The group that attended the bill-signing included Judge Raymond Uno, past JACL national president; Ted Nagata, who was at Topaz as a child; Jeanette Misaka, former Heart Mountain incarceree and former JACL Intermountain District governor; Floyd Mori, former JACL national president and national executive director; and others.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), other civil rights organizations, and individuals have regularly commemorated a Day of Remembrance on Feb. 19 to remember the World War II experience of Japanese Americans being incarcerated in camps. On that day in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066.

That order gave military commanders in certain areas the authority to remove any persons from specific regions of the country. The order was used only against people of Japanese descent who were living on the West Coast of the U.S. It affected mostly Japanese Americans and immigrants who lived in California, Oregon, and Washington.

A commission set up under President Jimmy Carter studied the issue and later determined that the unjust incarceration was due to racism, war hysteria, and a lack of competent government leadership at that time.

Utah State Sen. Jani Iwamoto and Floyd Mori

Around 120,000 people of Japanese heritage were uprooted from their homes with their freedom taken away. Ten camps were built in remote and desolate areas of the country to hold the people as prisoners. Two of the camps were in California (Manzanar and Tule Lake), two in Arkansas (Jerome and Rohwer), two in Arizona (Poston and Gila River), and once each in Colorado (Amache), Idaho (Minidoka), Wyoming (Heart Mountain), and Utah (Topaz).

Although Utah has had a governor’s proclamation in the past to commemorate Feb. 19 as a Day of Remembrance for Japanese Americans, it has been done on a temporary basis. A bill to make a permanent Day of Remembrance on Feb. 19 was sponsored by Jani Iwamoto, Utah state senator from Salt Lake City. The bill passed the Legislature and was signed by Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson on April 18.

Among those present at the signing representing the Japanese American community of Utah were Iwamoto’s husband, Steve Fukumitsu, and her mother, Yas Iwamoto; Judge Raymond Uno, who had been at Heart Mountain; Ted Nagata, who had been at Topaz, with his wife, Yeiko, and daughter, Susan; Jeanette Misaka, who had been at Heart Mountain; Jason Kunisaki, Mike Iwasaki, and Floyd Mori.

The bill that was signed and the pens that were used.

The point of remembering is to try to ensure that no one else will ever have to suffer such an egregious violation of their constitutional rights as American citizens. It is hoped that the general public will become educated on this part of American history, which is not well-known.

Along with the Day of Remembrance bill, there were several other important pieces of legislation that affect other minority communities in Utah.

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