WASHINGTON – Seventy one years ago today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which led to the internment of over 120,000 individuals of Japanese ancestry during World War II.
Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) and congressional leadership released the following statements in observance of the Day of Remembrance:
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), CAPAC chair: “On the Day of Remembrance, we reflect on our responsibility to pursue and protect the civil rights of all Americans. Executive Order 9066 established an unconscionable policy that upended American families and imprisoned them in deplorable conditions because of wartime hysteria and racism.
“Twenty five years ago, our government finally apologized for these transgressions and provided reparations to Japanese American survivors of internment through the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. The former shows what can happen when we fail to remain vigilant, and the latter demonstrates our ability to recognize our wrongs and move forward as a nation.
“Today, as we remember the dark legacies of World War II, we must also strive to reflect on the principles that will help us achieve a more just and more perfect union for all.”
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), House Democratic leader: “This Day of Remembrance shines a bright light on a dark period of discrimination, internment, and persecution in our nation’s history, and serves as a reminder of the urgent task to protect, preserve, and defend the rights and liberties of Japanese Americans and all Americans. We must never again allow injustice to dictate our policies, and we must always act to promote a future of equality and freedom for communities of every background in our country.”
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles), House Democratic Caucus chairman: “Today we pause to remember the courage and determination displayed by our fellow Americans of Japanese descent during World War II. Internment — that unjust and regrettable act by our nation — is an experience our Japanese American families in Los Angeles felt all too deeply. The stories of strength and survival during internment, being wrenched from home and community, remind us of our never-ending duty to protect the rights and freedoms of all Americans and to preserve our precious democracy.”
Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii): “The Day of Remembrance recognizes the hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese Americans whose families were torn apart. By keeping the memory of these families strong, we can help future generations learn from this injustice. I hope Hawaii’s students will discover even our islands were not immune from internment, which is why I worked with Sen. Inouye to authorize a study on how to best preserve Oahu’s Honouliuli Internment Camp. It is critically important for young people to see the pervasiveness of this injustice to recognize the importance of not repeating the mistakes of the past.”
Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), CAPAC vice chair: “I join my colleagues in remembering the thousands of Japanese Americans who were forced into internment camps during World War II. Executive Order 9066 marked a bleak point in our nation’s history — one of racial prejudice and wartime hysteria. As we commemorate this dark event to shed light on our past, I am encouraged that the 113th Congress is the most diverse Congress in history.
“This Day of Remembrance is a reminder that we must continue to work for equality and just treatment for all Americans. The Asian American and Pacific Islander community has made important progress since World War II; however, racism and prejudice continue to exist today. I will continue to work with my colleagues in CAPAC and Congress at large to ensure that rights and interests of the AAPI community are addressed.”
Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside), CAPAC whip: “Today marks 71 years since the United States government signed Executive Order 9066, which stripped 120,000 Japanese Americans, including my own mother and father, of their basic human rights. This dark period has not only left a permanent mark on my own family, but on the families of all Americans, as I truly believe that an injustice to one, is an injustice to all. We must protect and defend civil liberties, no matter the threat our country may be facing. By doing so, we can ensure a union that truly stands for equality and justice for all.”
Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose), CAPAC chair emeritus: “In 1942, some 120,000 Americans of Japanese, Italian and German ancestries were rounded up in this country and incarcerated. Families were torn apart. People’s livelihoods and properties were sold for pennies on the dollar. American civil liberties evaporated overnight, only to be caged behind barbed wires.
“I spent my childhood, alongside my family, in the Amache internment camp in southeast Colorado, the experiences of which shaped my political beliefs and outlook on life.
“This year marks the 71st anniversary of President Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066, which authorized the incarceration, and the 25th anniversary of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which formally initiated the healing and reconciliation process for those Japanese Americans who were interned during World War II. The purpose of the Day of Remembrance is to preserve the lessons from this shameful chapter of our nation’s history.
“In today’s post-9/11 world, we must strive to balance our civil liberties with the need to protect our homeland. Our Constitution is never tested in times of tranquility; it is always tested in times of trauma, tragedy, terrorism and tension. Let us uphold, not just today, but every day for that matter, the founding principles of our nation, so that we may – as stated in the Preamble of the Constitution – form a more perfect union.”
Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.): “Today, it is essential that we remember the injustices that took place against Japanese Americans during the Second World War. The great majority of Japanese Americans that were placed in internment camps loved their country just as much as their fellow Americans. Members of the 442nd regiment, such as the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, earned a distinguished combat record with many of their families being placed in internment camps by the same country they were fighting for. Even in times of crisis, we must strive to uphold the values of our Constitution and protect the civil liberties of all American citizens.”
Rep. Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa): “As we reflect on the unjust treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II, let us reaffirm our nation’s commitment to democratic ideals to ensure that such treatment is never repeated. Let us also remember the Japanese- mericans who volunteered to serve their nation in the war despite their wrongful treatment. The 100th Battalion, 442nd (Regimental Combat Team), and the Military Intelligence Service are just a few examples of the allegiance, enduring patriotism, and selfless service that are forever a part of the Japanese American story.”
Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii): “We must never forget the price paid by Japanese Americans during World War II for the fear of our nation and its leaders. This sad chapter should stand as a constant reminder of how easy it is to act against those who have no voice, and are vulnerable to the acts of a majority driven by stereotypes and distrust. As someone whose own family history includes stories of internment, I consider it my duty to speak for those who still struggle for equality and fairness.”
Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13): “I would like express my gratitude to the thousands of Japanese American veterans who served our country so honorably during World War II, even as their families and friends were being unjustly rounded up into internment camps. Commemorating their sacrifice in the face of such harsh and discriminatory treatment is long overdue. At a time when our nation fell far short of our American ideals, these patriotic Americans served their country and they should be recognized and honored.”
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento): “The internment of more than 100,000 Japanese American citizens during World War II is one of the darkest moments in our history. Today, on this Day of Remembrance, we reflect on the mistakes of our past, and reaffirm our commitment to the Constitution and the rights of liberty and justice it guarantees for all of us. We cannot erase our past, but through remembrance and reflection we can ensure history does not repeat itself.”
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose): “It’s important that we study our history, not just to examine the past for clues about the present, but because understanding history can help us shape a better future. The Day of Remembrance reminds us why it’s important to protect Americans from unjust attacks on their constitutional rights based on bigotry or unfounded fear. We should also celebrate how Japanese Americans overcame that injustice, fought valiantly for the United States in World War II, and contributed to our country in the decades that have followed.”
Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.): “The internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II violated the very principles on which our nation was founded upon — tolerance, justice, and equality. War and prejudice should never again be allowed to overrun our judgment and prevent us from doing what is morally right. Let us never forget that the civil liberties we have are unalienable, and that in America we are all created equal regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender.”
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo): “Seventy-one years ago, over 120,000 Japanese Americans were ordered incarcerated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his Executive Order 9066. 8,000 Japanese families were rounded up like animals and forced to live in horse stalls at Tanforan Racetrack. Tanforan is in my district and though currently a shopping mall, a small memorial can be found there to honor those who were interned.
“Last year, I was moved by a local photography exhibit from a San Mateo photographer who paid tribute to those who were interned at Tanforan. He had rephotographed the same Japanese Americans who posed for pictures taken by Dorothea Lange 70 years ago. It was a way to honor those who suffered while looking toward our future.
“Today we remember the past and recommit ourselves to justice and equality so that we do not deprive others of their freedom and dignity as we did so many decades ago.”
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.): “This Day of Remembrance signals the passing of 71 years since one of the darkest periods in American history. During that time our government committed acts of discrimination and injustice that flew in the face of the principles that this great country was founded upon. We pledge to never let this happen again.”
CAPAC said in a statement, “EO 9066 authorized and facilitated the wholesale removal of U.S. citizens and ‘enemy aliens’ of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast, which led to their incarceration in Wartime Relocation Authority camps. It also created an individual exclusion program that allowed the Army to move naturalized citizens of German and Italian descent from military areas across the country. These individuals were wrongfully detained on no other basis than their heritage; none were found guilty of the sabotage and espionage charges against them.
“The Day of Remembrance, observed annually on Feb. 19, serves not only to bring awareness to the Japanese American experience, but the experiences of all who were wrongfully detained during World War II, and to highlight the social and political discourse that led to the unjust captivity for so many innocent men, women and children.”