JACL’s fundamental purpose is to ensure Americans remain mindful of the civil rights errors of our past, that the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans serves as a glaring example of what should never happen again. Unfortunately, our government has once again established concentration camps, only this time to imprison children who have been separated from their parents who have come to our country, often seeking asylum.
The Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, suggested last week that his proposed immigration bill might offer a legislative solution to put an end to the separation of children from their parents. Unfortunately, the proposed bill would do more harm to our nation’s immigration system, decimating avenues for legal immigration long used by Asian American and Pacific Islander families. More complicated, less inclusive bills are not the answer we need; a true solution, such as the clean and simple Keeping Families Together Act, should be able to pass on its own merit.
There are now approximately 2,000 children incarcerated at the border without the comfort of their parents. Health care providers including psychiatrists, psychologists, and pediatricians, as well as faith leaders, are universally opposed to these inhumane and immoral practices because of the likely long lasting damage to these children.
Today, with 75 years of experience behind us, we have seen the effects of incarceration on Japanese American families. Some families were separated when a parent was identified as disloyal without trial or conviction, and sent to prison camps just as today’s immigrants are being imprisoned automatically at the border. Even for the families that remained together, the scars inflicted by the experience of mass incarceration were deep. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental health effects of trauma, leading to anxiety, depression, or even suicide, were not uncommon in adults and children who experienced the camps.The impact of the camps further extended to and deeply affected the children of the incarcerees.
This was the legacy of the camps that challenged our community for many years, and still does today. And this is why so many of us stand today in opposition to this practice of separating children from their parents, cognizant of the long term damage that is being done now and upon generations to come.
The trauma that our country is inflicting upon these children must end now.