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Supporting Goals of Certain Communities in Recognizing National Day of Remembrance

Location: Washington, DC

Supporting Goals of Certain Communities in Recognizing National Day of Remembrance -- (House of Representatives - March 03, 2004)

Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my support for House Resolution 56 which was introduced by Mr. Honda of California last month. This resolution would create a National Day of Remembrance in honor of the Japanese-Americans, Italian-Americans, and German-Americans who suffered injustices during the Second World War.

Before I begin, I would like to congratulate Mr. Honda on his new role as the Chairman of the Caucus of Asian Pacific American Caucus. He has long been a champion of the concerns of Asian Pacific Americans and will undoubtedly serve them well in his new role.

In February of 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 that paved the way for discriminatory action against American citizens of Japanese, German, and Italian descent. Across the West Coast, Japanese-Americans were evacuated en masse from their homes and relocated to internment camps. German-Americans and Italian-Americans were often the object of discriminatory policies, as well.

The residents in my home State of Connecticut were as deeply affected as the rest of the country by these political actions. A detention center for those considered to be 'alien enemies' was established in a community center in Hartford. Japanese, Italian, and German resident aliens were required to carry their immigration papers at all times and their movement was restricted. In addition, many of the Japanese-Americans who were interned on the West Coast moved to the East Coast, including Connecticut, after their release. The suffering that these communities endured has remained with them and must be addressed.

The apology offered by this government in 1988 is not sufficient. We must not allow the lessons learned from this chapter of our history to be lost, regardless of how painful they may be. It is this very pain that makes them so valuable. We cannot forget the suffering endured by our own citizens. Establishing a National Day of Remembrance is important in ensuring that this does not happen.

The National Day of Remembrance is not simply a matter of honoring the past. The treatment of Japanese-Americans, Italian-Americans, and German-Americans during World War II has significant implications for us today. This country is in a war against terror. Our relations with other nations should not make way for injustice and discrimination toward our own people. The National Day of Remembrance would serve as a reminder that questioning the loyalty of our citizens without just cause is a grave mistake.

I would like to commend Mr. Honda on his introduction of this resolution and his dedication to this important cause. The Japanese-American, Italian-American, and German-American people have expressed the desire that the experiences of their communities during World War II be remembered to serve as a lesson for future generations. This resolution is a valuable reminder that it is the work of this country to preserve the civil liberties of its people.

It is often said that history tends to repeat itself. However, it does not have to. We have an opportunity to take action to prevent a similar threat to the civil liberties of innocent citizens as took place during World War II from occurring again. I hope that this is something that members on both sides of the aisle will be able to agree to do and I would therefore like to urge all of my colleagues to support this important resolution.

Mr. WU. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H. Res. 56, a resolution recognizing the historical significance of February 19, 1942 and supporting the Japanese American, German American, and Italian American communities in recognizing a National Day of Remembrance.

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, under which authority approximately 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were forcibly removed from their homes and incarcerated during World War II. The last of the detainees were released in October 1946, 4 ½ years after the signing of the Executive Order, and over a year after the end of the war. But this dark chapter in our American history did not end there.

Upon release from the internment camps, Japanese Americans could not return to the lives they had led before the tragic Executive Order. During the period of internment, they lost their homes, their businesses, their livelihoods.

Thirty years passed before the Executive Order was formally rescinded in 1976. And it took the government an additional 12 years before reparations and a Presidential apology were issued in 1988.

Mr. Speaker, it took over 40 years for the government to acknowledge the magnitude of the mistake it had made in interning Japanese Americans. We must now vow to remember the unspeakable injustice perpetrated upon our fellow Americans by our American government so that it may not be repeated. I thank Mr. HONDA for introducing this important resolution which reminds us not to forget the mistakes of our past.

We support the Japanese American, German American, and Italian American communities in recognizing a National Day of Remembrance. This dark period in our history not only devastated the lives of Japanese Americans, but also restricted the freedoms of Italian Americans and German Americans during World War II.

Mr. Speaker, we must recognize that measures such as Executive Order 9066, which was found to be shaped by "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership," violate not only the rights of those they target, but in fact, attack the basic freedoms of all Americans guaranteed by the Constitution. Let the lessons of the past teach us to be wary of the actions we as a Congress take hastily, based on fear. Let us remember.

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