Immigration Detention Is Not a Concentration Camp

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.

About Author


Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.


  1. avatar

    Call them anything you want, but understand that confining people who have illegally invaded one’s country are factually breaking the law. Having done so they have no right to come and go as they please and SHOULD be locked up and away from the general population.
    I repeat: Illegal Aliens have NO “right” to remain free in a country that they are illegally present in. NONE.
    EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM, regardless of age, gender, or any other factor, needs to be CONCENTRATED in one area while they are being processed for either being granted asylum or deported.
    Furthermore, ALL of those who are refused entry for cause and deported who are found to have RE-entered the country should be summarily put to death. They should automatically be treated as an invading enemy out of uniform and dealt with as if they were.

  2. avatar

    The Democratic Party and liberals are the poster children for the term “You Can’t Fix Stupid”. I’ve given up hope on them. There so deep in lies and diseption I really don’t think that they know right from wrong anymore. Even thoughs who had common sense have totally misplaced it.

    • avatar

      “Colorful invective is often a part of political debate.”

      I agree with Matt and I think those who argue that detention centers are concentration camps are making an absurd argument. Just because you say something doesn’t make it true.

      Trump is not a Nazi, just because you say so.

      And ICE agents are not S.S. guards, just because you say so.

      While A.O.C. may not like detention centers, they are not concentration camps. To claim them as such disrespects the heroic survivors and lost souls who were interned in concentration camps.

      A.O.C. uses the “definition” of a concentration camp “from the dictionary”, but the comparison is ridiculous.

      Perhaps she means well, but her skewing of present day issues with historical events is out of place.

  3. avatar

    these people should ALL – EACH & EVERY ONE OF THEM – be sent back to wherever they came from & then apply to come to America LEGALLY! we shouldn’t take any “asylum” seekers until we TAKE CARE OF AMERICANS FIRST! these people put their selves & their families in the situation they’re in right now! all I can say is “America can’t take ANY immigrants (legal or illegally) or asylum seekers until we take care of AMERICANS FIRST! God bless America & God bless President Trump!

    • avatar

      Not sure why we go straight to German concentration camps. Hell, the US has had concentration camps before. The question isn’t “Are there concentration camps?”The question is, “Should there be concentration camps?”

  4. avatar

    The Excess Illegal Aliens Were Dropped off at the LA Bus Station, etc…

    Sanctuary Cities like LA saw a 16% increase in homelessness at the same time too….the Open Border Party (OBP) loves California turning into a SH%!HOLE anyway, it should put smiles on all the local residents faces , as they’re stuck with this toxic mess burning in “homeless camp caused wild fires” [hey, sounds like the lake of fire, Hell, now].

    We need a WALL around California now too?

  5. avatar

    Let’s say there is a lack of nuanced thinking among many on the left. Just throw out some stupid cliché that has nothing to do with nothing. Another bit of nonsense is comparing a border wall to the Berlin Wall. Other than both being barriers, there does not seem to be a policy of shooting Americans who want to leave the country. Are we missing something?

    Then there is always the old favorite about “when your great grandparents came here”. But when they did come here, they were not in line at the store using food stamps, getting free medical care for their six kids, no housing subsidized by the government. They made it on their own. Now we attract the welfare dependent and the taxpayer picks up the bill while business gets the cheap labor they want.

    Or people who claim to be environmentalists that want essentially open borders, and that population growth causes suburban sprawl and more air pollution, the very thing they say they are worried about. And how does any black leader not want immigration curtailed, which would raise the bargaining power of black citizens to demand decent wages. Plenty of jobs? Yes. But a lot of them don’t pay nearly enough to live on. Stop being suckered into supporting mass immigration. It doesn’t benefit you.

  6. avatar

    The left knows how effective words are, even if it’s a lie, and if said enough times, people begin to believe it. But, If illegal alien detention centers are “concentration camps”, it’s the time in history people are willing to travel great distances to go into them.

    • avatar

      Desperate people fleeing desperate situations. Would be nice if we focused on putting these people to work, instead of terrorizing them.