Survivors of Japanese American Internment Oppose Plan to Fence Off Former Camp

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Stop the Proposed Fence at the Tulelake Municipal Airport, site of the former Tule Lake Segregation Center, California

Stop the Proposed Fence at the Tulelake Municipal Airport, site of the former Tule Lake Segregation Center, California

SAN FRANCISCO, CA –  During World War II, over 12,000 Japanese Americans were forced from their homes and imprisoned at the Tule Lake Segregation Center in Modoc County, CA, after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Now, Tule Lake survivors and their loved ones are fighting the Federal Aviation Administration’s plans that would restrict access to the site of the former camp with a fast-growing petition on Change.org.

Satsuki Ina, a Japanese American therapist and filmmaker from San Francisco who was born at the Tule Lake Segregation Center when her family was interned there for four and a half years in the 1940s, launched the Change.org petition along with the Tule Lake Committee, a non profit organization led by survivors of the camp and their descendents, which has expressed concern that the fence will block off areas included in their educational tours of the site. The camp was one of several military areas throughout the country where over 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry were relocated based on their race as part of an executive order signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Currently, the Tule Lake Airport operates on part of the land that once housed the Tule Lake camp, while another portion of the land is part of a national monument administered by the National Park Service. The FAA is considering a proposal to build a fence around the airport that would in effect restrict access for the public to areas that once housed Japanese Americans who were interned at the Tule Lake camp.

“My family lived behind barbed wire for four and a half years as a result of a tragic government policy that tore thousands of Japanese American families apart,” said Satsuki. “Building yet another wall will prevent us from healing from the scars of the past and from learning from this critical part of our shared history.”

Survivors from the Tule Lake camp and their families are joining Satsuki’s campaign:

Actor George Takei, who was interned at the camp as a young boy, wrote a piece supporting the campaign in which he said the fence “would be a body blow to our efforts to keep this critical piece of American history, however blighted, from fading from our collective memory.”

Poet and playwright Hiroshi Kashiwagi wrote a powerful comment on the petition saying that the fence would cut off access to “the source of our painful memory, a sacred place we return to again and again for remembrance, for solace, for healing.”

Nancy Oda of Van Nuys, California, wrote that she signed the petition: “To preserve the integrity of the historical site where my family lived from October 1943-August 1945. I was born there while my father was confined in the military stockade. Please no more indignities.”

James Mitsui of Sagle, Idaho, wrote, “I was incarcerated there. This is another attempt to forget what happened in 1942.”

New signatures on Satsuki’s petition are sent via email to FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta.

“It’s powerful to see how Satsuki’s campaign with the Tule Lake Committee has taken off and brought together so many people who survived living at the Tule Lake camp,” said Tim Newman, Deputy Campaign Director at Change.org.

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