Recent comparisons between the Uyghur's incarcerations in the western provinces of China and the internment of illegal immigrants by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) lack accuracy. They are different. Uyghurs in China are put in concentration camps because they are Uyghurs. There is no other reason than their ethnicity and their faith. ICE incarcerates its detainee because of an illegal action undertaken by the apprehended person. They have broken the law. Whether our immigration laws are fair is not the issue. Until they are removed or replaced, it is the law. China arrests Uyghurs not because they broke any law, but because they exist.
China prohibits these people from speaking their Turkic language, wearing traditional garments, or participating in religious ceremonies. They are not free to leave or even petition to leave. They are involuntary workers in the supply chain that serves over eighty multination corporations, including apparel companies Calvin Klein, L.L.Bean, Nike, Adidas, and technology companies Apple, Samsung, Nokia, and Sony.
By contrast, ICE guarantees its detainees' freedom of religion. To quote from the ICE manual:
"…detainees of different religious beliefs are provided reasonable and equitable opportunities to participate in the practices of their respective faiths, constrained only by concerns about safety, security and the orderly operation of the facility."
Even if, for some reason, clergy cannot perform a service, no one is going to stop an ICE detainee from praying. No one will prevent them from speaking in their native language nor pressed them into the service of multinational corporations. China forces Uyghurs to provide slave labor. ICE does no such thing
An ICE prisoner can petition to leave and return to their home country. It is a cumbersome process and typically means the individual cannot come back to the United States later. Many fear something dangerous is waiting for them at home do not want to do this. The imprisoned Uyghur has no choice. The ICE internment, although disturbingly long, will end, and those individuals will either be allowed into the country or sent home. The Uyghur has no assurance he or she will ever experience freedom again.
The most significant difference is in the goals of these imprisonments. For ICE, it is to stem the tide of illegal immigration into the county. For China, it is the eradication of an ethnic minority. Both are miserable situation for those caught in them. One is reminiscent of the xenophobic America of the 1020s. The other is a frightening reminder of Germany in the 1930s.