Recalling internment, Japanese Americans condemn family separations

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, condemned the Trump administration's policy as being "horrendous" and "inhumane."
by Saleah Blancaflor /
Children at Tule Lake Segregation Center
This photo, taken sometime between 1942 and 1946, shows children held at the Tule Lake Segregation Center. Tule Lake was one of 10 internment camps, and was the last to close on March 20, 1946.Courtesy of Satsuki Ina

Japanese-American activists and political leaders on Tuesday recalled the incarceration camps of World War II in condemning the Trump administration’s policy of separating parents and children at the border.

"At least during the internment of Japanese-Americans, I and other children were not stripped from our parents," the actor George Takei, who was detained with his family at incarceration camps in California and Arkansas, wrote in an op-ed for Foreign Policy magazine on Tuesday. “We were not pulled screaming from our mothers’ arms. We were not left to change the diapers of younger children by ourselves."

Takei added that there was a “hideous irony” in comparing today’s situation with the camps from WWII.

“I cannot for a moment imagine what my childhood would have been like had I been thrown into a camp without my parents,” he wrote. “That this is happening today fills me with both rage and grief: rage toward a failed political leadership who appear to have lost even their most basic humanity, and a profound grief for the families affected.”

On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security said that 2,342 children had been separated from their parents since being apprehended at the border from May 5 to June 9.

At a news conference Tuesday in Washington, Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, accused the president of playing games with the lives of children at the borders.

"Mr. President, have a heart for a change. Take that goddamn pen of yours and do away with this horrendous, inhumane policy of yours that rips children from the arms of their parents," she said.

In a statement Tuesday, the Japanese American Citizens League, a civil rights organization, criticized the border camps and warned of the long-term damage that the children will face in the future. “Even for the families that remained together, the scars inflicted by the experience of mass incarceration were deep,” the statement read.

In an interview with MSNBC last week, Satsuki Ina, a child therapist who was born in Tule Lake Segregation Center in California, described doing interviews for the documentary “Children of the Camps” with mothers at detention camps who said their children were traumatized by the experience.

"These mothers sacrificed everything they had so that the children could stay with them," Ina said, "so to find that the children are being separated from their mothers is just unbelievably inhumane."

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