Sheldon Arakaki and Sarah Baker of Seattle JACL cast their votes for the emergency resolution.  (Photo by Stanley M. Shikuma)
Sheldon Arakaki and Sarah Baker of Seattle JACL cast their votes for the emergency resolution. (Photo by Stanley M. Shikuma)

LAS VEGAS — The JACL National Council on July 13 unanimously passed an emergency resolution supporting the establishment of the Tule Lake National Historic Site and the protection and preservation of that site.

The resolution was introduced by the Seattle Chapter during the 47th JACL National Convention, held at the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

The chapter said that the proposal could not have been submitted late because two bills relating to the status of the Tule Lake concentration camp site proceeded to committee hearings — June 15 in the Senate, June 23 in the House — after the deadline for filing resolutions. The bills were passed out of committee and will go to conference committee for reconciliation.

The resolution reads, in part:

“Tule Lake became the largest of the WRA (War Relocation Authority) camps where over 18,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned without charge or due process of law in violation of basic constitutional rights …

“In 2008, the United States government recognized this grave injustice and violation of civil rights by designating the Tule Lake site as the Tule Lake Unit of the World War II valor in the Pacific National Monument, which is managed by the National Park Service (and) consists of nine sites in three states, all of which, other than the Tule Lake Unit, relate to WWII battles or anticipated engagements between Japanese and U.S. military forces …

“The Tule Lake Unit should be removed by legislation from the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument and designated a separate National Historic Site, with equal stature to the Japanese American concentration camp sites managed by the National Park Service at the Manzanar National Historic Site and the Minidoka National Historic Site …

“Senate Bill S. 2412 (introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer of California) accomplishes this by establishing the Tule Lake National Historic Site …

“House Resolution 4387 establishes the National Historic Site but requires: in Section 3, National Park Service consultation with county, municipal and airstrip officials to avoid impact on the airstrip located in the middle of the historic site; in Section 5, permission from county and city officials prior to any expansion of the protected site, which encompasses a small portion of the land used for the camp; and in Section 6, prohibits restrictions on activities or land uses outside of the site that can be seen or heard within it.”

The Tule Lake Committee opposes the Tulelake Municipal Airport’s plans to build an eight-foot-tall, three-mile-long fence within the camp site, and also opposes “the ‘poison pill’ language inserted into the House bill, which entangles the renaming of the site with the separate issue of stopping the destructive expansion of a municipal airstrip in the middle of the former civil rights site.”

The JACL National Council went on record as saying, “The JACL opposes enactment of the restrictive provisions of Sections 3, 5 and 6 of H.R. 4387.”

The council also “supports the enactment of S. 2412 in order to redesignate the site as the Tule Lake National Historic Site” and “encourages all JACL members and supporters to lobby their members of Congress accordingly.”

The resolution was spearheaded by Stan Shikuma of the Tule Lake Committee and Seattle JACL President Sarah Baker (Pacific Northwest District) and co-signed by Andy Noguchi from Florin Chapter (Northern California-Western Nevada-Pacific District), Phil Shigekuni from San Fernando Valley Chapter (Pacific Southwest District), Sandra Grant from Wasatch Front North Chapter (Intermountain District) and Toshi Abe of Philadelphia Chapter (Eastern District).

The Tule Lake Committee, which has established a petition to oppose the fence, said in a statement on the “Stop the Fence at Tule Lake” Facebook page, “Surrounding the Tulelake Municipal Airport with a three-mile-long fence would destroy the physical and historical integrity of the site where 18,000 people were imprisoned during World War II.

“Site tours would no longer be possible, and visitors could no longer experience the dimension and magnitude of the concentration camp where people walked long distances to eat meals, attend school, do laundry and use the latrines. The site, a portion of which received designation as a National Monument in 2008, housed the largest number of prisoners, stayed opened the longest and was the place where ‘troublemakers’ from other camps were sent.

“The Federal Aviation Administration is considering Modoc County’s application to construct the fence, which would run through the center of the former segregation center. There is scant evidence of deer wandering onto the runway or human interference with crop duster planes, arguments cited by proponents of the fence.”

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