©2019 by Japanese American Confinement Sites Consortium. This project was funded, in part, by a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

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JACSC Opposes Use of Fort Sill for Expanded Detention of Minors

The Japanese American Confinement Sites Consortium (JACSC) was created for the purpose of recognizing the vital role that former incarceration sites play in remembering the injustices inflicted upon Japanese and Japanese Americans during World War II. It is from this perspective that we find it especially concerning that the Department of Health and Human Services has announced plans to place up to 1,400 immigrant children at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.


Unlike many of the sites we support and represent, Fort Sill remains an active military base. It also bears a long history of incarceration of people of color, from the Apache who were prisoners of war at the beginning of the 20th century to the first generation Japanese who were imprisoned at the beginning of World War II. It is troubling that this tradition now continues with the incarceration of Central American immigrant minors seeking asylum in our country.


A few months ago a group of Japanese Americans made a pilgrimage to the WWII incarceration site of Crystal City, Texas, to protest incarcerations at nearby Dilley, Texas. Pilgrimages are a way for former incarcerees to reconcile the pain and damage inflicted by our government’s wrongful imprisonment and for many, the incarceration sites bear a spiritual meaning. To now use a former incarceration site for the mass imprisonment of another group is deeply insulting and especially concerning that those being imprisoned are children.


One lesson we have learned from the Japanese American incarceration experience is that while children often appear resilient, the underlying scars of incarceration remain years later and extend to successive generations through intergenerational trauma. Considerable research on early-childhood trauma demonstrates that it affects children in a multitude of ways that persist throughout their lives.


The children coming to our borders have already experienced significant trauma in their home countries and on the journey to come to our border. To add to this experience through mass incarceration in camps such as Fort Sill adds to the burden they must carry now and into the future.


We call upon the administration to reconsider its decision to utilize Fort Sill to hold immigrant children and seek means to reduce the need to incarcerate asylum-seeking children in such government facilities as policy. There are alternatives to mass incarceration and a humane and compassionate government should employ less harmful means of caring for this vulnerable population.

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