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JANM Opposes Fort Sill as Prison for Immigrant Minors

Fort Sill in Oklahoma (Twitter)

The Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles issued the following statement on June 24.


The Japanese American National Museum adds its voice to the growing outcry against the Trump Administration’s intention to use Fort Sill, a former World War II incarceration site for people of Japanese ancestry, as a prison for unaccompanied minors who have fled their homes in countries south of the United States to seek asylum.

The incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II was wrong, and the U.S. government acknowledged as much when it passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. That Act formally apologized for the grave injustice that was perpetrated due to “race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.”

To perpetrate a similar wrong today, against young people who are guilty of nothing more than seeking safety and a better life, is unacceptable and must be stopped.

“The Japanese American National Museum was founded by individuals who knew it was imperative to prevent what happened to them and their families during World War II from ever happening again,” said Ann Burroughs, president and CEO of JANM. “The use of Fort Sill for detaining minors only further demonstrates that without action from those who understand the failures of our history, regardless of background, this country’s leadership will continue to chart a course toward tragedy.”

Fort Sill’s history as a place of imprisonment isn’t limited to WWII. It was also a Native American boarding school where indigenous children were forcibly removed from their parents and communities as part of the government’s efforts to assimilate them. It served as a prisoner of war camp for members of the Chiricahua Apache tribe as part of their forced removal from the Southwest in the late 1800s.

For the location to again be used for the incarceration of people of color, and children in particular, is deeply troubling.

“Immigrant children are among the most vulnerable among us and should not be detained under any circumstances. Locking them up in a place where so much injustice has already been committed threatens to add another tragic chapter to history. Though few stood up for Japanese Americans in the 1940s, the Japanese American National Museum is steadfast in its support of any community now being targeted, including the minors who may be destined for Fort Sill and all of the children who have been separated from their families as a result of the government’s inhumane policies toward migrants. We are committed to using our voice to prevent history from repeating itself. History does not shout much louder than this,” added Burroughs.

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