stalin, Mao and others, while simultaneously ignoring the fact that the U.S. has given refuge, and a bright future, to more migrants than any other nation in modern history.