Concentration Camp Survivor George Takei Talks Family Separation At U.S. Border

The "Star Trek" actor told GQ about how his experience in concentration camps for Japanese Americans during World War II compares to migrant detention today.

George Takei recently explained how horrifying the concept of family separation is.

In an interview with GQ magazine, the actor, who was a child when he was put in a concentration camp with other Japanese Americans during World War II, noted that he was always with his family while incarcerated. However, many Japanese American families were split apart.

Takei said that he “can’t imagine what it’s like for those children” who are forced to endure family separation at the southern U.S. border today.

“These infants are being torn away,” he told the outlet. “They’re crying all the time and they’re dirty and sick and they’re dying.”

Takei also referenced a recent incident that underscored the severity of family separation. The actor mentioned a New York Times article about Constantin Mutu, who was separated from his family at the border when he was 4 months old. He spent five months in a foster home and was sent to live in Michigan while his father was put in a detention facility and then ultimately deported to Romania.

“They’re not only carrying them away, but not keeping them where they were torn away from their parents and randomly scattering them to the far reaches of the United States: Minneapolis, Wisconsin, New Jersey,” Takei said. “I mean, that is thought-out, systematic evil, and cruelty that’s been inflicted on these children who are going to be impacted for life by this kind of brutal treatment.”

Actor George Takei denounced the "thought-out, systematic evil, and cruelty" of separating immigrant children from their families at the U.S. border.
Actor George Takei denounced the "thought-out, systematic evil, and cruelty" of separating immigrant children from their families at the U.S. border.
Jim Spellman via Getty Images

The issue is a particularly sensitive one for Takei, who has been outspoken about his experiences behind barbed wire, where his parents attempted to shelter him from the reality of their incarceration. He told GQ that when his family was detained at Rohwer War Relocation Center, his father had told him that they were “on vacation in Arkansas.” The state, he said, sounded “exotic” to him.

“Children are amazingly adaptable. We adjusted,” he said. “You know, the search light that followed me when I made the night runs from my barrack to the latrine—for my parents, it was invasive, humiliating, all that. I thought it was nice that they lit the way for me to pee.”

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, more than 2,650 immigrant children have been separated from their families as of Oct. 15, 2018. The children were sent to 121 different detention centers across the country, with many of them hundreds or thousands of miles away from where their parents were held.

In June, protests erupted as the Trump administration announced it would be detaining undocumented immigrant children apprehended at the border at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. An estimated 700 Japanese Americans were held at the same military base following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

In a statement provided to, the Department of Health and Human Services said an arrival date for the unaccompanied minors has yet to be set, but the facility is prepared to house immigrant children.

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