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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 1:38 p.m., Friday, November 17, 2006

Senate backs bill to preserve internment camp sites

Advertiser Staff

U.S. Senate yesterday approved legislation that preserves internment-camp sites where 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were unjustly and unconstitutionally detained behind barbed wire during World War II.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Daniel K. Inouye with Sen. Daniel K. Akaka as an original co-sponsor, was passed by unanimous consent. It allows the Secretary of the Interior to create a program within the National Park Service to restore and acquire historic confinement sites. The initial group of sites identified for acquisition includes Jerome and Rohwer, both in Arkansas, Topaz in Utah, and Honouliuli in southern O'ahu, where Japanese-Americans were confined.

The bill sets up a $38 million grant program in the Parks Service, with grant recipients required to match a percentage of the money they receive. The senate amended the bill to increase the percentage required — up from 25 percent to 50 percent.

"World War II was a challenging period in our nation's history. In Europe and the Pacific, we fought one of the most significant threats to our democratic ideals, and yet at home we allowed prejudice and wartime hysteria to violate the human dignity and rights of people who were citizens of the United States," said Inouye, a World War II combat veteran who received the Medal of Honor, our nation's highest award for military valor.

"This bill, which now moves to the House and which, I hope, could be signed into law before the end of the year, will enable not only Japanese-Americans — the largest group that was wrongly imprisoned — but also interned German-Americans and Italian-Americans to share their stories of courage, perseverance, and quiet determination. By preserving internment sites, we will learn from history and reaffirm our shared national commitment of equal justice for all."

Akaka, who served with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during World War II, added: "This legislation will help to acknowledge the life-changing experience of Japanese-Americans who were detained. It will also help to educate the public on a very sad but important chapter in our nation's history that all citizens, the elderly and the young, must continue to learn from."