November 18, 2021

Neguse Welcomes Senate Committee Passage of His Bill to Designate the Amache National Historic Site

Neguse passed the bill through the House in July  

Washington, D.C. —Today, Congressman Joe Neguse welcomed Senate Committee passage of his bill to protect the Amache incarceration site in Southeastern Colorado. Neguse passed the Amache National Historic Site Act through the House in July with broad bipartisan support, just three months after introducing it alongside Congressman Ken Buck. Today, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the measure, sending it next to the Senate floor for a vote. 

“The landscapes, cultural places, and stories we choose to protect reflect our values as a nation. And the story of Amache is an important one, ” said Congressman Joe Neguse. “Designation of Amache as a National Historic Site will help us to honor and preserve the stories of many survivors who lived through this dark moment in our nation’s history, and provide education and healing for future generations. This bill is broadly supported and fulfills a promise to the many survivors and descendants of Amache. It’s crucial the Senate bring this measure to the floor swiftly, so we can get this done and sent to the President’s desk.”

During the first months of World War II, the United States initiated the single largest forced imprisonment in its history when President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order forcing more than 120,000 people, primarily of Japanese descent, to relocate to 10 remote, military-style prisons. The Granada Relocation Center in the southeast corner of Colorado, known as Amache, was one of these 10 incarceration centers. Two-thirds of the people at Amache were American citizens. Most had never been to Japan. Many others were first-generation Japanese elders who had immigrated from Japan and were denied U.S. citizenship for decades. Most were given a week or less to dispose of everything they owned, with no idea where they were going or what would happen. 

The Amache Preservation Society, along with the support of other organizations, currently maintains the physical site of Amache. They have renovated the cemetery, established an Amache Museum and research center, restored key Amache landmarks, including the water tower, a guard tower, and barrack. Learn more about the site’s timeline here. 

Read the bill text here. 

Bob Fuchigami, Amache survivor: “Today’s vote on the Amache National Historic Site Act in the Senate brings me hope and I thank Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper for their leadership. I now urge the full Senate to pass this bill. The time is not only right; it is long overdue.”

Ken Kitajima, Amache survivor: “As a young boy at Amache, I never thought I’d see an America that cared about my story. Today’s Senate committee hearing moves us closer to making the dream of honoring Amache as part of the national park system a reality. Thanks to the committee and to Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper for this big step forward, and now I will be watching for the full Senate to approve and pass this bill that I’ve waited to see for so long and that will benefit us all.”

Min Tonai, Amache survivor: “Many young men at Amache served in the U.S. Army, though their country incarcerated them for their Japanese ancestry. I was ten and incarcerated along with my mother and siblings at  Amache, where I was also a boy scout. In 1943, our camp troop went to the Granada Railroad Station at 4am to see the young enlisted men off. Our scout commissioner told us to play as loud as we could. Years later, I served as a medic in the U.S. Army Korean War. In the 1980s, I worked to preserve Amache, organizing reunions and working on various preservation efforts. Thank you to the Senate committee for passing the Amache National Historic Act so that these efforts are not forgotten.”

Mike Honda, former Member of Congress and Amache survivor: “Congressmen Neguse and Buck demonstrated what cooperation looks like on the Hill.  Let’s hope the Senate collaborates in the same manner and sends the bill to the White House: this then will be the expression and realization of the people's will.”  

Carlene Tanigoshi Tinker, Amache survivor: “As a former Amachean and as a volunteer for the Amache Field School, I have learned the importance of having Amache as a National Park unit, as it would illustrate the hardships and the perseverance of the incarcerated people. It would also point to the injustice of their being placed there, simply because of their ethnicity, not because of what they had done. Most importantly, it would signify the reasons that further groups, such as Muslims, should not be treated as were the Japanese Americans—there have been hints of this in current times.”

Rosalyn Tonai, Amache descendant, Executive Director, National Japanese American Historical Society, Inc.: “I commend the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for today’s vote, and the leadership of Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper to establish the Amache National Historic Site. As the niece and granddaughter of former incarcerees at Amache, and as a practitioner in the field of historic and cultural preservation, this bill resonates on both a personal and professional level. I cannot help but be moved by the power of place that Amache holds for our families whose stories of sacrifice, perseverance and patriotism can now be told within the National Park Service system. At the same time, I am so encouraged that Amache holds a special place for veterans, families, and young people as intergenerational stewards who will help interpret its history, and the lessons learned from the past. As with the passage of the Congressional Gold Medal for the 100th/442nd/Military Intelligence Service, I would now call upon the full Senate to demonstrate this remarkable bipartisan support for its passage."

Derek Okubo, Amache descendant and Executive Director, Agency for Human Rights and Community Partnerships, City and County of Denver: “Preserving and protecting the Amache site are essential factors toward our goal of telling a more complete and factual history of Colorado and our nation. In doing so, we will ensure that this stain on our nation’s constitution and past is never repeated. I now call on the full Senate to pass the Amache National Historic Site Act.” 

Kirsten Leong, Amache descendant: “Like many in the Japanese American community, my family did not talk about incarceration, and I didn't even know Amache was part of my family's history until after my grandparents passed and it was too late to ask. Passing the Amache National Historic Site Act will encourage thoughtful dialogue about the widespread intergenerational effects of incarceration that continue to shape the Japanese American experience to this day.” 

Mitch Homma, Amache descendant: “My great-grandparents were from samurai families, college educated, and started churches for the American Baptist in Japan and the U.S.A. Grandfather was a dentist with Hollywood movie stars as patients.  None of that mattered—three generations of my family were detained behind barbed wire at Amache because they had Japanese faces and names. Amache is a story we cannot forget—and with today’s Senate committee passage of the Amache National Historic Site Act, we have a chance to preserve, honor, and protect it, because it is very much a story that is alive today.”  

Calvin Taro Hada, Amache descendant and President, The Japanese Association of Colorado, dba The Nikkeijin Kai of Colorado: “I applaud Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper and the Senate committee today and I now urge the Senate to set a full vote. This legislation will preserve and memorialize a site that has the power to shed light upon a mistake we must remember, recall the service and sacrifice of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and celebrate the Constitutional vision of Colorado Governor Ralph Carr. All these things are worthy of doing and doing so will make us better American citizens.” 

Dr. Karen Korematsu, Founder and Executive Director, The Fred T. Korematsu Institute: “My father, Fred Korematsu, was an American civil rights hero who bravely resisted the Japanese American incarceration during World War II and dedicated his life to protecting the civil liberties of all people. His story resonates today as a critical example of the lifelong impacts of losing one's fundamental rights and freedoms. Now, more than ever, the lessons of history need to be learned. I commend the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, and the leadership of Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper, for today’s vote on the Amache National Historic Site Act, and urge the full Senate to see this through.”   

Ken Tsukada, Amache descendant: “Amache should be considered a National Historic Site as well as a WWII memorial to honor the 120,000 individuals who ‘served our country through incarceration.’  My grandfather died there, cousins were born there and all left after “serving” the U.S. in a time of war.  When I think of Amache, I am proud of all those who sacrificed their lives with humble dignity and courage beyond anything I have ever had to endure.  And, yes, proud that America could recognize its mistakes and provide the opportunity for the descendants to fulfill many of the dreams that were stolen.” 

Tracy Coppola, Colorado Senior Program Manager, National Parks Conservation Association: “Today’s vote speaks to the strong bipartisan and grassroots legacy of Amache. We applaud the leadership of Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper and the enduring voice of the Amache community. As America's storyteller, the National Park Service can preserve places like Amache that challenge us all to act toward a better future where justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion are America’s top priority. Time is of the essence. We urge Congress to keep the momentum going and look forward to swiftly getting this bill through the full Senate and to President Biden’s desk.”