“The Darkest Day in Immigration History in America Since the Internment of the Japanese Americans”


Things were really ugly in Seattle in 1942. Above is a newspaper piece from the West Seattle Herald that year, not long after Pearl Harbor. Part of the piece reads:

“The government should initiate instant and drastic orders, sweeping all aliens, foreign and native born, so far inland that we can forget them for the duration. It will work hardships on many, but what are they compared to the hardships that would be visited on us by an invading enemy. Our first thought should be for our United States and our own safety.”

Things in Seattle escalated into a nightmare from there. Wikipedia explains what happened next:

“Ethnic Japanese in Seattle were sent to concentration camps. After an initial internment at Camp Harmony in Puyallup, Washington, about 7,000 Seattle-area persons of Japanese ancestry were forced to leave the Seattle area to go to the Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho, while another 1,000 from the Seattle area went to other camps. Members of the Japanese community lost their businesses and residences. 450 students of the University of Washington were forced to leave the university due to their internment.”

Here are some photos of Seattleites and people from other cities as they were forced to enter American-created concentration camps:




There was hatred toward Japanese Americans up and down the west coast, in Washington, Oregon and California:



These were dark days for Seattle and our country. As of today, our country seems a lot closer to something like that again.

Among other things, Trump signed executive orders Wednesday that set in motion the building of a wall between Mexico and the U.S. The orders threaten to strip “sanctuary cities” for immigrants and refugees, like Seattle, of federal funding if they don’t comply with harsh treatment of certain minority groups. Here are what the news headlines looked like as I saw them on my phone:


screenshot_2017-01-25-13-24-39Our city leaders acted quickly to hold a news conference outside Seattle City Hall downtown. I couldn’t make it to the event, but I had friends from Neighborhood Action Coalition who were there and I followed their live videos from my desk at work as Seattle Mayor Ed Murray sent very strong messages. The Seattle Times reported what happened:

“Surrounded by hundreds of supporters on the steps of Seattle City Hall, Mayor Ed Murray called screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-6-44-56-amWednesday ‘the darkest day in immigration history in America since the internment of the Japanese Americans’ and said he’s prepared to lose ‘every penny’ of federal money the city gets.

Murray said he will direct city departments to reprioritize their budgets to prepare for possible budget cuts. He said he was prepared to go to voters, if necessary, to ask them for tax increases to replace lost federal funds.

‘The executive order signed today by the president has put our nation toward a constitutional crisis,’ Murray said, promising to use any legal means to fight it.

‘This city will not be bullied by this administration into abandoning our core values, and we believe we have the rule of law and the courts on our side.'”

I think what the mayor and other city leaders said in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s orders is so important that I’m also posting our mayor’s written statement too:


This is what a rebel city sounds like. I am so thankful to live in a place that values its people enough to stand up to tyrants, even if those tyrants hold the title of president.

Mayor Murray was probably thinking at least a bit about how Seattle Mayor Earl Millikin responded to Pearl Harbor in 1941. Here’s how it was reported by Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project:

“Seattle Mayor Earl Millikin took personal command of the city’s civilian defense groups and ordered 51 Japanese detained. He argued, ‘Seattle must have tolerance toward American-born Japanese, most of whom are loyal. But I also want to warn the Japanese that they must not congregate or make any utterance that could be used as ground [for] reprisal.’ Seattle Police Chief Herbert Kimsey, who helped round up Japanese immigrants all through the night, also preached tolerance, declaring that any attempt to stir up anti-Japanese riots would be “crushed with force.”

We must work and fight to never repeat this history again. We have to fight, RIGHT NOW. The Trump administration is getting way too close to sounding like we did in 1941, or worse.

This video of our mayor and other city leaders responding to Trump’s orders gives me hope:

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