Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation Vice Chair Douglas Nelson and Chair Shirley Ann Higuchi flank Sen. John Barrasso at the 2011 grand opening of the foundation’s interpretive center between Cody and Powell, Wyo.

The Japanese American National Museum celebrates the recent passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 is an omnibus bill that will provide annual funding for the federal government and the passage of a variety of bills including the Norman Y. Mineta Japanese American Confinement Education (JACE) Act (H.R. 1931) and the World War II Japanese American History Network Act (H.R. 6434). The Japanese American Confinement Sites Consortium (JACSC) and the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) worked with their representatives to move the bills through Congress and include them in the final omnibus bill.

Primarily sponsored by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) and Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), the Norman Y. Mineta JACE Act will authorize the Japanese American Confinement Sites (JACS) grant program with another $38 million, which will fund the program in the coming years. The JACS grant program provides funding for the preservation and interpretation of U.S. confinement sites where Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II.

The JACE Act will also establish a new educational program modeled after the Holocaust Education Act. An additional $10 million over five years will be used to ensure that present and future generations of Americans will learn from the World War II incarceration experiences of Japanese Americans and the nation’s commitment to equal justice under law.

Funding will be used for research and education relating to the wartime incarceration and distribution of educational materials to promote a better understanding of how and why Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II.

The World War II Japanese American History Network Act will direct the secretary of the interior to establish the Japanese American World War II History Network within the National Park Service. Authorized for seven years, the network will coordinate federal and non-federal activities that commemorate, honor, and interpret the history of Japanese Americans during World War II.

The act was primarily sponsored by Rep. Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia) and Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). Barrasso’s staff and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee worked together to include both bills in the omnibus.

“The passage of these bills is an important commitment by the leaders of this nation to expanding the historical record on a national level for future generations and to ensuring that the history of the incarceration is never forgotten and that no other group is similarly targeted,” said Ann Burroughs, president and CEO, who is also chair of the JACSC. “The bipartisan support for these bills is a tribute to the legacy of Secretary Norman Y. Mineta whose commitment to bipartisanship was a hallmark of his long career in public office and an exemplar of what can be achieved with common purpose.

“This has been four years of hard work in the making, and we give our heartfelt thanks to the key legislators, the Japanese American Citizens League and the Japanese American Confinement Sites Consortium member organizations for their resolute efforts to get this legislation passed in both chambers of Congress.”

Praise from Heart Mountain Foundation

The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation also praised Congress for passing the two bills, noting that the JACE Act is named for the late Norman Mineta, who was incarcerated at Heart Mountain as a child.

Heart Mountain appreciates Sen. Barrasso’s efforts getting the language of the two bills included in the overall spending bill and renaming the education bill after Mineta, who later served as a member of Congress and secretary of commerce and transportation for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, respectively.

“Along with our partners at other institutions and incarceration sites, Heart Mountain works tirelessly to educate the public about the ongoing legacy of this historic wrong,” said Aura Sunada Newlin, interim executive director of the HMYF. “This legislation strengthens the future of American democracy by enabling us to reach new audiences in new ways.”

Heart Mountain thanks its fellow stakeholders in the JACSC for contacting their members of Congress to get the bill passed. JACSC leaders, particularly the JACL and Executive Director David Inoue and JANM led by Burroughs, were instrumental in getting the bills drafted and shepherded through Congress.

The support of the rest of the Wyoming delegation – Sen. Cynthia Lummis and Rep. Liz Cheney – was critical in the bill’s passage earlier in this congressional session.

The HMW preserves the site where some 14,000 Japanese Americans were unjustly incarcerated in Wyoming from 1942 through 1945. Their stories are told within the foundation’s museum, Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, located between Cody and Powell. For more information, call the center at (307) 754-8000 or email info@heartmountain.org.

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