Bill sees internment camps as park sites
A bill that would preserve World War II internment camp sites as historic parks has been approved by the U.S. Senate.
The move came Thursday a year after the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation to fund restoration of some sites where Japanese Americans were unconstitutionally confined behind barbed wire soon after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
A former camp site in Honouliuli in West Oahu is one of the locations being considered for preservation, according to a news release from U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye's office. It is west of Kunia Road and mauka of the H-1 freeway.
The Senate measure must return to the House for approval because it amended language in the original bill introduced by Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif. The Senate version was introduced by Inouye and co-sponsored by Sen. Daniel Akaka, both of whom are Hawaii Democrats.
Inouye's bill provided for the U.S. secretary of the interior to create a program within the National Park Service to acquire and restore historic confinement sites. There were camps in Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming.
The National Park Service opened a national historical museum two years ago at the location of Manzanar camp in the Sierra mountains northeast of Los Angeles.
The National Park Service testified against the Senate bill at an April hearing because of funding problems, not on the merits of the bill, according to a statement released by Gerald Yamada, national coordinator of the Washington, D.C.-based Japanese American National Heritage Coalition.
"Since the National Park Service testified in opposition to this legislation at both the House and Senate hearings, we can't assume the president will sign HR 1492 into law," Yamada said in the written release.
Altogether, 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were detained during the war, as were some resident aliens from Japan.
Inouye said the legislation "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."