The web site Learn Progress published an article in January 2017 reporting that President Trump was building “concentration camps” in the United States:
BREAKING: Donald Trump is Having Feds Build ‘Concentration Camp’ Detention Centers. Why?
We’ve all been outraged over the fact that Donald Trump is moving full-steam ahead on his Muslim immigration ban. If you thought that was bad, then wait ‘til you hear what the Orange Tyrant is doing next.
Donald Trump is now setting his sights on punishing undocumented immigrants in America. Shockingly, Trump just signed a directive to create new camps — concentration camps — where such immigrants will be held for deportation.
This article was based on an executive order signed by President Trump on 25 January 2017. That order did include a provision regarding the construction of more detention centers along the U.S.-Mexican border, but the headline of Learn Progress’ article placed the term “Concentration Camps” in quotes, making it seemed as if the detention centers were to be something new and (onerously) different on the American landscape.
President Trump’s executive order would not create the United States’ first detention centers for immigrants. As of this writing, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operate 111 detention facilities in the United States, many of which are situated along the U.S.-Mexican border:
Sec. 5. Detention Facilities. (a) The Secretary shall take all appropriate action and allocate all legally available resources to immediately construct, operate, control, or establish contracts to construct, operate, or control facilities to detain aliens at or near the land border with Mexico.
(b) The Secretary shall take all appropriate action and allocate all legally available resources to immediately assign asylum officers to immigration detention facilities for the purpose of accepting asylum referrals and conducting credible fear determinations pursuant to section 235(b)(1) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)) and applicable regulations and reasonable fear determinations pursuant to applicable regulations.
(c) The Attorney General shall take all appropriate action and allocate all legally available resources to immediately assign immigration judges to immigration detention facilities operated or controlled by the Secretary, or operated or controlled pursuant to contract by the Secretary, for the purpose of conducting proceedings authorized under title 8, chapter 12, subchapter II, United States Code.
Sec. 6. Detention for Illegal Entry. The Secretary shall immediately take all appropriate actions to ensure the detention of aliens apprehended for violations of immigration law pending the outcome of their removal proceedings or their removal from the country to the extent permitted by law. The Secretary shall issue new policy guidance to all Department of Homeland Security personnel regarding the appropriate and consistent use of lawful detention authority under the INA, including the termination of the practice commonly known as “catch and release,” whereby aliens are routinely released in the United States shortly after their apprehension for violations of immigration law.
Although labeling such detention facilities as “concentration camps” is problematic (for many the term conjures up images of the inhumane treatment, torture, and murder that took place in such camps established by Nazi-era Germany), the United States has been criticized for the reported treatment of detainees in American facilities:
The U.S. government has the largest immigration detention system in the world, and that is nothing to be proud of. The underlying problem with immigration detention is that most detainees are only guilty of being in the U.S. without authorization, which is a civil offense, not a crime.
Yet detainees are treated like criminals, held behind bars and barbed wire, often in remote locations. In fact, in at least one respect, immigration detainees are treated worse than criminals: Criminal defendants have the right to a speedy adjudication and to court-appointed legal counsel. Immigration detainees do not.
Detention punishes people in disproportionate relation to their alleged infractions, and contributes to the misconception that undocumented immigrants are criminals.