WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 19, 2016) — On Feb. 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which led to the incarceration of over 120,000 individuals of Japanese ancestry during World War II. Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) released the following statements in observance of the Day of Remembrance:
Executive Order 9066 authorized and facilitated the forced removal of U.S. citizens and “enemy aliens” of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast, which led to their incarceration in Wartime Relocation Authority camps. It also created an individual exclusion program that allowed the United States 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 ethnicity, none were ever found guilty of the sabotage and espionage charges against them.
The Day of Remembrance, observed annually on February 19th, serves to highlight the social and political discourse that led to the incarceration of innocent men, women, and children and to bring awareness to the Japanese American experience during World War II.
Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), CAPAC Chair:
“The tragic incarceration of innocent Japanese Americans during World War II was a shameful chapter in our nation’s history that demonstrated our susceptibility to wartime hysteria and racism. It led to civil rights violations so unconscionable that Congress later apologized for it. We must never forget how we embraced prejudice during that time. But sadly, there are new demagogues who want us to do just that. Instead of seeing the incarceration of Japanese Americans as a mistake of the past, some politicians today are citing it as a positive example to be used against American Muslims and Syrian refugees. This resurgent xenophobia and anti-Muslim rhetoric is deeply troubling. Not only does it inspire hatred and violence, but it also weakens our country.
“Diversity drives our economy and forms stronger, more dynamic communities. But due to the hate speech being espoused against Muslims, hate crimes against these communities are on the rise. We cannot afford to forget the horror of Japanese incarceration, just as we cannot afford to forget the other incidents of violence and discrimination against other communities of color throughout our nation’s history. As we commemorate this Day of Remembrance, let us rededicate ourselves to rejecting xenophobia and turning towards unity.”
Senator Mazie K. Hirono (HI):
“The internment of Japanese Americans during World War II remains a dark time in our nation’s history. In recent months, many have used this difficult period to justify fervor against Syrian refugees and Muslim Americans. This Day of Remembrance reminds us all that when we give in to xenophobia and fear we betray the fundamental values that our nation was built on. We are also reminded that people of all faiths, all ethnicities, and all cultures contribute to what makes our country great. Next week, I will be introducing a Senate resolution to recognize that we cannot repeat the mistakes of our past, and must stand up for the civil rights of all.”
Congressman Mike Honda (CA-17), CAPAC Chair Emeritus:
“When I was one year old, my family and I were rounded up and illegally incarcerated along with 120,000 other Americans of Japanese ancestry. We lost our land, possessions, and our freedoms. Each year on February 19, Japanese Americans gather to remember the signing of Executive Order 9066, 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 as an opportunity to remember stories, engage in healing, and educate others to ensure such injustices never happen again.”
Congressman Mark Takano (CA-41), CAPAC Whip:
“The Day of Remembrance for Japanese-American Internment is more significant today than perhaps any other time since it was established. More than 70 years ago, my parents and grandparents were removed from their homes, stripped of their possessions, and imprisoned because they looked like the enemy of that time. Today, politicians all over this country are proposing policies similarly rooted in fear and discrimination. The truest way for us to honor the injustice suffered by my family and thousands of others is by learning the lessons of history. We must uphold America’s values by choosing our compassion over our fear. That’s what my family deserved 74 years ago and that’s what immigrant communities deserve today.”
Congressman Xavier Becerra (CA-34):
“We must never forget the cruel internment of over 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. Our nation continues to face great challenges – whether it’s national or economic security – that we must work through together. And yet in some quarters, we continue to hear rhetoric of yesterday that cannot be tolerated. I join my colleagues today in recognizing the scores of Japanese Americans who not only suffered internment, but who have been our moral conscience and stood against many forms of injustice in the decades since. Let us continue honoring their legacy and say once more – never again.”
Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (IL-08):
“The Day of Remembrance for Japanese incarceration reminds us that we must not only commemorate our nation’s proud victories but also solemnly reflect on past mistakes. Whether slamming our doors on refugees fleeing terrorism and butchery today or forcibly relocating innocent Japanese-Americans to internment camps during World War II, we should each remember that fear can be a dangerous force with inhumane and unjust consequences. I hope this Day of Remembrance helps us, as a nation, redouble our resolve to ensure we never again repeat such shameful acts.”
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13):
“Today, we mark 74 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 family members were honorably serving in WWII. 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.”
Congressman Ted Lieu (CA-33):
“Today we remember the day President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which led to the unjust internment of over 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent. I’d like to reiterate that 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. Japanese-Americans have contributed so much to the rich history of America, and I am grateful for the many sacrifices their families and communities have made to our nation.”
Congressman Mark Takai (HI-01):
“Earlier this week I had the opportunity to visit Honouliuli National Park, which served as an internment camp during World War II. As a Japanese-American, visiting Honouliuli has significant meaning to me. Less than a century ago, many innocent men, women, and children were illegally detained in this very spot simply because of the way they looked and where their ancestors came from. This serves as an important reminder that all citizens are afforded due process under the law and that a nation can never justify the mass incarceration of a people based on race. In light of recent events, we as a nation, must remain ever vigilant against discrimination in times of war and unrest and work to protect the rights of everyone.”
Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (CA-46):
“Today we reflect on one of the darkest chapters in American history. During World War II our country succumbed to xenophobic hysteria and racism by unjustly and wrongfully forcing the internment of tens of thousands of Japanese Americans. We must endeavor to learn from this period when we allowed fear to compromise our values and dictate our actions at the cost of precious civil liberties. We cannot let this history repeat itself. I will continue to call for awareness of the Japanese American internment experience.
“I am proud to represent a district that is home to many Asian Pacific Americans, and I am proud to work in Congress to promote and advocate for the wellbeing of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.”
The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) is comprised 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 (AAPI) community. Currently chaired by Congresswoman Judy Chu, CAPAC has been addressing the needs of the AAPI community in all areas of American life since it was founded in 1994.