WASHINGTON – Colorado State Rep. Phil Covarrubias defended the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II on March 22 while debating a Colorado state bill that would protect state residents from President Trump’s executive orders targeting immigrants, refugees, and Muslims.
Covarrubias, a Republican who represents Brighton, stated, “We keep hearing about how things went down with the Japanese people. For anyone that has never been in combat, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and all of that was going on, there’s no time to ask questions and find out who is a citizen and who’s not.
“You don’t have that moment in time. You need to regroup. It’s easy to sit up here and say this stuff now. But if you’re in that moment, it looks a lot different than being able to be in a nice suit and tie.
“I hear people saying that we need to respect other people’s rights, and I agree with that, but what about them respecting our rights and our country and our laws? Because I’m not hearing that up here.”
He doubled down on his justification of Japanese American internment when he later said, “What happened prior to [the camps]that kicked all this off? I think we were attacked at Pearl Harbor.”
The bill was named after the late Ralph Carr, a Republican governor of Colorado who stood up for the constitutional rights of Japanese Americans during World War II. That stance is believed to have cost him his political career.
Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Chair Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena) released the following statement in response to these comments:
“It’s outrageous that we have to keep reiterating that the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II was wrong. History doesn’t repeat itself because we forget. It repeats itself because apologists like Rep. Covarrubias attempt to convince us these atrocious actions were justified. Well, they weren’t.
“Due to racism and wartime hysteria, over 120,000 innocent individuals of Japanese ancestry were rounded up like cattle and forced to live behind barbed-wire fences where they were treated like prisoners simply because of their ethnicity. Their citizenship meant nothing and their civil liberties were violated in ways so unconscionable that the federal government later apologized for it.
“To have an elected official justify this shameful chapter in our nation’s history in order to promote xenophobic policies today is unacceptable. Japanese American incarceration was a violation of our nation’s values and should never be emulated again.”