In February 1942, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) acquired an 80 acre tract of land from the New Mexico State Penitentiary (1 1⁄2 miles from the center of Santa Fe). The tract held an abandoned CCC camp that was constructed in 1933 to house 450 men. In less than 2 months, the camp was converted into a confinement center to house 1,400 people. The INS saw this as a temporary holding facility to house West Coast detainees until the California hearing boards could determine their fate. The first internees arrived in mid-March and by April 1942 the camp population was at 826 people. During the next three months, five separate Alien Enemy Hearing Boards occurred and, as a result, the camp popula
tion steadily declined: the hearing boards released 523 and ordered 302 interned in Army custody. On September 24, 1942, the last internee departed and by November the camp was deactivated and left in the hands of a caretaker staff.
In February of 1943, the Army transferred all the civilian internees in its custody to the INS. As a result, the Santa Fe camp was reactivated and expanded to hold 2,000, augmenting the original buildings with prefabricated Victory Huts. During the camp’s operation, a total of 4,555 individuals passed through. During their time at the camp the internees questioned their standard of living under the Geneva Convention. The government issued clothing, purchased
food and provided housing in the CCC barracks and Victory Huts (which were eventually replaced with new barracks).
Under the government rules, ethnic food preferences could be accommodated, provided that “a balanced diet was preserved.” Using this provision, the camp generally
provided rations to accommodate more fish and rice and less meat and potatoes. During 1942, the camp purchased food from local suppliers, which strained civilian sources and caused public resentment. When the camp reopened in 1943, the Army quartermaster general provided the
rations. These were supplemented by a 19-acre irrigated tract and a poultry farm that the internees established adjacent to the camp to supply fresh vegetables, chickens, and eggs. In addition, the canteen stocked specialty foods for private purchase, including those that the Red Cross sent from Japan.
From the Japanese surrender until April of 1946 the Santa Fe camp continued as a holding and processing center as the DOJ closed camps and released internees.