WASHINGTON — On Feb. 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which led to the internment of over 120,000 individuals of Japanese ancestry.
Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) released the following statements in observance of the Day of Remembrance:
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), CAPAC chair: “Seventy-three years ago today, Executive Order 9066 authorized the internment of Japanese Americans, one of the darkest moments in our history. As we recognize this Day of Remembrance, we not only commemorate the over 120,000 innocent Japanese Americans robbed of their liberties and inhumanely forced into internment camps during World War II, but we also recommit ourselves to ensure that this type of injustice is not repeated. We must continue to fight the discrimination and xenophobia that still exists today, and we must safeguard the civil liberties of all — regardless of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender.”
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii): “The detention of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians during World War II remains a dark chapter in Hawaii and our nation’s history. I join my colleagues and Japanese Americans around the country in remembering the hundreds of thousands of innocent lives that were torn apart by the internment.
“This week, President Obama took an important step that follows years of hard work from Hawaii’s congressional delegation by designating the Honouliuli internment site as a national monument. This is an important step in protecting Honouliuli and the stories of those who were detained in our state and across the nation. It is critical that we continue to teach future generations, through this Day of Remembrance and important educational sites like Honouliuli, of this grave injustice to ensure that we don’t repeat mistakes of the past.”
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii): “Today marks a dark period in our nation’s history when thousands of Japanese Americans were forced into internment camps during World War II. In Hawaii, the Honouliuli Internment Camp, now designated a national monument, serves as a reminder of the misguided policies of our past, and our duty to protect the rights and freedoms of all Americans.”
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles), chair of the House Democratic Caucus: “On this Day of Remembrance, we reflect on the thousands of Japanese Americans who were unjustly interned and subjected to untold suffering during World War II. I’m proud that California’s 34th District is home to the Japanese American National Museum, a place we can all visit and never forget the lessons of our past. Today we recommit ourselves to protecting the civil rights and dignity of all our citizens.”
Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose), CAPAC chair emeritus: “When I was one year old, the U.S. government told my family that our citizenship and civil rights meant nothing compared to war hysteria and the supposed defense of our nation. My family was rounded up like cattle and illegally incarcerated in an internment camp simply because we were Japanese Americans.
“On Feb. 19 each year, the Japanese American community rallies together to remember the signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which authorized the forced removal of all persons of Japanese descent, both citizens and non-citizens, from the West Coast. I have co-introduced a resolution with Reps. Mark Takano and Doris Matsui to recognize the Day of Remembrance is important in not only memorializing our experience and remembering the injustices, but also in healing and educating others so we never see such prejudicial actions again.”
Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside), CAPAC whip: “Each year on Feb. 19, the Japanese American community gathers to remember the signing of Executive Order 9066, which authorized the forcing of all persons of Japanese descent into internment camps, including my own mother and father when they were children. My family, like thousands of others, came to America seeking a better life, and our government failed us at every level. The Day of Remembrance allows us to reflect on these injustices and educate our communities so that these mistakes never happen again.”
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii): “On the Day of Remembrance, we shine a light on a dark period in our nation’s history and commit to educating future generations about the brutal internment camps created during World War II. We must learn from the mistakes of the past and say ‘never again.’ I commend President Obama and (Interior) Secretary (Sally) Jewell for designating the Honouliuli Internment Camp in Hawaii as a national monument to highlight the very real consequences of disregarding civil liberties in times of conflict.”
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland): “Today, we mark 73 years since an executive order led to the internment of more than 120,000 Americans. On this day, we reflect on the harsh and discriminatory treatment these families suffered, often while members of their family were honorably serving in World War II. At a time when our nation fell far short of our American ideals, these patriotic Americans served their country and they should be recognized and honored.”
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles): “Seventy-three years ago, the president issued Executive Order 9066, which led to the unjust incarceration of over 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent. On this Day of Remembrance, I stand in solidarity with community leaders in my home district who advocate for the Venice Japanese American Memorial Marker. This monument will mark the very intersection where over a thousand Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from their homes in Venice, Santa Monica, and Malibu, Calif. and brought to internment camps.
“I am humbled by those Americans who endured so much for their family and community, and am profoundly grateful for the sacrifices they have made. This dark chapter in America’s history is a stark reminder of what can happen when the federal government violates the Constitution of the United States.”
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento): “Seventy-three years ago, our government, blinded by war and by fear, abandoned the Constitution and violated the civil rights of more than 100,000 Americans of Japanese descent. Every year on Feb. 19, our nation recognizes the Day of Remembrance, a time to reflect on the mistakes of the past and commit to ensuring such injustice never again becomes a reality. We cannot erase our past, but through remembrance and reflection, we can ensure history does not repeat itself.”
Rep. Mark Takai (D-Hawaii): “The internment of Japanese American citizens during World War II is a tragic example of what happens when we allow fear and hatred to take the place of rational and just actions. We must raise public awareness about this issue; we cannot let our country forget or try to hide the wide-scale revocation of our citizens’ basic rights.
“That is why I am proud to announce the designation of Honouliuli, an internment camp site in Hawaii, as a national monument. Honouliuli will serve as a place where we will be able to educate the coming generations about the importance of civil liberties for all people. Now more than ever, we must learn from the mistakes of the past, and the designation of Honouliuli as a national monument will give all of us a chance to shine light on this serious issue. I would like to extend a warm mahalo to President Obama for taking the initiative to preserve this historically significant piece of land.”
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.): “As we reflect on one of the darker periods in American history, we must remember all of the Japanese American civil rights leaders who stood up and fought against discrimination and persecution during Japanese internment. We must never forget this injustice and pledge to never allow this to happen again.
“As a congressman in Washington State, where many Japanese Americans were interned, I still see the impacts that internment has on our region. The 9th District has strong and effective civil rights organizations such as Japanese America Citizens League and the Asian Counseling and Referral Services, and museums such as the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience that highlight the resiliency of the Japanese American community and ensure that injustices like the Japanese internment never happen again.”
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles): “Today we pause to remember a dark time in our history, when tens of thousands of innocent Japanese American men, women and children were wrongfully placed in internment camps for no other reason than their ethnic heritage. On this day, not only are we reminded of both the harm that can be caused from wartime hysteria and racism, but also the importance of upholding the dignity, respect and civil liberties of all our citizens, especially during challenging times.
“As we reflect, we must learn from this moment in history and strive to acknowledge, protect and defend the rights of all citizens as many continue to face injustice and discrimination today.”
Executive Order 9066 authorized and facilitated the removal of U.S. citizens and “enemy aliens” of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast, leading to their incarceration in Wartime Relocation Authority camps. It also created an individual exclusion program that allowed the U.S. Army to move naturalized citizens of German and Italian descent from military areas across the country. Although these individuals were wrongfully detained on no other basis than their heritage, none were found guilty of sabotage or espionage.
The Day of Remembrance serves to highlight the social and political discourse that led to the captivity of innocent men, women, and children during World War II, and to bring awareness to the Japanese American experience and all who were wrongfully detained.
Founded in 1974, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus is composed of members of Congress of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and members who have a strong dedication to promoting the well-being of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.