Ranting Rosie and the Truth About Immigration Detention

When D-List, celebrity, has-beens Andy Cohen and Rosie O’Donnell get together, most Americans don’t expect intellectual analysis and penetrating insight. But O’Donnell’s recent appearance on Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live After Show” demonstrated a level of ignorance that is shocking even for the generally clueless denizens of Hollywood.

Glomming onto a disturbing trend amongst politicians, pundits and entertainment personalities, O’Donnell made the astonishing assertion that there are “concentration camps” across the United States where migrant children are “separated from their families” and detained. According to O’Donnell, “There are over 100,000 camps in nearly every state. There’s between 10,000 and 13,000 children, that could fill Radio City Music Hall twice. That’s how many children unaccompanied alone in these camps.”

One presumes that O’Donnell is referring to immigration detention centers maintained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and contractors who provide detention facilities to both agencies. However, Ms. O’Donnell’s insane utterance is so outrageous that most reasonable observers probably have no idea what she is talking about. (It also seems pretty clear that Ms. O’Donnell has absolutely no idea what she is talking about.)

So, let us, as social justice warriors like to say, take a moment to unpack Rosie’s rant and demonstrate just how absurd it was:

  • There are 50 states in the Union. That would mean that if Ranting Rosie is correct, there are 2,000 immigration “concentration camps” in each state.
  • According to CBP, through May of 2019, it has apprehended 56,728 unaccompanied alien children and 332,981 alien family units.
  • That’s a total of 389,709 people who are supposedly subject to detention in this vast network of alleged “concentration camps.”

If all of the migrant children, and every adult presenting with children as a family unit, were detained, there would be approximately four inmates in each of what O’Donnell calls “concentration camps.” If we just include the unaccompanied migrant children, and the roughly one-third of family units whom we can safely presume are kids, that drops to one detainee per “camp.”

In reality, however, ICE has repeatedly requested additional funding for detention beds, because Congress generally approves money for only 40,000-50,000 general detention beds and 2,000-3,000 family detention beds. It’s definitely not maintaining a massive web of “camps” in order to terrorize small groups of migrant kids. 

Currently, ICE uses approximately 210 facilities that are approved for detaining immigration violators longer than 72 hours. That’s about four per state. They consist of a combination of ICE-run facilities, leased space in U.S. Marshals Service or Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities and leased space in state and local facilities. In response to emergent situations, like the current border crisis, both ICE and CBP will lease additional space and/or set up temporary camps, similar to those operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the aftermath of natural disasters.

Add to the above statistics the fact that ICE regularly paroles foreign nationals into the United States, due to a consistent lack of detention space, and the reality is that the only thing coming out of O’Donnell’s mouth is hot air.

But O’Donnell, and most of the rest of Tinseltown, don’t care about the truth. Rosie and her celebrity buddies are only interested in implementing their misguided vision of a Utopian, borderless world. In order to do that, they are willing to play fast and loose with the truth. And they’ll do so even at the risk of trivializing the suffering of true concentration camp victims and slandering a president who’s simply trying to re-establish the integrity of our southern border, which has been rendered nearly irrelevant by decades of lax immigration enforcement.

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 Comment

  1. avatar

    I Feel Sorry For Kids Dragged Into America Illegally By Their Parents

    But it certainly isn’t America’s fault or responsibility either. Let’s clean up our “employed legal citizen homelessness” crisis first. We’re bi-partisan sweeping it under the rug IMO because its caused by unaffordable rents and keeping real estate high priced is like a Baal god in America.