During World War II, more than 120,000 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry were forced from their homes and unjustly imprisoned in ten concentration camps across the United States, solely on the basis of race. The Tule Lake camp in Modoc County, California (near the California-Oregon border) became a maximum-security Segregation Center to incarcerate 12,000 inmates who resisted their imprisonment and branded by the federal government as disloyal. Today, a small airport used primarily by crop dusting planes cuts through the center of the Tule Lake site.
I need your help because the Federal Aviation Administration is proposing construction of an eight-foot high, three-mile long fence around the perimeter of the airport that will cut off our access to the Tule Lake site. Besides being utterly unnecessary in such a desolate place, such a fence would desecrate the physical and spiritual aspects of Tule Lake, which has great historical and personal importance to me and many others.
I am shocked by this insensitive and disrespectful plan. This massive fence will interfere with the desire I and visitors to Tule Lake have — to mourn the unjust imprisonment and to heal the scars of the past. Instead, we will be assaulted with a reminder of rejection, exclusion, and emotional pain.
I was born in the Tule Lake Segregation Center. My parents were American citizens who protested their unjust incarceration and answered “no” to the government-imposed “loyalty questionnaire.” As punishment for their dissidence, the government removed them from the Topaz concentration camp to the maximum-security Tule Lake Segregation Center. From there, my father was taken from us and interned as an “enemy alien” in a Department of Justice camp in North Dakota. Incarcerated for no other crime than having the face of the enemy, my family lived behind barbed wire for 4-1/2 years.
I’m part of a group of survivors, their families, and friends who organize tours and educational events at the Tule Lake Segregation Center. If this fence is constructed, it will send a strong message to Japanese Americans that they are not welcome at the site where they walked long distances to eat meals, attend school, and use the latrines. A fence will prevent all Americans from experiencing the dimension and magnitude of the concentration camp where people experienced mass exclusion and racial hatred.
The FAA has the power to protect Tule Lake, a sacred site. In doing so, it has the power to honor, rather than desecrate, the remembrance of one of the darkest chapters in American history.
According to the FAA, in an effort to be more “sensitive” to our concerns, the proposed fence would not be topped with barbed wire — but that’s just not enough. Our nation’s history of the unjust incarceration of those of Japanese ancestry during WWII is often forgotten. We must be able to remember what happened to our ancestors to be sure this never happens again.
I’m calling on the FAA to respect our community’s needs and wishes and reject this proposal. Please show your support for the most sensitive solution: DO NOT BUILD THE FENCE AT TULE LAKE.