February 14, 2022

Neguse. Bennet, Hickenlooper, Buck Celebrate Senate Passage of Bill to Add Amache National Historic Site to the National Park System

Washington, D.C.  Today, Congressman Joe Neguse, along with Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), Senator John Hickenlooper (D-CO), and Congressman Ken Buck, celebrated Senate passage of legislation to establish the Amache National Historic Site, a former Japanese American incarceration facility outside of Granada, Colorado, as part of the National Park System. Neguse and Buck introduced this legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, which passed by 416-2 in July 2021. Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper introduced the companion bill in the U.S. Senate last year. 

“The Amache National Historic Site Act is a prime example of local leadership at work. Countless community leaders, descendants and advocates from across Colorado have come together behind this bill to support the designation and preservation of the Amache site,” said Neguse, Chair of the U.S. Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. “This bill also proves what we can accomplish when we work together, across party lines, for the people of Colorado. Introduced in early 2021, we’ve been able to usher this legislation through the House and Senate in record time and I look forward to seeing the President sign it into law.” 

“I’m thrilled the Senate passed our bill to establish Amache as a part of the National Park System,” said Bennet. “The incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II at sites like Amache is a shameful part of our country’s history. Our bill will preserve Amache’s story to ensure future generations can learn from this dark chapter in our history. I’m grateful to Senator Hickenlooper, Representatives Buck and Neguse, the survivors and descendants of Amache, and numerous advocates and community leaders for their partnership on this legislation, and I look forward to seeing it become law.”

“Interning Japanese-Americans at Camp Amache is a dark stain on our past. Elevating Amache to a National Historic Site will preserve the survivors’ stories and ensure that history never repeats,” said Hickenlooper.

“The Amache National Historic Site Act recognizes the awful injustices committed against Japanese Americans who were placed in internment camps, while preserving the site for the citizens of Colorado — and the United States — to visit and learn from in the future,” said Buck “I am grateful to my colleagues in the Senate for voting to pass this act in honor of former Amache detainees and their families."

Earlier this month, Senator Bennet asked the Senate to pass his Amache National Historic Site Act. Ninety-nine senators supported Bennet’s request, but U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) objected.  This afternoon, Bennet and Lee reached an agreement on the bill on the Senate floor. It passed the Senate by unanimous consent shortly thereafter. View the exchange HERE

Hickenlooper recently visited the Amache Museum in Granada and met with student volunteers from the Amache Preservation Society. Video of Hickenlooper’s visit is HERE

“The Amache site as a National Park unit highlights the injustices of the internment of Japanese Americans, one of our nation’s darkest chapters. Colorado is home to world-class national parks and adding the Amache site honors those values and our history,” said Jared Polis, Governor of Colorado.

“Congress and the enduring voice of the Amache community have made history and soon the bipartisan Amache National Historic Site Act will be law. We commend Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper and Congressmen Neguse and Buck for their leadership in providing a critical opportunity for our country to respect, honor, and heal at Amache. We are forever grateful to the Amache Preservation Society, the Town of Granada, the National Park Service, Governor Polis, Amache descendants, and the storytellers, historians, civil rights and military veteran groups, offices of tourism, preservation offices, county commissioners and other local elected officials for seeing this through. Amid the tremendous local and national support, this moment stands on the shoulders of giants: the Amache survivors, who, with incredible generosity and strength, have waited for this day for so long, and who now will never be forgotten,” said Tracy Coppola, Colorado Senior Program Manager, National Parks Conservation Association.

“I have waited many, many years to see the day where we can be certain that Amache, as a place of reflection, remembrance, honor, and healing, is protected for our current and future generations.  Passage of the Amache National Historic Site Act in the Senate brings me hope that we are finally closer to this certainty, and I thank Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper for their leadership. My parents did not live to see this day. The time is not only right; it is long overdue,” said Bob Fuchigami, Amache survivor.

“As a young boy at Amache, I never thought I’d see an America that cared about my story. I am now a 91 year old veteran who served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, 1950 - 1954. Thank you, Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper, for your leadership and for the great decisions made regarding Amache as a National Park Historic Site. When signed by the President, long lasting U.S history will be made,” said Ken Kitajima, Amache survivor.

“Congressmen Neguse and Buck and Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper demonstrated what cooperation looks like on the Hill. With the bill soon on its way to the White House, this will finally be the expression and realization of the people's will,” said Mike Honda, former Member of Congress and Amache survivor.

“I commend Congress, Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper and Congressmen Neguse and Buck, in their leadership 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. President Biden’s signature on this bill will mean a stronger future for us all,” said Rosalyn Tonai, Amache descendant and Executive Director, National Japanese American Historical Society, Inc.

“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 passage of the Amache National Historic Site Act, thanks to Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper, we have a chance to preserve, honor, and protect it, because it is very much a story that is alive today,” said Mitch Homma, Amache descendant.

“I applaud Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper today and I am proud that the many efforts made to preserve and protect Amache combined to create something that will benefit all Americans.  Amache has the power to shed light upon a mistake we all must remember. We must 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,” said Calvin Taro Hada, Amache descendant and President, The Japanese Association of Colorado, dba The Nikkeijin Kai of Colorado.

“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, and the leadership of Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper, for today’s vote on the Amache National Historic Site Act, and will be looking to President Biden to see this through,” said Dr. Karen Korematsu, Founder and Executive Director, The Fred T. Korematsu Institute. 

“Today’s passage in the Senate builds on over 15 years of strong bipartisan support to preserve the Amache site. In 2006, Senators Allard and Salazar supported the designation of the site as a National Historic Landmark; during the Bush Administration, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton designated the site as an NHL; and in 2019, Senators Gardner and Bennet passed legislation to study the site as a potential new unit. By adding the site to the National Park System, the NPS will be able to tell the remarkable stories of courage and sacrifice of Japanese Americans who overcame racial prejudice to serve in the military, promote local agriculture and build businesses and religious institutions. I urge President Biden to build on this momentum to move quickly to sign this bill in light of the advancing age of Amache survivors and descendants and the importance of telling their stories,” said Former U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell.

“We commend the Senate for today’s vote, as well as Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper for their leadership on this critical and long-awaited initiative to establish the Amache National Historic Site as a unit of the National Park System. This bill is a capstone of many years of dedicated efforts by descendants of the Japanese Americans incarcerated at Amache during World War II, community groups, preservation partners, governmental agencies, and other stakeholders. In addition to extensive strategic planning and community engagement by the National Park Service with these stakeholders, in the past decade there have been numerous educational and preservation projects spearheaded by community groups, universities, and preservation partners funded by the NPS Japanese American Confinement Sites grants that demonstrate the importance of honoring and preserving this place for future generations,” said Michelle Magalong, PhD, president of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Historic Preservation.

“The Colorado Municipal League Executive Board voted unanimously to support the Amache National Historic Site Act and the amazing collaboration between all of the various groups. Local governments in the region and their outstanding partners have worked hard to secure the national park site designation, so that this important part of our nation’s history is not lost and that future generations may travel to see and learn from that history. The League is grateful to Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper for their leadership and looks forward to a swift enactment,” said Kevin Bommer, Executive Director, Colorado Municipal League.

“This continued growth of our national park system is crucial for it to preserve locations and stories in American history, including those that are not easy to hear but essential to tell. “The unconstitutional imprisonment of Japanese Americans is an undeniably tragic story. But by preserving Amache, we can ensure that as a country we confront our mistakes, honor the stories of those who were unjustly imprisoned, and protect the site for future generations,” said Theresa Pierno, president and chief executive at the National Parks Conservation Association.

Background

Amache was one of ten Japanese American incarceration facilities across the country. During World War II, nearly 10,000 Japanese Americans passed through Amache and over 7,000 lived there between 1942 and 1945. According to the National Park Service (NPS), today “the cemetery, a reservoir, a water well and tank, the road network, concrete foundations, watch towers, the military police compound, and trees planted by the internees still remain.” Amache is currently a National Historic Landmark maintained by the Amache Preservation Society, established by John Hopper, a social studies teacher who is currently the principal of Granada High School, and powered by student volunteers from the high school. 

In May 2017, Hopper guided Senator Bennet during his visit to Amache. In May 2018, Bennet, Buck, and former U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), introduced the Amache Study Act, which directed the Department of the Interior to conduct a Special Resource Study (SRS) to assess Amache’s historical significance and determine the feasibility of adding the site to the National Park System. The bill was signed into law in 2019 as part of the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act. While the study was already underway, the community asked Bennet, Hickenlooper, Neguse, and Buck to introduce legislation to add Amache to the NPS, a process that requires Congressional designation.