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‘The Parallels Are Alarming’

Vigilant Love, a solidarity community against violence and Islamophobia, held a “No Ban, No Wall” vigil in Little Tokyo’s JACCC Plaza on Jan. 26, with speakers from various communities condemning President Trump’s executive actions on immigration. Bill Watanabe, who was born in Manzanar, spoke about parallels between his family’s incarceration during World War II and the situation of Muslim Americans today. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

Rafu Staff and Wire Service Reports

(Published Jan. 31, 2017)

As California marked a day to honor a champion of civil rights, the nation continued to wrestle with the backlash from President Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order banning immigration and visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

California State Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) received unanimous support Monday afternoon, after introducing Assembly Concurrent Resolution 10, that designated Jan. 30 as Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.

“Today, as Americans across the country rise up to defend our constitution, respect our history as a nation of immigrants, and fight to insure that no is targeted because of their national origin or faith, we honor a civil rights hero who fought for these very same principles 75 years ago,” Muratsuchi said in bringing forth the non-binding resolution.

The Oakland-born Korematsu refused internment and challenged Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9006, the 1942 directive to remove all persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast and detain them in internment camps.

Korematsu’s case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, whose judgement upheld the position of the government. After undisclosed evidence was reveled in 1981, the U.S. District Court in San Francisco formally vacated Korematsu’s conviction in 1983.

In his remarks on Jan. 30, Muratsuchi quoted comments from an official apology issued in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan, who said the internment was based on “race prejudice, wartime hysteria and the failure of political leadership.”

“The parallels are alarming between what Fred Korematsu and Japanese American experienced during World War II, and what we see happening to Muslims today,’ Muratsuchi added, alluding to Trump’s directive of last Friday. “We cannot let history to repeat itself against anyone.”

Karen Korematsu joins Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi in the State Legislature on Monday, shortly after Muratsuchi paid tribute to her father, Fred Korematsu. (Courtesy Office of Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi)

The weekend saw scores of demonstrations across the U.S., many at airports, denouncing the executive order. At Los Angeles International Airport on Jan. 29, thousands rallied against President Trump’s immigration crackdown, confronting counter-protesters and snarling traffic. Two people were arrested during the protests for blocking roadways and more than a dozen flights were reported delayed because flight crews and passengers had trouble reaching their terminals.

Faced with chaotic confusion in customs checkpoints and protest at airports, The White House apparently backed off its initial hardline stance. The crackdown apparently at first included green-card holders permitted to live and work in the U.S., but the status of travelers from Muslim countries remained unclear.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that despite all the uproar, only about 100 travelers out of about 320,000 visitors were detained for additional screenings.

“It’s a shame that people were inconvenienced, obviously, but at the end of the day we’re talking about a couple of hours,” Spicer said.

Among those participating in the protests were dozens of Japanese American activists who carried signs invoking Executive Order 9066. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside) was among the politicians joining protesters at LAX on Jan. 29.

In a speech honoring Korematsu on Jan. 30 before the House of Representatives, Takano noted that his parents and grandparents were incarcerated during World War II.

“History often forces us to ask ourselves, how would we have acted if we had lived in that moment? With the president’s executive order, you no longer need to wonder,” he said.

Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu took this photo of Rep. Mark Takano, who brought boxes of donuts to protesters at L.A. International Airport. He is joined by (from left) June Hibino, Kimi Maru and Carrie Morita.

Bob Ferguson, attorney general for Washington state, announced Jan. 30 that he would sue Trump over the travel ban. The move made Washington the first state to announce legal action against the Trump Administration over one of its policies.

Gov. Jay Inslee invoked the Japanese American incarceration as he condemned the executive order. The Democratic governor, speaking on Jan. 28 at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, noted that he is a resident of Bainbridge Island.

“In February 1942, they rounded up American citizens of Japanese American ancestry because of fear and only fear, and sent them to camps for years,” he said. “I know from Bainbridge Island what fear can do and I know that Americans need to stand up against this today across America.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement, “Justice doesn’t live or die on the stroke of one man’s pen, regardless of how high his office.”

Calling Trump’s executive order unjust and anti-American, he added, “It discriminates against human beings based on their faith. It denies entry to those with proven and legitimate fears of death and persecution. It tramples on centuries of American tradition.”

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