Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet celebrated President Joe Biden signing into law the Amache National Historic Site Act, their legislation to establish Amache, a former Japanese American incarceration facility outside of Granada, Colorado, as part of the National Park System. Hickenlooper and Bennet introduced the bill in the U.S. Senate last year and passed it by unanimous consent last month. Colorado U.S. Representatives Joe Neguse and Ken Buck introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Designating Camp Amache as a National Historic Site will honor those who were imprisoned and educate future generations about this dark chapter. Our Colorado communities were the driving force behind this bill,” said Hickenlooper.
“This moment is a testament to the Amache survivors, descendants, and advocates who never stopped pushing to get this done,” said Bennet. “Thanks to their work, future generations will now have the opportunity to learn about what happened at Amache and the Americans who were interned there. We have a responsibility to carry their legacy forward, and now Amache has the recognition and resources it deserves.”
“Colorado welcomes President Biden’s important action to establish the Amache site as a National Park unit, highlighting the injustices of the internment of Japanese Americans. Colorado is home to twelve world-class national park units, and adding the Amache site is an important step to preserve and protect our national history and cultural experiences, even when we are called to face dark times in our nation’s past,” said Jared Polis, Governor of Colorado.
“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. President Biden’s signature on the Amache National Historic Site Act today brings me hope that we are finally closer to this certainty. 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. Thank you, President Biden, Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper, and Congressmen Neguse and Buck, for your leadership and for the great decisions made regarding Amache as a National Park Historic Site. Now signed by the President, long lasting U.S history is made,” said Ken Kitajima, 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 four in the morning 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 President Biden for signing the Amache National Historic Act so that these efforts are not forgotten,” said Min Tonai, Amache survivor.
“Congressmen Neguse and Buck and Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper demonstrated what cooperation looks like on the Hill. With the bill now signed by President Biden, this is finally the expression and realization of the people’s will,” said Mike Honda, former Member of Congress and 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,” said Carlene Tanigoshi Tinker, Amache survivor.
“We are forever grateful to President Biden, Secretary Haaland, Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper, and Congressmen Neguse and Buck for leading and supporting this critical opportunity for America to respect, honor, and heal at Amache. We honor the Amache descendants, the Amache Preservation Society, the Town of Granada, the National Park Service, and the many storytellers, historians, civil rights and military veteran groups, offices of tourism, preservation offices, county commissioners and other local elected officials who we worked alongside in seeing this through. Most of all, 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 whose stories will now be revealed and remembered,” said Tracy Coppola, Colorado Senior Program Manager, National Parks Conservation Association.
A full list of statements of support is available HERE.
February 19 marked the 80th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which began the forced internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans at sites like Amache. Located in Granada, Colorado, the site held nearly 10,000 Japanese Americans against their will during the Second World War. Bennet visited the site with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, survivors, and descendants to mark this solemn occasion.
Last month, Bennet urged the Senate to pass the Amache National Historic Site Act. Ninety-nine senators supported Bennet’s request, but U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) objected. A week later, Bennet and Lee reached an agreement on the Senate floor, and the bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent shortly thereafter. View the exchange HERE.
Hickenlooper shepherded the bill through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He also visited the Amache Museum in Granada and met with student volunteers from the Amache Preservation Society earlier this year. Video of Hickenlooper’s visit is HERE.
Last year, survivors of Amache sent a letter to Senate leadership urging passage of this legislation and over 70 Colorado and national organizations have expressed their support.