Crystal City: Review of March Action and Plan for Return in November

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Crystal City survivor Libia Yamamoto at June 2 program. (Photo by John Ota)

By JOHN OTA

EMERYVILLE – On June 2, the Crystal City Pilgrimage Committee (CCPC) reported on its March 30 action and its plan for a return trip to Texas in November.

On March 30, the CCPC held a pilgrimage at the site of the Crystal City, Texas detention center, where thousands of Japanese Latin Americans, Japanese Americans, as well as persons of German and Italian ancestry, were confined by the U.S. during World War II.

Later the same day, the CCPC and Grassroots Leadership of Austin, Texas staged a protest at the Dilley, Texas immigration detention center, the largest of such center for children and women in the U.S., holding as many as 2,500, including children under the age of one.

The March 30 actions were significant in that at least seven Japanese American former child detainees at Crystal City and several from other detention camps led both the remembrance of the Crystal City camp and also the protest of the unjust present-day detention of immigrants and separation of families at Dilley.

Speakers, film and displays illustrated the March actions and the unprecedented nationwide effort to fold tsuru, origami paper cranes, in solidarity with the detained children and women held behind barbed wire at Dilley.

The Tsuru for Solidarity effort, launched prior to March, aimed to gather 10,000 tsuru for the March 30 protest at the Dilley detention center, but over 25,000 were contributed by groups all over the country.

Thick, colorful strings of tsuru covered the fence outside the Dilley facility on March 30, and many were on display at the June 2 event, along with signs used in the protest. One such sign read, “Kodomo no tame ni; they’re our children, set them free!”

A highlight of the June 2 program was provided by Crystal City survivor Libia Yamamoto, who described how Peruvian officials arrested her father at their home without explanation in January 1943 when she was seven years old.

Yamamoto and her family were distressed because they did not know where her father was being taken and they were not reunited with him for at least six months, when they were taken by U.S. authorities through the Panama Canal and then to New Orleans and Crystal City.

Organizers said they will return to Texas from Oct. 31 to Nov. 3. The theme of the November action is “Crystal City – Hidden History, Justice Denied.”

The November action will include more focus on the unique history of the Crystal City detainment center, including a full day of activities in Crystal City.

An action to express solidarity with the children and women immigrants held at the Dilley detention center is also planned.

CCPC organizer Grace Shimizu pointed out, “What happened to Libia is happening to many people today.

“This is our moment. We have to do something about what’s happening in this country,” noted community organizer Peggy Saika.

Those who want to apply to be part of the November pilgrimage can contact CCPC at [email protected]

John Ota is a member of the Crystal City Pilgrimage Committee.

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