A Bill to Hold a Permanent Day of Remembrance in Utah

S. F. Mori

Japanese Americans want to preserve history

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Utah State Capitol(Image is author's)

The Utah State Capitol is full of action with the Legislature in session with bills to consider. The 45 day legislative session started with an Opening Day prayer by Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Utah Highway Patrol Officer's Color Guard presented the colors after which Jennie Taylor, widow of the former Mayor of Ogden, Major Brent Taylor, led the pledge of allegiance. The national anthem was sung by Kaylee Bucio, a fifth-grade student at Riverside Elementary School.

One of the bills being presented by Utah State Senator Jani Iwamoto proposes to make a Day of Remembrance a permanent yearly event to commemorate the Japanese American experience of World War II. People within the Japanese American community would like this history to be known so that no other citizens will ever have to endure such racism, discrimination, and humiliation as Japanese Americans suffered during World War II.

A hearing was held with the Government Operations Committee on SB 58 - Day of Remembrance Observing the Incarceration of Japanese Americans During World War II. It passed unanimously out of the committee with a favorable recommendation.

SB 58 designates an annual Day of Remembrance on February 19 observing the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.
On February 19th of this year, it will have been 80 years since President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing the incarceration of over 120,000 people of Japanese descent, two-thirds of whom were American citizens.
These innocent people were displaced and incarcerated, and forced to leave their property and lives behind, causing turmoil and grief--simply because of their ancestry. Over 30 years ago, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 to formally apologize and provide redress to Japanese Americans who had been stripped of their civil liberties. The Day of Remembrance lets us vow to remember and recommit our charge to safeguarding the civil rights of ALL Americans so that what happened to Japanese Americans will never happen again. [Source: Utah Senator Jani Iwamoto Newsletter]

After President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, most of the people living on the West Coast of the United States who were of Japanese heritage were placed in camps. The ten camps had been built in remote and desolate areas of the United States. Most of those unjustly incarcerated were American citizens.

One of the camps was in Utah. It was the Topaz Camp located near the town of Delta. The winters were harsh, and the summers were hot as the people lived in barracks. They lost nearly everything they had ever owned as they were forced to hurriedly leave their homes. Most were imprisoned in the camps for the duration of the war. They were required to start over with nothing when they were finally released.

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Area of the Topaz Camp Near Delta, Utah(Image is author's)

Some of the camps have museums and are being preserved in some manner to help tell this shameful part of American history. There is a Topaz Museum, and the site of the Topaz Camp has monument markers on it. Former residents and local citizens of Utah have supported the museum.

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Family group visiting the Topaz Museum(Image is author's)

There have been Day of Remembrance events in Utah on or around February 19 for some years. There have been Proclamations from various Governors to remember the day. The passage of this bill, SB 58, would be a good reminder that we should never allow history to repeat itself by letting such racism and racial profiling take place as existed during World War II against those who were of Japanese descent.

[More information can be found at www.thejapaneseamericanstory.com]

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I am a retired President/CEO of civil rights organizations. I have been a Mayor and California State Assemblyman as well as a College Instructor of Economics. I have also been an entrepreneur and international business consultant. I will be sharing articles mostly about life, politics, racism, travel, health, and relationships.

Salt Lake City, UT
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