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VOX POPULI: Zero Tolerance for Racist Policies

Nikkei Resisters participated in a march in Oakland in January.

Los Angeles’ Nikkei Progressives and the San Francisco Bay Area’s Nikkei Resisters condemn the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that has separated children from parents and placed them in child detention centers.

This executive order follows several months of tearing children from their parents and jailing them in so-called “tender age” facilities. Despite Trump’s latest executive order to keep families incarcerated together, the whereabouts of many of these children are unknown, and there is no plan for reuniting families.

Trump’s recent retreat does nothing to alleviate the injustice of his “zero tolerance” policy, which will lead inevitably to the indefinite detention of entire families, a situation identical in cruelty and injustice as that experienced by almost 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II.

We are progressive Japanese American organizations dedicated to social justice. We are especially focused on communities under attack by the current administration while working to preserve our historic Little Tokyo/Japantown communities. Our commitment to organize against racial profiling, the Muslim ban, and now, mass incarceration by border agencies stems in part from our own experience during WWII.

Leading up to U.S. involvement in WWII, Japanese Americans were surveilled and our leaders harassed as part of a U.S. domestic policy to otherize and disenfranchise Japanese American communities. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, 1,291 community leaders were rounded up and detained by the FBI. Thousands of fathers were sent to Department of Justice camps and were separated from their wives and children for years.

This anti-Japanese hysteria was the culmination of decades of anti-Japanese nativist campaigns that resulted in President Roosevelt signing Executive Order 9066 in February 1942. Thus Japanese Americans – 50 percent of whom were children – were forced to leave the West Coast and ultimately 120,000 were imprisoned in U.S. concentration camps behind barbed wire, guard towers, and machine guns.

This included 2,000 Japanese Latin Americans who were forcibly removed from their home countries and imprisoned in the U.S. as hostages to be exchanged for U.S. prisoners of war. There was no due process and no evidence of any wrongdoing — we were criminalized simply for being Japanese.

During a 10-year struggle, Japanese Americans fought for redress and reparations from the U.S. government, leading to a formal presidential apology and a reparations bill in 1988. This victory was made possible by the mass movement led by three generations of our community and with the support of our many justice-minded allies. That is why we are speaking out and standing up for others facing similar institutionalized policies of racism and xenophobia. For our parents and grandparents, who suffered this injustice, we must organize together and demand  “Never again!”

We call for just immigration laws that respect and recognize the 12 million undocumented Americans already living in the U.S., those seeking asylum, and those wanting to immigrate. We call for the end to U.S. foreign policies that create the very conditions forcing mass migrations. We must have a foreign policy that enables people to thrive in their own homelands, free from U.S. military and economic destabilization.

Nikkei Progressives and Nikkei Resisters call for the immediate reunification and release of every single parent and child separated. We demand due process for those seeking refuge and asylum. We envision a future free of mass deportations and indefinite detention, the dismantling of for-profit detention centers, and the abolishment of ICE.

Join us in fighting for a better future for our communities! Kodomo no tame ni — for the sake of the children.

Nikkei Progressives (

Nikkei Resisters (

NCRR—Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress (

Nihonmachi Outreach Committee (

For a complete list of endorsers, visit Nikkei Resisters and Nikkei Progressives on Facebook.

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