Hidden Histories

Japanese American Voices from Dilley, TX

With Contributions by Susan Hayase & Tom Izu

April 12, 2019

Testimonials from participants of the immigrant rights action at Dilley, TX
Hiroshi Shimizu at the border. Photo by Kiyoshi Ina.
“What a profound and moving experience! The light shined on Crystal City exposed the largest WWII immigrant family concentration camp run by the Department of Justice. Inclusion of the still little known rendition and internment of persons of Japanese ancestry from Latin America revealed how US domestic and foreign policy resulted in massive civil and human rights violations spanning two continents. Our solidarity actions at Dilley, Laredo, San Antonio and Austin connected our past history with the unfolding horrors of today. We have the civic and moral responsibility to stop this centuries-old pattern of government lies, impunity, greed, and corruption in the name of national security which emboldens white supremacist racism and anti-immigrant persecution.”

Grace Shimizu, daughter of a former Japanese internee from Peru and director of the Japanese Peruvian Oral History Project.

“This was my second visit to the Crystal City Detention Camp site. I was gratified that my three daughters could experience this with me. They felt a closer tie with the current unconscionable treatment of illegal immigrants at Dilley. Their Great-Grandfather, Takedayu Ozaki, was an illegal immigrant who supposedly swam the San Diego Bay to enter the US.”

Joe Ozaki, of Colorado, descendant of Japanese immigrants kidnapped from Peru during WWII and incarcerated at Crystal City.

“Attending the pilgrimage and protest was a powerful experience. We have felt very strongly that Japanese Americans must unite as an inclusive intergenerational community to defend the rights of everybody targeted by ICE and our government’s exclusionary policies, and this trip reaffirmed that. We are doing outreach to JA community organizations in San Jose and networking with others around the country to build this movement. We think that other Asian American communities would also support these efforts – exclusion and deportations revive memories in all Asian American communities, and some, like Southeast Asian communities are facing them today.”

Susan Hayase and Tom Izu, long-time San Jose Japanese American community activists, members of San Jose Nikkei Resisters.

Crystal City delegation. Photo by Eugene Lee.
“It was a very special experience for me to sing during the ceremony at Crystal City. I can’t really put it into words. As an artist, I communicate and connect through my singing and I have so much gratitude for the opportunity to perform, because it gave me an opportunity to connect and communicate through music. Both with the place and with the people there.”

Soprano Margaret Ozaki Graves, daughter of Crystal City Survivor Joe Ozaki.

“One phrase . . . to ‘Be the allies that our families needed during WWII’ . . . motivated me [to go to Crystal City and Dilley, TX], to think about what support my would family have wanted—but didn’t get—during WWII, and what folks on the ground need from us today.”
“Understanding that history and what my grandparents and their family went through has been helpful to better understanding how I walk in the world and what I can do to help others work against these oppressive systems.”

“I was also very moved by the sight of all the folded tsuru paper cranes—seeing firsthand how so many folks had joined us in spirit by folding and sending cranes to Dilley, from all over the U.S., especially seeing the cranes sent from folks incarcerated in San Quentin. It showed me how powerful our community is, and how much potential we have to mobilize.”

Lauren Sumida, 28, Queens, NY

“This is the first time I have revisited Crystal City since our family left here . . . back in July 9, 1946 . . . I came to honor my parents for all the hardship and sacrifices they endured . . . . I have felt their presences at the other camps I have visited.”
“It’s not right to separate the families who are seeking asylum in America, they come for their children to have a better life for them. Kodomo no tame ni [For the sake of the children]!! That’s what it’s all about!!”
“We must speak out and tell our stories so people understand that what happened to us was based, not only on war hysteria, but racial discrimination. What happened to us was wrong and should not have happened then, and should not happen again!”

Kiyoshi Ina, 76, San Francisco, former child detainee at Crystal City and other locations

“I remember a lot from Crystal City. I was 4 years and 6 months old when we left. One of the reasons I wanted to make this pilgrimage to Crystal City was the memories I had of it.”
Former child detainees can “use our history as incarcerated children to bear witness to the unnecessary and inhuman detention of families and the separation of children from parents” taking place today on the southern border.

Hiroshi Shimizu, 76, San Francisco, former child detainee at Crystal City and other locations

“Why did I want to help organize the pilgrimage to Crystal City? I wanted to bring attention to a less well known part of the incarceration story as well as give those survivors a chance to visit the site with their families. Sharing these experiences with your family helps with healing and understanding. Also, I think pilgrimages are becoming more well known to those in and outside of the JA community. That’s really what our Japanese American Memorial Pilgrimages project is all about. We want people to know about these pilgrimages so that they are able to attend with their elders before it’s too late.”

Kimiko Marr, Aptos, director of the Japanese American Memorial Pilgrimage Project and Hapa Yonsei Productions

I was motivated to go to south Texas because ”I was interested in learning more as well as supporting the connection to confronting current immigration policy.”
“I think it’s an important conversation for Japanese Americans and other U.S. born people of color about what it means to belong to this country. So much of the redress fight had to do with proving we were good lawful citizens, but perhaps what is happening now is about our shared humanity, about racism and hysteria of a different kind that we know from our history before the war.”

Stacy Kono, 46, Berkeley, CA