Seagoville Enemy Alien Detention Station
Next to historic Ellis Island in New York City, the most architecturally significant Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) confinement site was arguably at Seagoville. The Geneva Convention of 1929 prohibited the detention of prisoners of war, as well as enemy aliens (civilians) in prisons. This eliminated the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons from being assigned the responsibility for the internment of civilians during World War II. Built by the Bureau of Prisons as a minimum-security women’s reformatory in 1941, Seagoville Enemy Alien Detention Station was transferred from the Bureau of Prisons to the INS on April 1, 1942.
The INS utilized the Seagoville facility for the detention of Japanese, German, and Italian families (briefly), childless couples, and single women detained as alien enemies arrested within the U.S. and those brought from Latin America to be interned, while awaiting parole or repatriation to their ancestral country of origin. While a small number of families lived at this detention station in 1942 and 1943 this was consider a temporary fix, which the INS resolved with its largest site in Crystal City. The internment camp included its own hospital with quarantine section, an auditorium, industry and service buildings, and 352 rooms for detainees. Each dorm-esque living quarters was a self-contained housing unit with a small kitchen and dining area, and adequate recreational facilities. However, these accommodations did not provide enough living quarters for detainees as the population grew in 1942 and 1943 to its peak population of 650 internees and a staff of approximately 120 INS and civilian employees.
The Third Geneva Convention—Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War (1929)—stipulated that the U.S. must provide internees from different nations separate and equal access to living quarters. To provide additional living quarters in 1942 for the approximately 250 Japanese Latin Americans brought to the U.S. from South America, a Colony of 50 Victory Huts, with its own dining, lavatory, and laundry facilities, was established within the existing footprint of Seagoville Enemy Alien Detention Station.
By late 1942, the U.S. Army realized it needed to focus the efforts of it's Provost Marshal General's Office on the expected task of guarding hundreds of thousands of Axis Nations [Japan, German, and Italy] prisoners of war. By September of 1943, with few exceptions, all of the Japanese Latin American internees at Seagoville were repatriated, with some families transferred to the INS’ largest facility dedicated to interning family units at Crystal City (Family) Internment Camp. From late September through the closure of the camp in May 1945, when the site was returned to the Bureau of Prisons, the remaining detainees were single women and childless couples. However, some children spent limited time at Seagoville while their parents were detained there.
One of the site’s lasting features is a large mural painted by internees in the interment camp’s hospital. According to interviews with former Seagoville Federal Correction Institution staff, internees painted a landscape mural on a concrete retaining wall (light well), outside the building’s basement floor dining area. Speculation is that this mural was painted as a visual escape for internees having lunch. From 2007 to 2012, the Texas Historical Commission has researched confinement sites of Japanese, German, and Italian alien enemies in Texas during World War II, and this is thought to be the only mural still in existence in the state. The site’s lasting legacy is evident not only in the historical record, the internee mural, oral history interviews, and historic photos, but also through the site’s architectural significance. While not purposefully built for the detention of Enemy Aliens, the site nevertheless, began its career as a confinement site located within a well-constructed district of buildings. In 2006, the Texas Historical Commission concurred that the former confinement site is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
Japanese, German, & Italian Enemy Alien Internment
Seagoville Enemy Alien Detention Station’s internee population volunteered or was “volunteered” for repatriation from 1942 until its closure in May 1945.
Oral History Interviews
THC historians have not yet located and conducted oral history interviews associated with Japanese, German, and Italian Enemy Alien or U.S. citizen internment at the Seagoville Enemy Alien Detention Station. If you are aware of anyone who was interned or worked at this confinement site please contact the THC Militray History Program Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org so we may reach out to them for an interview.
- An Official Texas Historical Marker has been placed near the front gate entrance of FCI-Seagoville.
- U.S. Bureau of Prisons
- Federal Correctional Institution
- Phone: 972-287-2911
- Visit Website
Map & Directions
View Seagoville Internment Camp in a larger map
Located in Dallas County, southeast of Dallas.