No, Laura Bush, This Is Not The Japanese-American Internment Again [VIDEO]

No, Laura Bush, This Is Not The Japanese-American Internment Again [VIDEO]

No, Laura Bush, This Is Not The Japanese-American Internment Again [VIDEO]

You just knew this comparison was coming. I just didn’t know that the highest profile person to toss the proverbial hyperbolic grenade would be former First Lady Laura Bush.

Writing in an op-ed for the Washington Post, Mrs. Bush says:

In the six weeks between April 19 and May 31, the Department of Homeland Security has sent nearly 2,000 children to mass detention centers or foster care. More than 100 of these children are younger than 4 years old. The reason for these separations is a zero-tolerance policy for their parents, who are accused of illegally crossing our borders.

I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.

Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso. These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history. We also know that this treatment inflicts trauma; interned Japanese have been two times as likely to suffer cardiovascular disease or die prematurely than those who were not interned.

Americans pride ourselves on being a moral nation, on being the nation that sends humanitarian relief to places devastated by natural disasters or famine or war. We pride ourselves on believing that people should be seen for the content of their character, not the color of their skin. We pride ourselves on acceptance. If we are truly that country, then it is our obligation to reunite these detained children with their parents — and to stop separating parents and children in the first place.

People on all sides agree that our immigration system isn’t working, but the injustice of zero tolerance is not the answer. I moved away from Washington almost a decade ago, but I know there are good people at all levels of government who can do better to fix this.

After the deeply offensive Holocaust comparison this weekend, I knew that an internment comparison was imminent. I have talked about the invoking of the Japanese-American internment before as a cudgel against the Trump administration before, and frankly, I am tired of having to fisk yet another false argument again. Despite my deep respect for Laura Bush, and the fact that I know that her heart is in the right place, this is absolutely the wrong argument to be making.

Here, in no particular order, are the reasons why the current situation at the border is nothing like the Japanese-American internment during World War II.

1) Two-thirds of the incarcerated Japanese were American citizens.
The National Archives records put the total of incarcerated Japanese at 117,000. 70,000 of those were American citizens. If the government had stopped with only arresting and incarcerating Issei (first-generation immigrant) men – as they did on the night of December 7, 1941 – then the argument that these mass detention centers are exactly the same would have a better analogy. My great-grandfather was taken away by the FBI on the evening of December 7th, and he spent most of the war separated from the rest of the family at a camp run by the Justice Department (not the War Relocation Authority, which had charge of all the other internment camps) in Montana. There were nine Justice Department camps, and they didn’t just hold Japanese citizens – there were also German and Italian citizens in those camps. And again, if the government had stopped there, with those considered “enemy aliens,” this would be a completely different passage in the history books.

But they didn’t. FDR signed Executive Order 9066, and American citizens were sent to internment camps in the middle of freaking nowhere.

Obviously, no one currently in the mass detention centers is an American citizen and entitled by birthright or naturalization to move freely on American soil. In WWII, two-thirds of the people sent to camps by the government WERE citizens, stripped of their rights for the “crime” of looking like the enemy.

2) Those trying to cross the border can choose to leave. The Japanese-Americans could not leave.
As was noted repeatedly by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, asking for asylum through the proper channels is perfectly legal.


However, it should be noted that “voluntary deportation” – meaning that a person can turn right around and leave instead of trying to enter the United States – means that the family stays together. Obviously, the Japanese-Americans in internment camps had no such option to simply leave and go home. Their homes were now cut off from them by the creation of a military zone that forbade them from returning. People who wanted to leave camp had to have sponsors or connections on the outside, and they could not go back to the West Coast.

I get it – the people who are seeking asylum don’t want to return to their home countries. But crossing over illegally, getting caught by ICE, and then asking for asylum is not the ideal procedure. And if word does get out that families will be separated, will people stop making the dangerous journey?


The United States is stopping those who are trying to enter the country illegally. Unless you are for open borders (which is a different argument altogether), then there has to be some mechanism to enforce the agreed-upon boundaries of any sovereign nation. The Japanese-American citizens were already in their home country, and the government rounded them up and took them away. The two situations are not comparable.

3) The conditions at these modern camps are far and away more humane than the Japanese-American internment camps of WWII.
When my grandfather and his family were first “relocated” out of Seattle and to the Puyallup Fairgrounds (nicknamed “Camp Harmony”), they were living in barns. Families were assigned horse stalls to live in. My grandmother’s family in Portland, Oregon, experienced much of the same at what is now the Portland Expo Center. When they were sent to Minidoka, in southern Idaho, conditions were unpleasant at best and hostile at worst.

After stays ranging from a few weeks to a few months, Japanese Americans were moved to ten concentration camps run by a newly created federal agency, the War Relocation Authority (WRA). Located in desolate desert or swamplands throughout the West and in Arkansas, these “relocation centers” were surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers, and were still being completed when the first inmates began to arrive. Inmates lived in blocks of barracks with communal bathrooms, laundry facilities, and dining halls. Many cited extreme weather, dust storms, the lack of privacy, and inadequate food as among the many travails of living behind barbed wire. “And just seeing the living arrangement was, it was a real bummer. Thinking that, wow, this room has one light bulb,” remembered Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga of Manzanar. “And there were seven of us in one small room.…it was not very comfortable for newlyweds, especially, or any family, to live that close, not have the privacy. Which is the thing… I think liberty and privacy is what I miss the most.”

These centers that have been opened to press photography are nothing like what the Japanese-Americans lived with. The youth shelter that has most recently made the news is in a converted Walmart building in Brownsville, Texas.


I also find it deeply ironic that Mrs. Bush and others point out that “tent cities” are to be the next step in handling the influx – after all, “tent cities” are the current status of choice for city-sponsored homeless encampments in the greater Seattle area. So, tents are suitable for American citizens who are homeless, but not suitable for illegal aliens seeking asylum?

We are a nation of laws, not a nation of feelings. We cannot govern on feelings alone – that kind of hysteria actually brought on the Japanese-American internment, in all honesty! It is fine to call the current situation “immoral” and untenable, and also point out that those enforcing it are constrained by the rule of law. It is completely understandable to decry the separation of parents and children, and demand Congress pass a fix that will stand up to court scrutiny.

But for sanity’s sake, leave the Japanese-American internment out of your arguments. It’s not the same thing, and people of good conscience will demand that Congress create a fix for the situation that respects our laws and our borders without compromising security, but allows proved family units to stay together. After all, I would rather not see an executive order attempt to “fix” the issues at hand.

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16 Comments
  • Chish says:

    Great article and I would like to add that it’s surprising the Bush’s, all of a sudden, are vocalizing their disdain when they never uttered a word during the eight year reign of B. Hussein Obama. Maybe not so surprising after all….

    • Sean says:

      Your racism is showing. That little thing where you use an initial for his first name but spell out his middle name in full, hoping to signal others with racist or islamiphobic tendencies. It’s old, cheap, and we all see you. You’re not clever.

      • DJ Marion says:

        Obviously you do not know the definition of racism, however your display of ignorance is is full display.

      • Scott says:

        Sorry Sean, nice attempt at trolling, but like most leftists, you’re wrong again. During the elections, it was VERBOTEN (yes that is a facist / socialist reference to the “chosen one”) to mention that he had an islamic middle name, along with the fact that he’d been educated in an islamic school in Pakistan, that he was born a muslim (according to the Koran, anyone born to a muslim father is in fact a muslim themselves), not to mention that your hero registered for college under the name barry swatero, as a non citizen, in order to get preferential treatment / funds (don’t get your panties in a twist, that’s not a birther argument, no matter where he was born, his mom was a US citizen, which means he was as well, I’m just pointing out that he lied about his status, for financial gain.. )There are plenty of reasons that obama was not qualified to be President, no need for racism to be used (by the way, do you think that him getting something like 98% of the black vote was racist? After all, many of the people I saw interviewed said they voted for him because he was black… or is it only racist if being black (half black actually… interesting which half he chose to emphasize) is used against him???) Yes, most of us here already know the answers to all those questions just as we know that if you come back to answer this, you’ll lie about each and every one of them, like the good little leftist, racist, muslim apologist you obviously are!

  • Scott says:

    Sadly,though I did respect Laura Bush when she was FLOTUS, the Bushes in general are acting more and more like the obamas and clintons… and just like them, they need to go away..

    • GWB says:

      You mean more and more like the political technocrats they have always been? Yep.

    • nuthinmuffin says:

      they’re fakers…the first sign was “compassionate conservatism” and sending 1 billion to africa to fight “aids” while bush was president

      • Scott says:

        No argument with either of you, I guess i should have just directed my comments at Laura Bush. I never thought her husband was a conservative (though he did better on / after 9/11 than kerry would have..

  • GWB says:

    Japanese Americans were moved to ten concentration camps
    OK, if you’re calling them “concentration camps” you’ve lost my sympathy. Period. Criminy. Much like now, with the kids, the conditions in those camps were NOTHING like a concentration camp.

    Inmates lived in blocks of barracks with communal bathrooms, laundry facilities, and dining halls.
    IOW, they were living as well as our military at home station. Yeah, that’s real horror there.

    Many cited extreme weather, dust storms
    IOW, like all the Americans who lived in those places.

    the lack of privacy
    See above about military recruits.

    and inadequate food
    This might be the only proper complaint in this silliness. But, given the other complaints voiced, credibility is not high.

    wow, this room has one light bulb
    Wow, again, like a LOT of people in America in that era. Heck, LOTS of Americans in that era didn’t have electricity at ALL. They lived with a single candle or lantern in one room.

    And there were seven of us in one small room.…
    Hear that? It’s a really, really small violin playing…. Again, LOTS of Americans lived that way in that time.

    No, these places weren’t the Ritz. But they certainly weren’t “concentration camps” by any stretch, and the internees usually lived no worse than a goodly chunk of the American populace (especially in the areas to which they were sent).

    We are a nation of laws, not a nation of feelings.
    Sadly, not so much anymore. But we’re supposed to be.

    Comparing separating these children to ANYTHING other than separating children from their criminal parents in America is likely to produce stupidity on the part of the person doing the comparison.

    • Deanna Fisher says:

      GWB, I myself am not thrilled with the transition in language from “internment camp” to “concentration camp.” This language shift has come about in the last 10 or so years in the Japanese-American community, and I think it doesn’t do any good to use that term considering what was happening in Europe at the same time.

      And yes, the conditions you cite were ones experienced by the military of the time. The issue is that this was a civilian population, American citizens by and large, who were removed from their own homes under military authority, and sent to these remote locations. And as to the civilian populations where they were sent – they didn’t exactly exist, and still don’t. These locations were deliberately chosen to be far away from actual cities or towns. If you look at the National Park Service website for Minidoka National Historic Site, where my extended family was interned, it clearly notes that this is a remote area with no services available – no hotels, no gas stations, no restaurants. In fact, the websites for all the other camp locations (now managed by the National Park Service), say much the same thing. These were not desirable locations and very few people live in those areas even now.

      • Steverino says:

        Most Japanese-Americans of the time had dual citizenship with Japan. They saw their race as their citizenship. Japan automatically granted American Japanese citizenship in the 1920s, then changed that in the 1930s to granting it to any who applied. Just about everyone did apply for their children at the Japanese consulate in San Francisco, built for that purpose.

        The problem was that allowing citizens of an enemy country to run loose on the vulnerable west coast would inevitably invite spying and sabotage.

        • Deanna Fisher says:

          Interestingly, the government did not consider dual citizenship something to be noted in the actual records that they kept. In viewing the National Archives databases, they noted many things – place of birth, did the person have an alien registration number or a Social Security number, place of parents’ birth – but what really stands out is the notation of:
          – number of years spent in Japan
          – the age a person was when/if they lived in Japan
          – if they attended Japanese language school
          – number of years of schooling in Japan
          – what languages/how many languages they spoke, read, and wrote.
          There is no mention of dual citizenship in the databases, so it’s clear that the US authorities were looking for actual time spent in what was then an “enemy country” and not at other paperwork. And just because one has dual citizenship, it doesn’t mean that you forfeit the rights of citizenship, especially as a minor child.

  • Scott says:

    “This language shift has come about in the last 10 or so years in the Japanese-American community, and I think it doesn’t do any good to use that term considering what was happening in Europe at the same time.”

    Or what the Japanese were doing to civilian populations / POW’s all over the pacific and Asia. But you are 100% correct that we should not behave with the same indifference to human life that is prevalant in asia, africa, and other third world areas. We should also remember that all of this was put in place by DEMOCRAT Presidents…

  • Lil' Jebbie Cakes says:

    Foreigners are always welcome as long as they vote democrat. Does Laura Bush need some new housekeepers at one of her mansions? Taking in some immigrants would be an act of love.

  • Marisa says:

    I was an avid Bush fan until I began to see and hear that he was a globalist and wanted open borders. However, I am appalled at the nasties they have delivered towards Donald Trump. Maybe it’s because their son lost. So glad he did. If you watch the only REAL news you know that O also had kids in cages etc. which is for their safety. And I like what Huckabee reminded everyone—where is the outrage to the parents that either came here illegally or sent their kids on their own. We are a nation of laws and try crossing the border into Mexico and see where that lands you? What has our country evolved in to with so much hate on the left?

  • Your Daddy says:

    Laura Bush said “images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II” The images reminded her of the Japanese-American internment camps! She never mentioned anything about it happening again although, in my opinion, that’s what the Russian puppet, tRump is trying to do. Trump is a racist short of Hitler!

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