Japanese internment remembered 75 years later; some find parallels to present day

SEATTLE -- Seventy-five years ago, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the executive order forcing people of Japanese ancestry into internment camps.

Community leaders say President Donald Trump’s executive order banning people from coming to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries appears to be history repeating itself.

Hundreds packed Fisher Pavilion, not just to observe this day of remembrance but to say “never again.”

“The order led to the biggest violation of civil liberties in our country’s history,” said Historian and Densho’s Executive Director Tom Ikeda.

When President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, it forced 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry on the Pacific Coast into internment camps. Japanese-American leaders say President Trump’s executive order targeting travel from Muslim-majority countries and immigration plans seem all too familiar.

“We realized that we had to speak out early and loudly so that it wouldn’t keep expanding the actions against the Muslim community,” said Ikeda.

World War II veteran Hiro Nishimura listened intently throughout the presentation. While he fought against the Japanese, his family had been sent to internment camps.

“My parents were Japanese, and they were very reluctant to say anything negative,” said Nishimura.

In 1981, he says he testified in a congressional hearing about the injustice and at 97-years young, he is still speaking out against it now.

It’s the kind of support Muslim-Americans we talked say they appreciate as they face potential harassment and discrimination.

“I think it’s really important to remember all American Muslims share the same American values and freedoms that we all cherish knowing that we’re all in this together,” said Rabiah Ahmad, who attended the event at Fisher Pavilion.

Because as painful as it may be to remember history, organizers hope this conversation serves as a reminder for the future.

“Being here today is an opportunity for us to remember so that those things will never happen again,” said Deputy Director of ACLU Washington Michele Storms, who also served as the event’s moderator.

Organizers and panelists today encouraged people to write to their local and state leaders and to call the media about injustices, so they don’t go ignored.