By Ed Diokno
I thought we all agreed that the internment camps that placed thousands of Japanese Americans behind barbed wire was a mistake and illegal.
That dark chapter in American history has apparently been forgotten by the incoming Trump administration.
The idea is so far out there even Fox News host Meghan Kelly expressed disbelief.
Kelly: You know better than to suggest that. I mean, that’s the kind of stuff that gets people scared, Carl.
Higbie: Right. I’m not saying I agree with it, but in this case I absolutely believe that a regional-based …
Kelly: You can’t be citing Japanese internment camps as precedent for anything the president-elect is gonna do.
Higbie: Look, the president needs to protect America first, and if that means having people that are not protected under our Constitution have some sort of registry so we can understand, until we can identify the true threat and where it’s coming from, I support it.”
Higgle later clarified to the New York Times that he was not a constitutional lawyer and was working from a layman’s understanding of the 1944 Supreme Court ruling that the order for internment camps was constitutional. He told the NYTimes he hoped to be involved in the Trump administration, but had engaged in no “formal conversations” with the president-elect’s team.
Democratic Rep. Judy Chu of California denounced Higbie’s comments.
“Any proposal to force American Muslims to register with the federal government, and to use Japanese imprisonment during World War II as precedent, is abhorrent and has no place in our society,” Chu said. “These ideas are based on tactics of fear, division, and hate that we must condemn.”
“The imprisonment of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II, including my parents and grandparents, is widely understood to be one of the darkest chapters in American history,” Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) said in a statement Thursday.
“I am horrified that people connected to the incoming administration are using my family’s experience as a precedent for what President-elect Donald Trump could do,” added Takano, who supported Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.
“These comments confirm many Americans’ worst fears about the Trump administration, and they reflect an alarming resurgence of racism and xenophobia in our political discourse.”
— Mark Takano (@RepMarkTakano) November 17, 2016
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) called the remarks “outrageous, unacceptable and reckless” in a statement.
“The unjust internment of Japanese Americans during World War II was a painful period during our history, but we have taken great strides as a country to heal those wounds and move forward.”
Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who is campaigning to become the Chair of the Democratic National Party, said that if the Trump administration “moves forward with the racist and divisive policies his team have been advocating for, we will be the first ones to stand up to him. We will be the first ones to tell him, ‘No.’ “”Higbie’s attempt to cite Japanese American incarceration as a precedent for this type of action is frightening and wrong. It’s a statement intended to lay a marker for a misguided belief that ignores the true lessons of Japanese American incarceration.,” cited a statement of the Japanese American Citizens League. “This lesson was captured in the words of a federal commission that said, ‘…The broad historical causes which shaped these decisions (to incarcerate Japanese Americans) were race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.’
“JACL believes that some of these same conditions exist today, where Muslim Americans are being singled out and unfairly targeted, and where the voices of leadership that should be speaking out against unfair treatment are not.
“We must not misinterpret our history by believing the Japanese American incarceration was justified as a precedent for similar actions today, and further, we must not use the wrongdoing perpetrated against Japanese Americans during World War II as a justification for the mistreatment of Muslim Americans.”