Migrant children in US being held at former Japanese internment camp

Children and family in Texas along the Mexico border
Families wait to be searched and loaded into transport vans taking them to the U.S. Border Patrol McAllen Station in Los Ebanos, Texas.
Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty Images

The internment of Japanese Americans in the United States during World War II was the forced relocation and incarceration in concentration camps in the western interior of the country of between 110,000 and 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, most of whom lived on the Pacific coast. Wikipedia

12 June 2019 | | Rolling Stone

On Tuesday [11 June 2019] the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it will begin holding unaccompanied migrant children at Fort Sill, a 150-year-old military base in Oklahoma.

In World War II, the site was used as an internment camp for Japanese-Americans.

The move comes in response to a surge of migrants at the southern border, and a dearth of space in government detention facilities. Around 1,400 migrant children will be sent to Fort Sill next month. Last week, it was announced that an apartment complex in Carrizo Springs, Texas, would be turned into an emergency shelter for 1,600 migrant children.

In the month of May alone, 11,000 children arrived the border unaccompanied, and in a statement the DHS said it has detained 40,900 children from the beginning of the year through the end of April, a 57% increase from last year. As of early June, over 13,000 migrant children were being in shelters contracted by the government. Unaccompanied children are kept in federal custody until they can be placed with a sponsor, usually a relative already living in the United States.

The decision to use the site of an internment camp as an emergency detention facility highlights parallels that have been made between the Trump administration and the treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. While campaigning in 2015, Trump said that he might have supported internment. “I would have had to be there at the time to tell you, to give you a proper answer,” he said. “I certainly hate the concept of it. But I would have had to be there at the time to give you a proper answer.”

Despite the narrative implications, transferring migrant children to the site of an internment camp site is not a uniquely Trumpian misdeed. Fort Sill was also used to house migrant children by the Obama administration, which kept 7,700 children at the Oklahoma base — as well as military bases in California and Texas — for four months in 2014. But the problem has worsened precipitously since Obama left office, and children are suffering. “We are in a full-blown emergency, and I cannot say this stronger, the system is broken,” Acting Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner John Sanders told reporters.

Housing is not the only service the Trump administration is struggling to provide to migrant children. Last week, it was announced that activities, including “education services, legal services and recreation” for migrant children, would be “scaled back or discontinued,” as it was costing too much money given the record numbers of children in custody. The HHS has requested nearly $3 billion from Congress to expand care and shelter. In the meantime, HHS spokesperson Mark Weber explained that the services “are not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety.”

The problems go beyond funding. Late last month, authorities couldn’t seem to agree why nearly 2,500 unaccompanied minors were recently held by CBP for more than 72 hours before they were transferred to a housing facility, constituting a violation of federal law. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan told reporters the children were being held for longer than law permits because of a lack of bed space at housing facilities. Weber, the HHS spokesman, disagreed, telling reporters that “shelters have beds available and they are ready to receive UAC [unaccompanied alien children] when processed by DHS.”

Last month, Carlos Hernandez Vásquez, a 16-year-old boy from Guatemala, died after spending six days in a CPB detention facility.

Such reports of incompetence at the border are becoming increasingly commonplace. Earlier this month, NBC News reported that a botched family reunification effort last July left 37 migrant children between the ages of 5 and 12 in vans overnight. Most spent close to 24 hours in the vans, baking in the Texas heat.

It wasn’t the only horror story of the Trump administration’s neglect for migrant children to be retroactively reported in recent weeks. Late last month, CBS News reported that a 10-year-old girl from El Salvador died last September while under the care of the government, bringing the total of migrant children to die under the care of the Trump administration to six, the latest being Vásquez, who experienced flu-like symptoms after spending nearly twice the amount of time in CPB custody permitted by law.

Hours before the death was reported, McAleenan was asked by Congress whether every child in CBP custody has access to a pediatrician. His answer was simple: “No.”

Original Link: Why Are Migrant Children Being Housed at the Site of a World War II Internment Camp?

Historical Photographs by Dorothea Lange

The Injustice of Japanese-American Internment Camps Resonates Strongly to This Day

January 2017 | .A. Frail; Photographs by Paul Kitagaki Jr.; Historical Photographs by Dorothea Lange | Smothsonian Magazine

Jane Yanagi Diamond taught American History at a California high school, “but I couldn’t talk about the internment,” she says. “My voice would get all strange.” Born in Hayward, California, in 1939, she spent most of World War II interned with her family at a camp in Utah.

Seventy-five years after the fact, the federal government’s incarceration of some 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent during that war is seen as a shameful aberration in the U.S. victory over militarism and totalitarian regimes.

Though President Ford issued a formal apology to the internees in 1976, saying their incarceration was a “setback to fundamental American principles,” and Congress authorized the payment of reparations in 1988, the episode remains, for many, a living memory. Now, with immigration-reform proposals targeting entire groups as suspect, it resonates as a painful historical lesson.


The roundups began quietly within 48 hours after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941. The announced purpose was to protect the West Coast. Significantly, the incarceration program got underway despite a warning; in January 1942, a naval intelligence officer in Los Angeles reported that Japanese-Americans were being perceived as a threat almost entirely “because of the physical characteristics of the people.”

Fewer than 3 percent of them might be inclined toward sabotage or spying, he wrote, and the Navy and the FBI already knew who most of those individuals were. Still, the government took the position summed up by John DeWitt, the Army general in command of the coast: “A Jap’s a Jap. They are a dangerous element, whether loyal or not.”

That February, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, empowering DeWitt to issue orders emptying parts of California, Oregon, Washington and Arizona of issei—immigrants from Japan, who were precluded from U.S. citizenship by law—and nisei, their children, who were U.S. citizens by birth.


Photographers for the War Relocation Authority were on hand as they were forced to leave their houses, shops, farms, fishing boats. For months they stayed at “assembly centers,” living in racetrack barns or on fairgrounds.

Then they were shipped to ten “relocation centers,” primitive camps built in the remote landscapes of the interior West and Arkansas. The regime was penal: armed guards, barbed wire, roll call. Years later, internees would recollect the cold, the heat, the wind, the dust—and the isolation.

There was no wholesale incarceration of U.S. residents who traced their ancestry to Germany or Italy, America’s other enemies.

The exclusion orders were rescinded in December 1944, after the tides of battle had turned in the Allies’ favor and just as the Supreme Court ruled that such orders were permissible in wartime (with three justices dissenting, bitterly).


By then the Army was enlisting nisei soldiers to fight in Africa and Europe. After the war, President Harry Truman told the much-decorated, all-nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team: “You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice—and you have won.”

If only: Japanese-Americans met waves of hostility as they tried to resume their former lives. Many found that their properties had been seized for nonpayment of taxes or otherwise appropriated. As they started over, they covered their sense of loss and betrayal with the Japanese phrase Shikata ga nai—It can’t be helped. It was decades before nisei parents could talk to their postwar children about the camps.

Paul Kitagaki Jr., a photojournalist who is the son and grandson of internees, has been working through that reticence since 2005. At the National Archives in Washington, D.C., he has pored over more than 900 pictures taken by War Relocation Authority photographers and others—including one of his father’s family at a relocation center in Oakland, California, by one of his professional heroes, Dorothea Lange. From fragmentary captions he has identified more than 50 of the subjects and persuaded them and their descendants to sit for his camera in settings related to their internment. His pictures here, published for the first time, read as portraits of resilience.



Jane Yanagi Diamond, now 77 and retired in Carmel, California, is living proof. “I think I’m able to talk better about it now,” she told Kitagaki. “I learned this as a kid—you just can’t keep yourself in gloom and doom and feel sorry for yourself. You’ve just got to get up and move along. I think that’s what the war taught me.”

Oklahoma base set for migrant site was WWII internment camp

In this June 17, 2014, file photo, a vehicle drives by a sign at Scott Gate at Fort Sill, Okla. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

13 June 2019 |  | AP Via Army Times

OKLAHOMA CITY — A U.S. Army base in Oklahoma that the federal government says will temporarily house children crossing the border without their parents was used during World War II as a Japanese internment camp.


Historical data from the National Park Service and private organizations show Fort Sill was among at least 14 Army and Department of Justice facilities nationwide where Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants were interred. The Army’s War Relocation Authority held about 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans in “relocation centers” during the war with Japan.


Tom Ikeda, executive director of Densho, an organization that documents the history of the United States’ internment of Japanese people, referred to Fort Sill as “a place layered in trauma.” He pointed to its use as a boarding school for Native American children and as a prisoner-of-war camp for Apache tribal members.


“Sites like this need to be permanently closed, not recycled to inflict more harm,” Ikeda said Wednesday in a statement. “We need to stay vigilant and we need to be showing up at these places in protest. No one showed up for Japanese Americans during WWII, but we can and we must break that pattern now.”

Ikeda’s perspective echoed calls last year from state and federal leaders and locals who objected to the Trump administration looking into housing immigrant children near the site of a former internment camp in Rohwer, Arkansas. Those plans were scrapped.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement, overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, said Tuesday it plans to house up to 1,400 migrant children at Fort Sill, near Lawton, Oklahoma , about 90 miles southwest of Oklahoma City.

An emailed request for comment Wednesday from Health and Human Services was not returned.

Darrell Ames, spokesman for Fort Sill, said the post’s information indicates that following America’s entry into World War II the government directed the base to build internment camps for Japanese Americans, but nothing in the record reflects the camps were actually occupied by Japanese Americans. Instead, the camps were used by prisoners of war from Japan, Germany and Italy.


Officials at the Fort Sill National Historic Landmark & Museum said they have no information about the base’s use as an internment or POW camp because that part of its history is not part of its mission statement.


Shawn Iwaoka, who works in collections at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, said confusion abounds because camps were referred to by different names, including “relocation centers” or “detention camps” and because the camp at Fort Sill was much smaller than camps such as Manzanar in California, which housed thousands of people. The museum letters a man detained at Fort Sill wrote to his wife at another ca

mp in California with a pre-preprinted label that said “internee of war.”

“The euphemisms were rampant to kind of soften what they really were. The museum’s position is that they should be called concentration camps,” Iwaoka said. “They were going into people’s homes and forcing them to leave their property.”

It’s unclear exactly when the camp at Fort Sill opened, but an encyclopedia Densho publishes shows it closed in June 1942, almost seven months after the Japanese bombed the American fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. That pushed the U.S. into war and led the government to open internment camps.


Densho’s records and the book “Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites,” included on the National Park Service website, show from 359 to more than 700 people were interred at Fort Sill, including three German nationals. A guard shot a Japanese man to death while he was distraught and trying to escape. The Densho Encyclopedia says detainees lived in tents and that summer temperatures climbed to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius).


Record numbers of unaccompanied children have been arriving at the border, largely from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. In May, border agents apprehended 11,507 children traveling alone. The Office of Refugee Resettlement has come under fire for the death of two children who went through the agency’s network of shelters and is facing lawsuits over the treatment of teens in its care. The office has said it must set up new facilities to accommodate new arrivals or risk running out of beds.


During another migration surge in 2014, the Obama administration also used Fort Sill to house unaccompanied migrant children.

Associated Press writers Tim Talley in Oklahoma City and Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, New Mexico, contributed to this report.


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