We are actively working to preserve the physical artifacts as well as the stories and memories of life in one of America's concentration camps located at Poston, Arizona. It was named "Poston" or the "Colorado River Relocation Center", located on the Colorado River Indian Reservation during World War II. The Poston Community Alliance is a 501(c)(3)non-profit group.
S. Floyd Mori: Internment specter raises ugly head in forgetful U.S. Senate
By S. Floyd Mori
Special to the Mercury News
S. Floyd Mori
The oldest generation of Japanese-Americans, those whose earliest memories were of their lives and families being upended by internment without charge or trial in concentration camps during World War II, at least take comfort in the hope that America is now committed to never inflicting that experience on any other group of Americans or immigrants. But our trust in that commitment is being shaken by a bill poised to go to the Senate floor that could once again authorize indefinite detention without charge of American citizens and others now living peacefully in our country.
We have reason to believe in the commitment of Americans to say never again to indefinite detention. In 1988, the Civil Liberties Act officially declared that the Japanese-American internment had been a "grave injustice" that had been "carried out without adequate security reasons." In other words, the indefinite detention of Japanese-Americans during World War II was not only wrong, but unnecessary.
A bill on the Senate floor raises the question of whether the Senate has forgotten our history. S. 1253, the National Defense Authorization Act, has a provision in it, unfortunately drafted by Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz., that would let any U.S. president use the military to arrest and imprison without charge or trial anyone suspected of having any relationship with a terrorist organization.
Although Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and more than a dozen of her colleagues are bravely calling for a halt to a damaging bill, they face significant opposition.
The troubling provision, Section 1031, would let the military lock up both Americans and noncitizens in the 50 states. There would be no charges, no trial, no proof beyond a reasonable doubt. All that would be required would be suspicion.
Although the details of the indefinite detentions of Japanese-Americans during World War II and the proposed indefinite detentions of terrorism suspects may differ, the principle remains the same: Indefinite detentions based on fear-driven and unlawfully substantiated national security grounds, where individuals are neither duly charged nor fairly tried, violate the essence of U.S. law and the most fundamental values upon which this country was built.
As the measures to indefinitely detain Japanese-Americans during World War II have been deemed a colossal wrong, the same should be true of modern indefinite detention of terrorism suspects. Our criminal justice system is more than equipped to ensure justice and security in terrorism cases, and we certainly should not design new systems to resurrect and codify tragic and illegitimate policies of the past.
As our history shows, acting on fear in these situations can lead to unnecessary and unfruitful sacrifices of the most basic of American values. In the 10 years since the 9/11 attacks, Congress has shown admirable restraint in not enacting indefinite detention without charge or trial legislation. Now with the president seeking to end the current wars, the Senate must avoid repeating the mistakes of the past and protect American values before they are compromised. We cannot let fear overshadow our commitment to our most basic American values.
The Senate can show that it has not forgotten the lessons of the Japanese-American internment. It should pass an amendment that has been offered by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., that would remove Section 1031 from the act. This Senate should not stain that great body by bringing to the floor any detention provision that would surely be looked upon with shame and regret by future generations.
S. Floyd Mori is national executive director of the Japanese American Citizens League. He wrote this for this newspaper.