City Resolution Commemorates Anniversary of Opening of Tuna Canyon Detention Station

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City Councilmember Monica Rodriguez, Nancy Oda of the Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition, and Councilmember David Ryu in April at the dedication of city signs marking the former location of Tuna Canyon in Tujunga. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

Los Angeles City Councilmembers Monica Rodriguez and David Ryu have introduced the following resolution to mark the anniversary of the opening of the Tuna Canyon Detention Station. A date for a council vote will be set soon.

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Whereas, the United States government had concerns about internal security during the 1930s and up to the outbreak of World War II … These concerns lead to the creation of lists by various government agencies of German, Italian, and Japanese aliens who might be arrested at the outbreak of war with Axis nations, the best known of these lists being the custodial detention lists of the FBI and Special Defense Unit … Such lists were not compiled in a careful manner and consisted mostly of innocent immigrant community, business, and religious leaders …

On Dec. 7, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Presidential Proclamations 2525, 2526, and 2526, authorizing the arrest and imprisonment, without trial, of Japanese, German, and Italian immigrants … Under the authority of the presidential proclamations, the FBI and other government agencies arrested thousands of German, Italian, and Japanese aliens using their custodial detention lists and other sources … These aliens were suddenly torn away from their families, homes, and businesses and initially held in local jails and Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) detention stations before most were sent to INS and Army internment camps …

On Dec. 7, 1941, INS commandeered a former Civilian Conservation Corps camp located within the City of Los Angeles, in Tujunga, and began converting this into the Tuna Canyon Detention Station with a ten-foot perimeter fence and guard towers … On Dec. 16, 1941 the Tuna Canyon Detention Station began receiving prisoners and would over the next six months become one of the primary confinement sites for arrested German, Italian, and Japanese aliens in Southern California …

Over 2,000 individuals were processed at the Tuna Canyon Detention Station from Dec. 16, 1941 until it closed on Sept. 30, 1943, and most were transferred to INS internment camps at Ft. Missoula (Mont.), Ft. Lincoln (N.D.), Santa Fe (N.M.), and Kennedy (Texas) …

The Tuna Canyon Detention Station detainees also included 207 Latin Americans, primarily Japanese from Peru, who were forcibly brought here by the U.S. government …

This unfortunate part of Los Angeles as well as American history was primarily motivated by unfounded fear and prejudice that targeted specific groups … The significance of the Tuna Canyon Detention Station has been recognized by the Los Angeles City Council, which unanimously designated it on June 25, 2013 as Historical-Cultural Monument #1039 …

The mission of the Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition is to preserve the story of this confinement site and its detainees and to use this story as a basis for educating others about the importance of preserving basic rights, especially in times of national crisis …

The Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition has constructed a traveling exhibit, with funding from the National Park Service, the final panel of which reads, in part: “….the civil and human rights of over 2,000 people were violated at Tuna Canyon Detention Station … For all of the groups involved, what happened during WWII was preceded by histories of prejudice and discrimination — factors which contributed to public and political support for the government’s actions. Civil and human rights are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and other documents, but these rights can be empty promises. They become real only to the degree that people are willing to uphold these principles.

“In today’s world, there are increasing threats to internal security. And unfortunately, many people are fearful of groups with which they are not very familiar. This can easily lead to misunderstandings …. Lessons from the past, including those from Tuna Canyon Detention Station, are important to prevent abuses of power against specific groups, such as those that occurred during World War II. We should never repeat these mistakes.”

Now, therefore, bit it resolved, with the concurrence of the mayor, that by adoption of this resolution, the City of Los Angeles commemorates Dec. 16, 2018 as the 77th anniversary of the opening of the Tuna Canyon Detention Station; designates this date as the “Tuna Canyon Detention Station Day of Remembrance”; and resolves to fight for the civil and human rights of all people in the United States.

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