Colorado Lawmaker Appeared to Defend Japanese Incarceration Camps

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Granada Relocation Center, Amache, Colorado.
The Granada Incarceration Camp in Amache, Colorado imprisoned 8,000 mostly Japanese Americans during WWII

The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) is speaking out after Colorado state Rep. Phil Covarrubias appeared to defend World War II Japanese incarceration camps during a debate of House Bill 17-1230.

“For anybody that has never been in the heat of combat, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and all of that was going on, there’s no time to ask questions and find out who’s a citizen and who’s not,” said Covarrubias, Republican representative of Adams and Arapahoe counties. “It’s easy to sit up here and say this stuff now. But if you’re in that moment, it looks a lot different than being able to be in a nice suit and tie.”

“It’s outrageous that we have to keep reiterating that the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II was wrong,” said CAPAC chair U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) in a statement published in the Washington Post. “History doesn’t repeat itself because we forget. It repeats itself because apologists like Rep. Covarrubias attempt to convince us these atrocious actions were justified.”

The bill was introduced by Democrats to ensure that Colorado “does not aid or assist any federal overreach that would set up a registry for Muslims or other religious groups, create incarceration camps, or attempt to identify individuals by their race, religion, nationality, or immigration status and ethnicity — all of which go against our American and Colorado values and our U.S. and state Constitutions,” said Democratic state Rep. Joseph Salazar, one of the bill’s sponsors..

“I think we need to look at the Americans that are in fear from the terrorism and the things that we’ve seen over the last few years, especially,” said Covarrubias. “Everybody’s talking about the immigrants being in fear or the other people being in fear, what about our own people? What about Florida? What about San Bernardino?” He seems to ignore the fact that many of those who were incarcerated by Executive Order 9066 were actually American citizens. The order pulled approximately 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry away from their livelihoods and placed them into incarceration camps.

 

On Thursday, Covarrubias denied he was justifying the incarceration camps. “Absolutely not. Under no circumstance should any human being be subjected to that kind of treatment, ever,” he said, stating his comments merely reflected that the attack on Pearl Harbor started a domino effect.

One of the ten incarceration camps during World War II was located in southeastern Colorado.  Ralph Carr, the governor of Colorado during the incarceration period and the man who House Bill 17-1230 was originally named for, was a staunch opponent of the executive order.

Dr. JoAnn Ota Fujioka, a victim of Japanese incarceration, spoke to Denver7 about her personal experiences and her thoughts on Covarrubia’s comments. “To say that this was the heat of battle is far, far from true,” said Fujioka. “And it didn’t justify it anyway, but it certainly was not accurate.”

The bill will be going through the House for a third time and must be approved there before going to the Colorado Senate.

 

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