Camp Algiers (detention facility)

US Gov Name Camp Algiers Internment Camp
Facility Type Department of Justice Internment Camp
Administrative Agency U.S. Department of Justice
Location Camp Algiers ( lat, - lng)
Date Opened
Date Closed
Population Description Held European and Japanese immigrants and their families from Latin America.
General Description Located in Algiers, a section of New Orleans west of the Mississippi River.
Peak Population

Camp Algiers, the federal government's old immigration station in New Orleans, was the principal entry point for Japanese Latin Americans who were rounded up and brought to the US during World War II.

The Algiers Immigration Station opened in 1913 in Algiers, the section of New Orleans that lies west of the Mississippi River. It was originally created to provide an alternative port of entry to New York's overcrowded Ellis Island facility, and in the process, to encourage "desirable" European immigrants to the United States (notably Italians) to settle in the South. The station operated on the Ellis Island model. Government inspectors interviewed the newcomers to ensure that they were not insane and would not become public charges. Medical officials checked for communicable diseases and quarantined those affected. During World War I, Algiers became a U.S. Navy base and detention station, before the navy yard was closed in 1921 as an economy measure. In the 1920s, a separate quarantine building was added to the station complex. The Algiers station was never a busy destination for immigrants—in 1920 it handled about 5,000 immigrants a year, a number similar to that of the daily total arrivals at Ellis Island. After the Johnson-Reed Immigration Act of 1924 sharply reduced the numbers of immigrants entering the United States, the station declined.

Following Pearl Harbor, the Algiers complex was revived for service as a point of entry and temporary detention site for shipments of "enemy aliens" from Latin America, including ethnic Japanese, and their family members.

The first Japanese aliens to be held at Algiers were several dozen from the Republic of Panama and the Panama Canal Zone who were rounded up on December 7, 1941, and interned temporarily inside the Canal Zone. These internees were transported to New Orleans in April 1942 and processed at Algiers before being sent on to Fort Sill, Oklahoma . According to Japanese government documents, a few passengers, including Kazuo Kawano, were interned at Algiers. In addition to those from Panama, a handful of Japanese nationals who were prewar Louisiana residents, including Tsunezo Haruzono and William Nobuyoshi Sudo, were also held at Algiers, before being transferred to Santa Fe. (Diplomatic personnel serving in Japanese legations in Latin America were transported with their families to New Orleans around the same time, but landed at the Poland Ave. army base and did not pass through Algiers).

The largest number of individuals who passed through Algiers during the period 1942 to 1944 were European and Japanese immigrants and their families brought to the United States from Latin America. Under the Enemy Alien Control Program, a secret program brokered by the U.S. State Department with a dozen Latin American countries, aliens deemed potentially dangerous by their home governments were taken into custody and then deported to the United States for internment. In order to have a pretext for detaining the Latin American deportees, the State Department refused to issue entry visas to them. As a result, once the Latin American residents arrived, they were arrested on the grounds that they had attempted to enter the United States illegally and were then subjected to internment. Camp Algiers was mobilized as an internment camp for Europeans from Latin America suspected of being pro-Nazi. In March 1943 the government created a separate internment camp there, dubbed the "camp of the innocent," that held Jews and other antifascist aliens shipped back from other confinement sites in the United States in order to protect them from violence and harassment by pro-Nazi internees.

Most or all of the approximately 2,200 Latin American Japanese who were shipped to the United States for internment during 1942-44 came through Algiers, where they were quarantined and showered in DDT to prevent them from spreading infection, and then sent for detention at other sites. In a few cases, Latin American Japanese were quarantined at Algiers for longer periods. For instance, in July 1943, when the S.S. Aconcagua arrived from Santiago, Chile, two Japanese families on the ship with sick children were confined there. The fathers of the children, who had already been interned at Camp Kenedy in Texas , were escorted back to Algiers to join their families. A few weeks later, another ship from Santiago, the S.S. Imperial , arrived in New Orleans. The 105 ethnic Japanese (plus one ethnic German) aboard were moved to Algiers for customs and immigration inspection and detained there. Two more families with sick children were segregated out and placed in confinement. After a few days, the entire group was transported to Crystal City .

The Enemy Alien Control Program ceased in 1944, and no further Japanese Latin Americans passed through Algiers. Almost all the Jewish internees of the "camp of the innocent" were resettled, and replaced by a handful of European internees, who were released in 1946. In later years, Camp Algiers became a Border Patrol station, but most of the buildings became disused and deteriorated. One building was reconstructed and preserved by the Department of Homeland Security. Beginning in the 2010s, historians and preservationists led a movement to restore the other structures.

Authored by Greg Robinson , Université du Québec À Montréal

For More Information

Friedman, Max Paul. Nazis and Good Neighbors: The United States Campaign against the Germans in Latin America in World War II . New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Kaplan-Levinson, Laine. " The WWII Internment Camp, 'Camp Algiers,' Part I. " TriPod: New Orleans At 300 , WWNO New Orleans Public Radio website, Jan. 12, 2017.

Miller, Marilyn Grace. Point of No Return: Enemy Alien Internment in World War II New Orleans . Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2021.

Last updated June 24, 2024, 7:55 p.m..