HomeAsian AmericansJapanese Americans Protest Migrant Detention Center at Fort Sill

Japanese Americans Protest Migrant Detention Center at Fort Sill

Chizu Omori, 89, speaks during protest about her experience at a WWII Japanese incarceration camp as a child.

A group that included Japanese Americans who were detained as children during World War II demonstrated in Oklahoma yesterday to protest the US government’s plan to house over 1,400 migrant children at Fort Sill, reports KSWO 7News.

“75 years ago, 120,000 of us were removed from our homes and forcibly incarcerated in prison camps across the country,” said protest organizer Satsuki Ina, whose sign included a photo of her as a child in a WWII incarceration camp. “We’re here today to protest the repetition of history.”

Some other survivors also brought camp ID cards and photos from when they were detained as children.

Fort Sill police threatened arrests if protesters did not move from base property. Police told them to resume their demonstration on the other side of Rogers Lane, which was considered Lawton city property, but protestors initially refused.

“If that’s what it takes, to be arrested to make our statement, for people to know that we mean it when we say, we’re going to do what we can for America to stop repeating history,” said Ina.

Once Lawton police arrived and let them speak, the protestors held a news conference and then headed to Shepler Park where they hung origami cranes and met with some other organizations and local Native American Tribes. The groups joined together in prayer and continued the demonstration into the afternoon.

“So much of what’s happening today is very familiar to us,” Ina said. “We, my family, suffered for four years with indeterminate detention. My father was taken from us and put in a separate prison camp and there was a period of time when we didn’t know where he was, and I was a toddler at that time and when we’re finally reunified in Crystal City, Texas, in the family internment camp there, at that point, my father was just a stranger to me. I had a lot of anxiety as a child. So I’ve made it my life’s work to understand the trauma consequences of mass incarceration and chronic states of trauma.”

The Fort Sill post was last used to house migrant children in 2014 under the Obama administration, when it took in 1,861 migrants, reports The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Oklahoma’s Republican leaders opposed lockups like Fort Sill under Obama but have made a switch to defend them under the current administration.

Sen. James Lankford said in a statement last week that likening the migrant detention centers to incarceration camps “is a false equivalency.”

“What happened then is not what is happening now,” read the statement. “… Every country now knows if you come into our country with a child, you will be released. It is our responsibility to ensure the security and safety of all the children coming into our country, and I have confidence that will be done properly at Fort Sill.”

“I feel a heaviness because history repeated itself when they interned the Japanese Americans there and now they are taking these children that they claim to be unaccompanied by adults and keeping them at Fort Sill, and that’s just wrong,” said activist Rev. Steven B. Thompson. “That goes against our very human nature.”

Ina hopes the government will utilize alternatives to building walls and detaining children.

“Our hope is that children who are coming across the border are placed in community-based facilities, provided services and all effort be put into reunifying them with sponsors and family members,” said Ina.

“We need to be the allies for vulnerable communities today that Japanese Americans didn’t have in 1942,” said Seattle-based historian Tom Ikeda.

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