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Because #NeverAgainIsNow, Japanese Americans, Allies Stage Rally Demanding Closure of Immigration Prison

"We believe the best way to honor our history is by fighting to end detention sites today."

An activist holds a prop portraying incarcerated immigrants at a February 14, 2020 vigil outside the ICE building in San Francisco.

An activist holds a prop portraying incarcerated immigrants at a February 14, 2020 vigil outside the ICE building in San Francisco. (Photo: Peg Hunter/flickr/cc)

Immigrant rights advocates including Japanese American victims of World War II incarceration campas reaffirmed their message that #NeverAgainIsNow on Sunday with a rally outside an immigration prison in Tacoma, Washington.

The action—organized by Tsuru for Solidarity, La Resistencia, Densho, and the Japanese American Citizens League—commemorated the Day of Remembrance, which marks President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Feb. 19, 1942 executive order that forced over 100,000 people of Japanese descent, including American citizens, into incarceration "camps."

Activists targeted the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC), run by the controversial GEO Group for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The prison holds roughly 1,500 people and has been targeted by immigrant rights advocates who say prisoners there are held under inhumane conditions. 

The Japanese American activists said they cannot separate the injustices they and their families faced in the U.S. from those felt by the current victims of the country's immigration policies.

"We want to be the allies that our community needed on this day during World War II," Tsuru co-chair Carl Takei said last week.

A call-to-action for the rally explained the reason for the protest:

The Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma, WA is one of the largest immigration prisons in the country, with a capacity to hold up to 1575 immigrants per day. Up to 200 people, many of whom are seeking asylum, are transferred from the US-Mexico border to the NWDC each month. Other people held at the NWDC have lived in the US for years, in some cases for the majority of their lives. While some are deported after only weeks, some are held for months and even years awaiting the outcomes of their deportation cases. Few legal protections apply to these civil detainees, and those held are not entitled to an attorney at government expense; approximately 90% of them move forward in their cases unrepresented.

As survivors and descendants of Japanese American WWII incarceration, we stand united with all those who have suffered the atrocities of U.S. concentration camps, past and present, to say, "Stop Repeating History!"

Demonstrators shared images and video of the rally on social media:

Homer Yasui, who was a teen when U.S. authorities forced his family onto California's Tule Lake camp, told Prism why, at 95 years old, he thought it was important to take part in the action.

"Seventy-eight years ago, my people were being loudly and viciously denounced as being 'disloyal' by the press, the U.S. government, politicians, and the American people in general. Almost nobody stood up for us," he said.

"Quiet Americans were the enablers that allowed the atrocity of the so-called evacuation to happen," Yasui continued. "I learned something from that. So now I am going to stand up for immigrants and people of Islamic faith who have been viciously and wrongfully attacked as being criminals, rapists, and terrorists. If I can do it, so can others."

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