Immigration Law and Internment Camps in Texas

The Harris County Law Library participated in the 2016 Gulf Coast Read annual reading initiative with a three-part lecture series, an exhibit at our downtown Houston location, and this digital exhibit, each focusing on the 2016 GCR selection, The Train to Crystal City by Jan Jarboe Russell. The book focuses on a World War II internment camp in Crystal City, Texas, and presents a compelling look at all facets of the internees' experience from personal interactions to the federal law that affected the rest of their lives.

Immigration Law and Internment Camps in Texas: a digital exhibit by the Harris County Law Library

At the family internment camp in Crystal City, Texas, the standards, style, and customs of daily living were engineered to reflect life outside the camp. However, under the watchful eye of the tower guard, residents were constantly reminded of the limits on their freedom. Barbed wire surrounding the camp was a vivid symbol of the punitive nature of life as an internee. Most were never formally charged with a crime, but were detained and imprisoned nonetheless as alien enemies. German, Japanese, and Italian men, in particular, were arrested and involuntarily relocated to Crystal City. Their wives and families followed, bravely building communities in a hot, arid, and unfamiliar land, a former cattle town with fewer than 400 residents. Visit our Life at Crystal City for film and photos about life inside Texas' World War II family internment camp.

Law from all three branches of the federal government combined to make the family internment camp at Crystal City, Texas possible. Visit our Law of Crystal City page to learn more about the presidential proclamations that allowed the U.S. Attorney General to intern individuals of Japanese and German ancestry without trial, legislation passed by the founding fathers that was used to intern families during World War II, and U.S. Supreme Court cases that legitimized internment camps throughout the country.

Hans and Frieda Ackermann were German natives who immigrated legally to the United States and became U.S. citizens only to be denaturalized and interned at Crystal City as World War II raged on. The Ackermanns challenged their internment and denaturalization all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Although their efforts were unsuccessful and citizenship was not restored, they were not deported and remained in their adopted homeland of Texas until their deaths in 1965 (Hans) and 1981 (Frieda).

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