Today, the Department of Interior announced that the National Park Service will award 17 grants totaling nearly $2.9 million to preserve and interpret the confinement sites where over 120,000 Japanese Americans were detained during World War II. Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) released the following statements commending the Department of Interior for its commitment to ensuring that these sites are preserved and that the Japanese American experience during WWII is never forgotten.
Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-32), CAPAC Chair: "Seventy years have passed since President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which led to the internment of thousands of Japanese American citizens. As the years pass, it is vital that we never forget that dark chapter in American history and ensure those mistakes are never repeated. I commend the National Park Service for its dedication to preserving the Japanese American internment sites, which will serve as a reminder to future generations that we must always be vigilant in upholding our civil and Constitutional rights as Americans."
Congressman Mike Honda (CA-15), CAPAC Chair Emeritus: "As a Japanese American who was forced into a World War II internment camp with my family some 70 years ago, I commend the National Park Service for their efforts in helping to preserve the camps and broaden understanding. In 2009, I was proud to lead the effort on the House Appropriations Committee to increase the funding for the Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program to a $3 million annual appropriations--and I am pleased that my colleagues on both sides of the political aisle continue to recognize the importance of this program. Preserving the lessons of the past is crucial as we work to build a future free of the misunderstanding and discrimination that characterized the internment."
Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01), CAPAC Whip: "Educating the public about one of the darkest chapters in America's history will help ensure that these mistakes are never repeated. Both of my grandfathers were among the more than 120,000 Japanese Americans interned during World War II, a reflection of how far wrong we can go when we are driven by fear and prejudice. I applaud the National Park Service for supporting the preservation of these national internment sites -- including the Honouliuli Internment Camp on Oahu -- and for their commitment to sharing the stories of injustice so future generations may understand the importance of defending the civil and constitutional rights of all our citizens."
Congressman Xavier Becerra (CA-31), Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus: "Seventy years ago during World War II, thousands of American men, women and children of Japanese descent, as well as individuals of Japanese descent from Latin American countries, were held captive in U.S. internment camps. For helping to raise awareness for this grave injustice, and continuing their efforts to tell a more inclusive story of American history, I applaud the Department of Interior and the National Park Service for taking action to preserve the Japanese American internment camps."
Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono (HI-02): "There is a misconception that Japanese Americans in Hawaii were not interned during World War II. The fact is the opposite is true. Some 1,800 Japanese Americans from Hawaii were sent to internment camps in the islands or the U.S. mainland. What remains of these camp sites reminds us of how wartime hysteria led to the incarceration of thousands of innocent American citizens based on race. The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii's project "Just' Youth: Taking the Lessons of Hawaii's WWII Confinement Sites to Our High Schools' will share how civil rights and personal freedoms were lost resulting in the internment of Japanese-Americans across the mainland U.S. and Hawaii. Mahalo to the JCCH and the U.S. Department of the Interior for working to preserve these sites and stories to ensure those dark times will never be repeated."
Congresswoman Doris O. Matsui (CA-05): "I applaud the National Park Service for providing funding to preserve World War II Japanese American internment sites. These sites are part of the fabric of American history. They must be maintained so that future generations can learn about one of the darkest periods our nation has known, and to serve as reminders to our country to never repeat the injustices of the past."
Congresswoman Janice Hahn (CA-36): "We must honor our history in full--even the difficult parts, even the parts where we betrayed our principles. We must remember the story of the thousands of Japanese-Americans from the Los Angeles area who were ordered to distant internment camps, and I am glad we're taking this step to memorialize their story for future generations."
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (CA-16): "As a supporter of the Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program, I applaud the Department of Interior for moving forward in preserving the World War II Japanese American Internment Sites. The internment of Japanese Americans was a dark period for our nation, and it is important that we preserve these sites as educational tools for future generations so our mistakes in the past are not repeated."
Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-34): "This is a sad, but important piece of American history. Preserving these internment sites reminds and educates us about our past so that we may go forward with a renewed awareness of the need to fight for civil rights and justice for all."
The awards were granted as part of the Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program established by Congress in 2006. This year's grants total $2,890,368 and will support projects in 11 states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. The program's goal is to teach present and future generations about the injustice of internment during World War II and inspire a commitment to equal justice under the law.