WASHINGTON — Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) on Oct. 21 introduced bipartisan legislation to permanently reauthorize the Japanese American Confinement Site (JACS) program to preserve and educate Americans on the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
Just over 75 years ago, the U.S. government, through Executive Order 9066, rounded up and imprisoned 120,000 Japanese Americans. Based solely on race, Japanese Americans were stripped of their homes, possessions and civil liberties, and forced to live in remote military barracks. Yet, as time passes, the memory of mass, wrongful government roundup of innocent American citizens has grown increasingly distant.
“The imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II will forever be one of the most atrocious violations of American civil rights in the 20th century. Those of us in the Japanese American community know too well what discrimination feels like, what kind of mark it leaves, and most importantly, what we can do to stop it,” said Matsui. “The Japanese American story is one that is not told nearly enough. It is one of pain, one of redemption, and one of enrichment.
“This bill will ensure that these lessons live into the future – that we continue bending the moral arc of this country by sharing these stories, lifting our voices, and fighting so that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. The essence of the American experience isn’t that we’re perfect, it is that we heal from seeing where we’ve been and teach our younger generations to build a more inclusive, equitable future.”
“My parents and grandparents were imprisoned in Japanese internment camps during World War II while my Great Uncle Monso was fighting the war in defense of this country,” said Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside). “This was a dark time in our nation’s history, but in order to move forward, we must not forget the lessons of the past. For that reason, I am proud to support the Japanese American Confinement Education Act to preserve the Japanese confinement sites and create an educational competitive grant to help educate younger generations about the unjust incarceration of Japanese Americans.”
“The forced internment of our fellow citizens through Executive Order 9066 is one of the darkest chapters in American history. The fact that it occurred during my lifetime highlights just how fresh of a wound this is for Japanese Americans across our country,” said Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska). “In 1988, I was proud to support the Civil Liberties Act, which took crucial steps to acknowledge our nation’s wrongdoing and to recommit ourselves to never letting racially-based incarceration happen again. Tragically, many of our young people no longer study this terrible moment in history, which puts our ability to learn lessons from this era at risk.
“I am proud to join my friend, Congresswoman Doris Matsui, as we introduce the Japanese American Confinement Education Act. If we do not acknowledge, reconcile, and learn from our history, we are doomed to repeat it. This bill takes crucial steps to educate younger generations about the horrors of Japanese internment. It is my great hope that we take these lessons to heart, and honor the families who were devastated in the very country they called home.”
“I’m honored to support Congresswoman Matsui’s Japanese American Confinement Education Act which would help ensure that generations of Americans know about the dark legacy of U.S. confinement sites,” said Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.). “Grounded in racism, Japanese Americans were forced into those facilities simply because of their ethnicity after the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II. While we have taken steps to memorialize and atone for this wrong, we must make sure that future generations also know of this painful history.
“I applaud Rep. Matsui for her leadership and look forward to her bill becoming law.”
“The Japanese American internment was one of the darkest moments in our country’s history,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland). “In order to prevent similar acts of racism and humanitarian violations in our country, we must preserve the memory and lessons from this time. The Japanese American Confinement Education Act is an important step in educating future generations through preserving confinement sites.”
“I am honored to co-introduce this measure to assure that all Americans know and understand one of our country’s darkest chapters, a chapter that saw our leaders committing and justifying a historic wrong against our Constitution and peoples of all races,” said Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii). “This chapter spared no part of our country including my home state of Hawai’I, where, despite generations of loyal and constructive contribution, hundreds of Japanese Americans were interned at camps like Honouliuli, an only recently rediscovered site now memorialized as a national monument.
“It is only by knowing and understanding what happened and why that we can recognize future warning signs and avoid ever repeating this dark history.”
“When Rep. Robert Matsui and I were lobbying to pass the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 along with Sens. Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga, our goal was to have the United States government acknowledge its mistake in illegally forcing thousands of people of Japanese ancestry from their homes and businesses to be imprisoned during World War II,” said former Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta. “While the government apology and redress payments were essential elements of that bill, we all knew that educating the American people on the Japanese American World War II experience was of vital importance to ensure that no other group is similarly targeted.
“The original Japanese American Confinement Sites (JACS) program was a continuation of the educational process to preserve our history and to share this story with future generations. Rep. Doris Matsui’s bill, the Japanese American Confinement Education Act, enables the National Park Service to maintain its successful outreach program about a story that all Americans should learn to ensure that this shameful chapter in our history is never forgotten and never repeated.
“As chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Japanese American National Museum, I urge you to support Rep. Doris Matsui’s bill to help our country learn from our mistakes to ensure a more just future.”
“The Japanese American Confinement Education Act will both continue and expand the promise of the Japanese American Confinement Sites grant program to further the interpretation and telling of the Japanese American wartime experience,” said David Inoue, executive director of the Japanese American Citizens League. “What makes our country great is our capacity to recognize, remember, and learn from our past mistakes to ensure that we not repeat them. This legislation affirms that greatness as a nation.”
“The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation strongly supports the Japanese American Confinement Education Act, which will enable us to preserve sites where more 120,000 people were unfairly incarcerated during World War II,” said Shirley Ann Higuchi, J.D., chair of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation “It will educate the country and the world about the need to prevent something like this from happening again.”
“The Japanese American Confinement Education Act is critical to ongoing efforts in preserving historic sites and cultural resources, strengthening education and interpretation, and supporting community-based, academic, and governmental partnerships in telling the stories of Japanese American confinement during World War II and its contributions to conveying fuller histories in the United States,” said Bill Watanabe, co-founder and board chair of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Historic Preservation.
The Japanese American Confinement Education Act would permanently reauthorize the Japanese American Confinement Site (JACS) program within the National Park Service (NPS), which is currently set to expire in 2022. This program has been one of the primary resources in the preservation and interpretation of the U.S. confinement sites where Japanese Americans were detained during World War II.
Additionally, the legislation establishes a separate, new five-year, $2 million-per-year competitive grant to create educational materials about the Japanese American confinement. This grant would require the recipient museum to develop and nationally disseminate accurate, relevant, and accessible resources to improve awareness and understanding of Japanese American confinement in WWII.
Original co-sponsors: Reps. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Mark Takano (D-Riverside), Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), Don Young (R-Alaska), Ed Case (D-Hawaii), Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), Ro Khanna (D-Santa Clara), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.)
The Japanese American Confinement Education Act is supported by: Japanese American Citizens League, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Historic Preservation, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, Japanese American National Museum, JACS Consortium