Immigration Insight – Words Matter

The following definitions are to help you make sense of what you hear in the news.

Deportation: the action of deporting a non-citizen from a country. Deportation differs from extradition.

Extradition is usually based on a treaty between two countries where one agrees to force the return of a person to the other country. The USA has treaty extraditions with most countries.

Detention: When a person is forcibly confined and denied most freedoms, he or she is said to be in detention. This term is the one used by Homeland Security to refer to the places where undocumented immigrants are held. Some prefer the terms below.

Prison: This is a place usually of long-term confinement for serious crimes.

Incarceration: To put or keep someone in prison or in a place used as a prison: 2. to keep someone in a closed place and prevent them from leaving it.

I have heard prominent Japanese Americans say that the term for what happened to 120,000 of them during WWII should be changed from “internment” to “incarceration.” According to WIKIPEDIA, The term is especially used for the confinement “of enemy citizens in wartime or of terrorism suspects”.

Unaccompanied minor: This term used to be in the American vocabulary mostly to refer to the children (usually because of divorce) who were traveling without an adult guardian. It is now very political and is used by the USA government in a very specific way. The significant difference is the term “alien.”

On March 1, 2003, the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Section 462, transferred responsibilities for the care and placement of unaccompanied alien children from the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to the Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).

Cedars Justice Network