SEAGOVILLE ENEMY ALIEN DETENTION STATION

In 1940, the United States government constructed a female correctional facility in Seagoville, Texas, a small town of 700 located approximately twenty miles southeast of Dallas. In April 1942, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) appropriated the site and operated an internment camp for “enemy aliens.” Many internees, though not all, were Japanese and Germans deported from Latin America to the United States. In general, females and married couples without children were sent to Seagoville, while men were sent to the internment camp at Kenedy and families with children to the camp at Crystal City. The INS closed the Seagoville camp in June 1945, and the facility reverted to a minimum-security federal prison.

Workers at Seagoville Enemy Alien Detention Station

Seagoville Enemy Alien Detention Station About 1944

Joseph O’Rourke, the “supervisor of internment” for the INS, determined general policy but left the administration of the camps to various “Officers in Charge.” In March 1942, Warden Amy Stannard assumed responsibility for the supervision of the Seagoville staff as well as the “care, maintenance, and discipline of persons admitted to the institution.” As of July 1942, the internee population at Seagoville consisted of 23 German females, 15 Japanese females, and 4 German males, though the total number of internees increased dramatically in the following months.

Many of the female internees were classified as “voluntary internees” under the assumption that they had voluntarily agreed to join their interned spouses in the United States. Internees were permitted to bring—or have shipped to them—personal clothing, hot water bottles, sewing machines, rugs, curtains, cushions, and small electric appliances such as irons. According to internee spokesperson Franz Wirz, however, internment was not “voluntary.” The women whose husbands had been interned could not afford to support their families in Latin America and in the face of poverty, decided to join their husbands in the United States.

The building facilities at Seagoville, one- and two- story “red brick structures with cream limestone trim,” accommodated approximately 550—and perhaps as many as 700—internees. Each of the six two-story dormitories had 40 to 68 single rooms, a kitchen, dining hall, and living room, as well as common laundry, bathing, and toilet facilities. A separate two-story building housed classrooms, an auditorium, and a library that carried over 3,000 volumes, including the Spanish edition of the Readers’ Digest. The camp also had a maternity ward.

The camp’s population changed primarily as a result of repatriation to Germany and Japan. As of April 1943, the camp’s population consisted of 200 Japanese and 350 Germans and “other nationals” for a total of 550 internees, internal camp records show. In June 1943, the State Department scheduled the exchange vessel, the Gripsholm, to repatriate 1,500 Japanese to Japan from Seagoville and three other internment camps.[5] By August 1944, the camp’s population had diminished to 372 Germans, 6 Italians, and 2 persons of other nationalities, totaling 380 internees.

When the camp closed in June 1945, the INS transferred the remaining internees to the internment camp in Crystal City, Texas. Currently, the site is a correctional institution that the Federal Bureau of Prisons describes as “a low security facility housing male inmates.”

Courtesy Densho Encylopedia.