Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — who could be President Trump’s possible new immigration czar — wants to put undocumented immigrants in camps.

Kobach laid out his vision for the detention of asylum seekers in a recent interview with Fox Business host Lou Dobbs. In the clip, which was tweeted by Media Matters’ Andrew Lawrence, Kobach talked about deploying a fleet of passenger planes and unused FEMA trailers to border cities in order to create “processing towns that are confined,” which he also likened to a “camp,” for people seeking asylum in the United States.

“When someone comes in and falsely claims asylum, we don’t release them for six months onto the streets of the United States, we process them right there, in that camp,” Kobach said, adding that the confined asylum seekers would be fed and housed in FEMA trailers. “As soon as they’re done, as soon as that claim is rejected, they’re back on the next plane home.”

Kris Kobach’s idea may very well be put into practice if a recent Associated Press (AP) report about the possible appointment of an “immigration czar” is correct. Four anonymous sources confided to the AP that Trump is considering naming either Kobach or former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as an “immigration czar” or “border czar” to help carry out the administration’s immigration agenda.

However, carrying out the plan Kobach described would be a violation of international law, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). A 2018 post to the ACLU’s website described how people fleeing their home countries to apply for asylum in another have various rights guaranteed by the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees — among those being the right to not be imprisoned just for seeking asylum. And even U.S. immigration law has protections for asylum seekers, according to the ACLU, that have been in place for a decade.

In 2009, the Obama administration issued a directive instructing ICE Field Offices to grant release on humanitarian parole to asylum seekers, provided that they met a series of stringent requirements: pass their credible fear screening (an interview in which an immigration official determines whether there’s a “significant possibility” the person is eligible for asylum); prove their identity; pose no danger to the community; and provide an address where they will be living and commit to appearing for court dates.

Kobach’s idea to detain asylum seekers in camps, while alarming to some, is not exactly unprecedented in the grand scope of U.S. history. As Grit Post reported last year, then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once ordered the internment of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans in various camps located throughout the U.S. during World War II.


Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.

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