Japanese internment camp survivor: History is repeating itself

OAKLAND, Ca. – A woman who survived a Japanese internment camp back in the 1940s believes President Trump’s new border policies are bringing back old memories.

“I never dreamed that I would be alive to see this happening again,” says Satsuki Ina of Oakland.

She says history is repeating itself, 70 years later.

“I’m horrified,” Ina says. “I’m reminded of the trauma that my family experienced being incarcerated unjustly.”

Her parents were among the 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent who were rounded up at the beginning of World War II, and placed in prison facilities called internment camps.

“This is my mother,” she says looking at an old photo. “She’s standing in line to get her family number.”

Ina was born at the Tule Lake internment camp in far Northern California. Her father was accused of sedition for protesting the internment. He was shipped to another camp in North Dakota. Her family was separated for years.

“Indefinite detention is known as a form of torture. It was something we experienced as Japanese Americans in these prison camps,” says Ina. “We didn’t know where we were going, how long we would be held. My mother wrote in her diary, ‘I wonder if today is the day they’re going to line us up and shoot us.’”

Ina is now 75. She’s a psychotherapist and former college professor. She recently counseled families inside a detention center along the Texas-Mexico border. She says this government video from inside the detention facility rings familiar. It seems to show a placid scene of children relaxing, not a care in the world.

Satsuki says similar pictures from internment camps in the 40s also led the public to believe everything was just fine. The truth, she says, is that being locked up and separated from families can cause lasting psychological damage.

“Chronic state of trauma, like captivity trauma, alters the nervous system,” she says. “It changes the brain structure of children whose brains are developing.”

She says there’s one big difference between today and seven decades ago.

The public did not speak up for her family or the other interned prisoners. Today, millions of Americans are showing support for families separated along the border.

“This groundswell of response of caring and concern and outrage is, in fact, important for these children and mothers and fathers to hear that we care. There is powerful healing in that.”

Ina has spoken with several other internment camp survivors. They are planning a trip to the Texas border this weekend to protest this new policy that, to them, looks a lot like the old one.