Santa Fe Trail Scenic and Historic Byway Mountain Branch
Contact: Wyvonne Phillips, Byway Manager
135 W Main Street, Trinidad, CO 81082

March 7, 2003


Camp Amache is in the news!

House approves internee observance


By David L. Beck

Mercury News

The House of Representatives passed a resolution Thursday supporting the creation of a National Day of Remembrance, an action hyphenated-American groups immediately hailed as an important reminder of past injustices -- and a useful warning against present and future ones.

The resolution by Rep. Mike Honda, D-Campbell, ``recognizes the historical significance of February 19, 1942,'' the date President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. That order led to the herding of an estimated 110,000-120,000 residents of Japanese ancestry, many of them native-born U.S. citizens, out of their homes and into isolated camps throughout the West -- away from the Pacific Coast. It also permitted the interning of thousands more ``enemy aliens'' of German or Italian birth.

The Honda resolution suggests establishing Feb. 19 as the day to officially remember the internment camps. The resolution, which passed unanimously, ``supports a National Day of Remembrance to increase public awareness'' of a time when American citizens were issued identity cards, told they could not travel, had their property seized and were interned.

It does not, however, create a holiday. That would require legislation, rather than a resolution. There currently is no similar resolution in the Senate.

Honda, 62, was a toddler when he was shipped with his American-born parents to Amache, a camp on the old Santa Fe Trail in southeastern Colorado, which at its peak numbered 7,318 residents.

``At a time when inflamed passions from our current conflict with Iraq and the war against terrorism may prompt similar discrimination against targeted ethnic groups,'' Honda said in a statement, ``we must remember the lessons from this shameful chapter of U.S. history.''

Satsuki Ina, a Sacramento psychotherapist who helped create the PBS documentary ``Children of the Camps'' -- Ina herself was born in the Tule Lake camp -- said ``acknowledgment that this did happen'' is an important step toward ending the shame Japanese-Americans feel, which she said ``parallels in a lot of ways the work I do with abuse victims.''

``To make it a National Day of Remembrance is a way to place it in the consciousness of the American public,'' said Ina, ``to prevent it from ever happening again.''

She noted that ``it was the abrogation of responsibility of the courts and the legislators'' that allowed the creation of the camp system -- a reminder particularly important ``not just to the public but to legislators, the people running the government, that it was possible then'' and remains so today.

People of Italian and German descent were also pleased at the specific inclusion of their parents and grandparents in Honda's resolution.

``There has been very little emphasis on what happened to the `enemy aliens,' '' said Lawrence Distasi, author of ``Una Storia Segreta: The Secret History of Italian American Evacuation and Internment During World War II,'' and co-creator of a traveling exhibition of the same name now at Oakland City Hall.

``It's particularly relevant now,'' said Distasi, 67, a Marin County writer, because ``it's the enemy aliens'' -- legal residents of foreign birth -- ``who are very vulnerable in a time like this. And this legislation draws attention to them.''

Karen Ebel, 49, a Connecticut lawyer whose German-born father was interned in a series of camps before winding up at Fort Lincoln, N.D., was ``ecstatic'' that Honda ``introduced it on behalf of all the different ethnic groups.''

Ebel said Honda's resolution is ``the first official acknowledgment by Congress that I'm aware of that Germans were interned and otherwise -- I hate to use the word mistreated -- but they did have their civil liberties restricted.''


Please write your legislators in support of National Day of Remembrance, Feb. 19 as the day to officially remember the internment camps.

Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, 308 Russell Senate Office Bldg., Washington, DC 20510, 202-224-5852, fax- 202-228-4609
Senator Wayne Allard, 525 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg., Washington , D.C. 20510, 202-224-5941, fax-202-224-6471
Congressman Scott McInnis, 320 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515, 202-225-4761, fax- 202-226-0622
Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave, 1208 Longworth HOB, Washington, DC 20515, 202-225-4676, fax- 202- 225-5870