Japanese American politicians and national organizations shared their concerns in the past week on a recent controversial remark about World War II Japanese incarceration as a “precedent” for a potential immigrant registry. This came out after an interview on FOX News last Wednesday that Carl Higbie, a co-chair and spokesperson for the Great America PAC for Donald Trump, discussed the future possibility of creating a Muslim registry.
U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono
“The internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II was a historic injustice and nothing like it should ever happen again,” Hirono said. “The protection of our Constitution is not conditional; it applies to all of us. We cannot allow hate speech, racism, and anti-immigrant sentiment to become the new norm in our country, and we must continue to speak out against hate and prejudice. An inclusive and vibrant America is worth fighting for.”
U.S. House Representatives
“This type of rhetoric by Mr. Higbie is outrageous, unacceptable, and reckless. The unjust internment of Japanese Americans during World War II was a painful period during our history, but we have taken great strides as a country to heal those wounds and move forward.
“Almost three decades ago the Civil Liberties Act was signed into law, rightfully issuing a formal apology to Japanese Americans who were victims of internment camps. The ability of leaders from all political parties and backgrounds to come together and recognize America’s mistake remains a tribute to the greatness of our country.
“We cannot go backwards. The United States of America must remain a safe haven for people of all faiths and origins, and a model for tolerance, justice, and liberty.”
U.S. House Representatives
“The imprisonment of thousands of Japanese-Americans during World War II, including my parents and grandparents, is widely understood to be one of the darkest chapters in American history. More than 100,000 Japanese-Americans were accused of no crimes and received no trial before being relocated, interned, and stripped of their possessions. I am horrified that people connected to the incoming Administration are using my family’s experience as a precedent for what President-elect Trump could do.
“These comments confirm many Americans’ worst fears about the Trump Administration, and they reflect an alarming resurgence of racism and xenophobia in our political discourse.
“Over the past 18 months, President-elect Trump has used his vast social media presence to criticize political opponents, the media, and a Gold Star Family. He has never used his megaphone to speak out for those being targeted by his supporters. I call on him to immediately disavow these comments and begin the work of healing our nation’s divides.
“Donald Trump said he would be a president for all Americans. It is time for him to make good on that promise.”
U.S. House Representatives
“The WWII Internment of Americans of Japanese descent is not a rationale to target Muslims in America today. These remarks from a surrogate for President-elect Trump are beyond disturbing – a cowardly, hateful, and unconscionable return to what President Reagan, in signing the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, called ‘a policy motived by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.’ Attempting to justify the President-elect’s irrational proposal, Mr. Higbie’s use of internment as a legal precedent is inexcusable.
“If President-elect Trump wishes to avoid the failures of the past, he should immediately assure millions of Americans that we will not return to a time where people can be targeted by the government for being a minority in America.
“Mr. Trump has repeatedly stated he wishes to make America great, but this policy of registering a minority reduces us, placing our future in the hands of small-minded bigotry of the 1940s. I understand that Mr. Trump, with his lack of political and military experience may require an education and I am happy to remind him why this episode is one of the darkest in American history.
“I was an infant in 1942 when my family and I were forcibly imprisoned at the Amache internment camp in Colorado. I spent the next three years of my life living behind barbed-wire fencing. Even after we were released, I, along with other Japanese-Americans, faced anti-Japanese slurs and insults in a post-World War II America. We developed a sense that somehow we had done something wrong. It was my father who helped me realize that our “crime” was simply being of Japanese ancestry.
“No one should go through what my family and 120,000 innocent people suffered regardless of their race or religion or any other way they would choose to try and divide us. I fought such divisive practices after 9/11 to ensure Muslims would not be unfairly targeted just as we were.
“Barricaded in a tower, our President-elect has failed to keep the American people informed during what is shaping to be the most disorganized and secretive presidential transition in modern history.
“And while the powers behind the throne discuss, I hope someone will read these words and convey them to Mr. Trump. I hope someone inside Trump Tower will tell him that to reenact a policy fueled by prejudice is uncivilized, un-American and unworthy of a president sworn to uphold our Constitution.”
Japanese American National Museum
“The Japanese American National Museum is alarmed by the escalation of rhetoric already taking place in the wake of President-elect Trump’s victory. Citing the unlawful incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II as a ‘precedent’ for the unjust targeting of any group, and especially for the creation of a registry for Muslim Americans in the future is to completely misunderstand one of the most shameful chapters in our nation’s history.
“In 1982, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians found that the policy of exclusion, removal, and detention was systematically conducted by the United States government despite the fact that no documented evidence of espionage or sabotage was shown, and there was no direct military necessity for detention. Further, the broad historical causes were found to be “race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.” These findings ultimately contributed to the United States government issuing a formal apology and paying reparations to the Japanese Americans it had forcibly removed to concentration camps—the tangible results of the bipartisan passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.”
“As we have previously stated, the Japanese American National Museum respects the results of the democratic process by which President-elect Trump was chosen to be the next leader of the United States,” said Ann Burroughs, Interim President and CEO of the National Museum. “In addition, the museum remains fervently committed to our mission—to promote understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity—and we will not remain silent when politicians or others in the public realm call upon the tragic history of Japanese Americans in order to stoke fear and deny civil rights to any group. We will not stand by as they cite the unlawful incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II as ‘precedent’ to create a registry for Muslim Americans or target any ethnic group for incarceration.
“In the words of President George H.W. Bush, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor: ‘The internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry was a great injustice, and it will never be repeated.’”
“The Japanese American National Museum will do all it can to ensure the truth of that statement. The fact that our vigilance, and that of other organizations and individuals devoted to the protection of civil rights, is still needed some 75 years after the first Japanese Americans were rounded up and detained with no due process is unfortunate. But we are up to the task.”
“Higbie’s attempt to cite Japanese American incarceration as a precedent for this type of action is frightening and wrong. It’s a statement intended to lay a marker for a misguided belief that ignores the true lessons of Japanese American incarceration. This lesson was captured in the words of a federal commission that said, ‘…The broad historical causes which shaped these decisions (to incarcerate Japanese Americans) were race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.’
“JACL believes that some of these same conditions exist today, where Muslim Americans are being singled out and unfairly targeted, and where the voices of leadership that should be speaking out against unfair treatment are not.
“We must not misinterpret our history by believing the Japanese American incarceration was justified as a precedent for similar actions today, and further, we must not use the wrongdoing perpetrated against Japanese Americans during World War II as a justification for the mistreatment of Muslim Americans.”
National Veterans Network
“Last week an advisor to Donald Trump’s transition team stated in an interview that a discussion ‘to reinstate a registry for immigrants from Muslim countries’ was underway. On Wednesday, Carl Higbie, spokesperson for a pro-Trump super PAC, cited the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II as a “precedent” for the Muslim registry. The National Veterans Network strongly denounces this divisive rhetoric and condemns the idea that the shameful treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II could be the basis for singling out Muslims for discriminatory treatment. This idea is offensive to our American values, and violates the protections guaranteed by our Constitution.
“In a report entitled ‘Personal Justice Denied” issued by the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians in 1983, the Commission condemned the Japanese-American incarceration as unjust and motivated by’ ‘racial prejudice, wartime hysteria and a lack of political leadership’ rather than factual military necessity. As a result of this recommendation, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 was signed by President Ronald Reagan that issued a presidential apology on behalf of the people of the United States and acknowledged the injustice of the incarceration of United States citizens and permanent residents of Japanese ancestry during World War II.
“Nearly 33,000 Americans of Japanese Ancestry enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II to demonstrate the loyalty of all Americans of Japanese Ancestry. From behind the barbed wire of camps and from the towns and villages of Hawaii came men and women, who filled the ranks of the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service. Together, the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team distinguished itself as the most decorated U.S. Army unit in history for its size and length of service. Subsequently, the Congressional Gold Medal, our nation’s highest civilian award, was presented by the United States Congress in the name of the American People to the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service in 2011.
“The National Veterans Network is committed to preserving this powerful lesson in citizenship delivered during World War II by American Soldiers of Japanese Ancestry as they rose above fear and prejudice to demonstrate their American values of loyalty, courage, and patriotism.”