Japanese-American Lawmakers Demand That Trump Denounce Internment Camp Comments

The World War II camps were "one of the darkest chapters in American history."

A prominent Donald Trump supporter’s suggestion that the World War II internment of Japanese-Americans is a precedent for a registry of Muslim immigrants was condemned Thursday by some members of Congress, especially those personally affected by the war camps.

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), whose parents and grandparents were imprisoned after Japan’s 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, called on the president-elect to denounce Carl Higbie, a former spokesman for a pro-Trump political action committee who cited the shameful chapter in history in his case for a Muslim registry.

“I am horrified that people connected to the incoming Administration are using my family’s experience as a precedent for what President-elect Trump could do,” Takano said in a press release. He said mass internments were “one of the darkest chapters in American history.” Comments like Higbie’s, he added, “confirm many Americans’ worst fears about the Trump Administration.”

“They reflect an alarming resurgence of racism and xenophobia in our political discourse,” Takano said.

Takano was among lawmakers who decried remarks this week by leading Trump supporters advocating a Muslim registry. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, reportedly under consideration to be Trump’s attorney general, told Reuters this week that he is proposing to create a registry of immigrants from Muslim countries for Trump’s review.

Members of the Japanese-American Mochida family awaiting re-location to a camp, Hayward, California.
Members of the Japanese-American Mochida family awaiting re-location to a camp, Hayward, California.
Dorothea Lange via Getty Images

Higbe pressed the case for a registry, calling the mass internment of Japanese-Americans a “precedent.”

“We’ve done it with Iran back awhile ago. We did it during World War II with the Japanese,” Higbie told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly on Wednesday. “I’m just saying there is precedent for it.”

Higbie told The New York Times on Thursday he “fundamentally” disagreed with internment camps, but he stood by his remarks, saying there is “historic, factual precedent to do things not politically popular and sometimes not right, in the interest of national security.”

Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), who was born in the Arizona desert in an internment camp in 1944, called Higbie’s suggestion “outrageous, unacceptable, and reckless.”

In a statement on Twitter, Matsui invoked the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, signed by then-President Ronald Reagan, in which the government issued a formal apology to Japanese-Americans and deemed the World War II internment camps unjustified and the result of “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”

“We cannot go backwards,” Matsui said. “The United States of America must remain a safe haven for people of all faiths and origins, and a model for tolerance, justice, and liberty.”

Other lawmakers speaking out against Higbie include Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and several members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, including Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.). Chu shared an assortment of old identification cards based on religion and race.

The lawmakers implored Trump not repeat the shameful mistakes of the past. If he does, with a registry for Muslim-Americans or immigrants, the lawmakers said they will fight back.

No one should go through what my family ... suffered regardless of their race or religion or any other way they would choose to try and divide us,” said Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), who lived three years in internment camps as a child.

“Now today, I tell Mr. Trump that to re-enact a policy fueled by prejudice is uncivilized, un-American and unworthy of a president sworn to uphold our Constitution.”

Before You Go

America's Disgrace: Japanese Internment Camps During WWII

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