Could we see 'internment camps' for undocumented aliens in the US?
By Nolan Rappaport

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Will undocumented aliens with the coronavirus be put in internment camps the way Japanese Americans were in World War II?

It may seem farfetched, but America has interred people before for posing a threat to our country.

For instance, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared war on Japan when it attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor. A few months later, in response to intelligence reports that the Japanese were going to invade the West Coast, Roosevelt ordered the Secretary of War to remove Japanese Americans from areas on the West Coast which were considered “military zones.”

Approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans, including 70,000 citizens, were taken from their homes and put into internment camps at various locations around the country.

A Japanese American citizen challenged the internments in court, but the courts held that the internments were an acceptable response to wartime danger.

The COVID-19 epidemic is not a military invasion, but it is likely to spread rapidly through the United States if it is not contained, and it is already killing people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated that it could kill as many as 1.7 million people in the United States.

It will be called “a quarantine” if large groups of undocumented aliens are held at detention centers to prevent the spread of a deadly contagious disease, not “an internment.”

“Internment” refers to isolating people for military or political reasons — but both detain people against their will in response to an emergency situation.


Published originally on The Hill.

Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an Executive Branch Immigration Law Expert for three years. He subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years. Follow him on Twitter @NolanR1 or at