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Washington Discusses Internment of Aliens As War Declaration by Germany is Expected

December 10, 1941
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The round-up of over 400 German and Italian aliens by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the announcement of a proclamation by President Roosevelt authorizing these and further arrests has resulted in the question of concentration camps for aliens being raised once again in Congressional circles here. The issue came to the fore prominently today as war declarations by Germany and Italy against the United States were expected to follow the opening of hostilities by Japan.

Though action apparently cannot be initiated again in the House during this session of Congress on the Hobbs “Concentration camp bill” which was defeated last month by a vote of 167 to 141, it was pointed out here today that the Senate could take up the Russell bill, which is the twin to the Hobbs bill, and that the House would pass it now as soon as it has passed the Senate.

It was disclosed here today that a few days before the Hobbs bill came up in the House on November 18, the Judiciary Committee in an unannounced meeting voted to offer committee amendments striking out the provisions which extended the Attorney General’s authority to legalize the stay of aliens who have lived in the United States for a certain number of years as well as of refugees who have come to the United States as non-immigrants. The Judiciary Committee also insisted on making more severe the exclusion and deportation provisions of the bill. This move altered the position of the Department of Justice on the Hobbs Bill.

A statement issued by Attorney General Biddle, clarifying his views on the issue of interning deportable aliens who could not be deported to their native lands, reads:

“I have never been in favor of any measure which would grant permanent authority to confine deportable aliens without the right of trial, and I should prefer a bill in which authority is expressly limited to the emergency. However, in view of the very graveness of the emergency which faces this country and because our long standing policy of deporting undesirable aliens has become inadequate, I do support the Hobbs bill in the form in which it was originally introduced. This is because the authority to confine aliens, under this bill, is in effect, though not expressly, limited to the present emergency. When the emergency is over, we shall then, in most cases, be able to return deportable aliens to their native lands. This fact, in actuality, makes the authority contained in the measure temporary in character.

“When the bill was originally drafted, one of the considerations which made me willing to support it was the provisions which gave the Attorney General discretion to change the status of aliens who had been in this country for a certain number of years. If, however, these sections are eliminated, the bill cannot have the support of the Department of Justice.”

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