WASHINGTON – Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) on March 16 led a bipartisan letter with 57 members of Congress to the House Appropriations Committee calling for continued funding for the preservation of historic sites where Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II.
While Congress has approved $3 million annually in funding to preserve these sites in recent fiscal years, President Donald Trump’s FY 2019 Department of Interior budget request zeroed out funding for the program.
“I’m extremely disappointed that the Department of Interior failed to prioritize the preservation of sites where American citizens were confined through no fault of their own,” said Matsui, who was born in the Poston, Ariz. camp. “This history was a dark period in our country’s past, which is why we have a solemn responsibility to ensure these sites are preserved. I’m pleased that there is bipartisan support for this funding in Congress, which will play a critical role in allowing future generations to better recognize history’s greatest lessons.”
Matsui was joined by fellow Californians — Republican Reps. Paul Cook (Apple Valley) and Doug LaMalfa (Redding) and Democratic Reps. Jerry McNerney (Stockton), Adam Schiff (Burbank), Mark Takano (Riverside), Scott Peters (San Diego), Lucille Roybal-Allard (Los Angeles), Jackie Speier (San Mateo), Judy Chu (Pasadena), Eric Swalwell (Castro Valley), Jim Costa (Fresno), Anna Eshoo (Palo Alto), Ro Khanna (Santa Clara), Barbara Lee (Oakland), Alan Lowenthal (Long Beach), Susan Davis (San Diego), Jimmy Gomez (Los Angeles), Ted Lieu (Manhattan Beach), Linda Sanchez (Norwalk), Ami Bera (Sacramento), Tony Cardenas (Panorama City), Julia Brownley (Oxnard), Grace Napolitano (El Monte), Mark DeSaulnier (Richmond), Mike Thompson (Napa), Karen Bass (Los Angeles) and Zoe Lofgren (San Jose).
Co-signers also included Republican Reps. Ken Buck (Colo.) and Lynn Cheney (Wyo.) and Democratic Reps. Alcee Hastings (Fla.), Danny Davis (Ill.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Colleen Hanabusa (Hawaii), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), Joaquin Castro (Texas), Donald Payne, Jr. (N.J.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Raul Grijalva (Ariz.), Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), Madeleine Z. Bordallo (Guam), Elijah Cummings (Md.), Al Green (Texas), Diana DeGette (Colo.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Donald S. Beyer (Va.), Robert “Bobby” Scott (Va.), Ruben Gallego (Ariz.), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (Northern Mariana Islands), Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), Denny Heck (Wash.), Adam Smith (Wash.), Darren Soto (Fla.), Debbie Dingell (Mich.), Jamie Raskin (Md.) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (N.M.).
Following is the letter, which is addressed to Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Corona), chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, and Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.).
“As you craft the Fiscal Year 2019 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill, we respectfully request that you maintain level funding to support efforts to preserve the historic confinement sites where Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II.
“The Japanese American internment constituted one of the darkest moments in our nation’s history. It would be an even greater failure on our part not to guard against the future perpetration of similar racially motivated acts. The camps, relocation centers, processing areas, and other confinement sites located throughout the South and West are invaluable physical links that help to connect current and future generations with the history and significance of the incarceration.
“Congress has recognized the important educational role of confinement sites. With the passage of PL 109-441, Congress unanimously agreed to authorize $38 million to use these sites as tools to educate the American public. In recent fiscal years, your subcommittee provided and Congress approved a $3 million appropriation to preserve Japanese American confinement sites.
“Congress further recognized the patriotism of many Japanese Americans who patriotically volunteered to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces while their families were imprisoned by honoring these veterans with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2011.
“Building on this history of congressional support, we respectfully request continued funding to support the significant community interest in restoring and maintaining these sites. This funding will leverage proportional local involvement to ensure that historically significant areas receive the attention they deserve.
“Federal resources provided by your subcommittee will build upon the strong bipartisan support Congress has already demonstrated and reaffirm our national commitment to preserving these sites, so that we never repeat this history.”