Sunday, November 30, 2008

Life for Adults

"I'm for catching every Japanese in America, Alaska, and Hawaii now and putting them in concentration camps.. . .Damn them! Let's get rid of them now!"
Congressman John Rankin, Congressional Record, Feb.19,1942.

This is about life for adults before, during, and after the Japanese Internment Camp. What were their lives like before the Internment Camp? Like any other Asian immigrants, Japanese immigrants go to school, work to take care of their families. Their lives weren’t easy due to a lot of laws that were passed such as Alien Land Law which prohibited them to own land or property. Many Japanese were friends with Americans who were their neighbors or co-workers. Some Japanese come to the States for a sole purpose which to make money then go back to Japan but many others wanted to settle and raise their families here.

On December 7th 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. That event has changed everything about the Japanese immigrants that live in the States. Americans were feared another attack especially from those Japanese that the government thought were loyal to Japan. President Roosevelt was pressured by the state representatives to take action against the Japanese living in US at the time. On February 19th 1942 Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 to put some 120,000 people of Japanese descents in internment camps where they were detained up to 4 years without due process of law or any factual basis. (1942–1945). Those 120,000 people were forced to leave their homes along with their farms, schools, jobs, and businesses.

These internment camps were surrounded by barbed-wire fences and guard towers. There were armed guards. The barracks were hastily-constructed tar-paper covered structures with multiple families assigned to live together with no privacy. Meals were eaten in mess halls. Toilet facilities were in a separate building, with no partitions between them. Imagine you and your families were in such a place. How would you feel? You’ve lost the ability to provide your families things that you were capable of like a night out to the movies. You’ve just lost the most precious thing that anyone can have, your freedom. Adults and children in camp both have to queue for everything including foods. The survivors described waiting in line for food and living in wooden barracks covered with tar paper. Sally Sudo of Minneapolis described how her parents and eight siblings were given rooms C and D in Barrack 2 of Block 14, 10 people in two rooms. Families were assigned numbers to identify them. Ms. Sudo's father came to the United States in 1899. He was forcibly relocated after Pearl Harbor. His daughter said that he lost everything while interned. The last 20 years of his life "he didn't really live, he just existed," she said during an interview.

After being released from camps what do they have to look forward to? Many lost their homes and businesses. Higher education or career paths were interrupted or abandoned due to circumstances. They were looked upon as traitors in their own country, where not even a single incident of treason was found to be committed by Japanese Americans. In 1988, many years after WWII, a Federal Commission's findings convinced Congress that the internment camps were wrong, and the United States Government should accept responsibility. The government apologized, and passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 that acknowledged that a "grave injustice was done." The government also promised to repay Japanese Americans for the losses they suffered. $20,000 was their compensation. For 4 years behind barbed-wire fence treated as prisoners, for lives those were lost, for futures that were limited. $20,000 suddenly seems so little.

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