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Survivor of WWII Internment Camp Speaks Out: Japanese Americans Know the Trauma of Child Detention

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Amid reports of inhumane and degrading conditions at child immigration jails along the southern border, we speak with Satsuki Ina, a Japanese-American psychotherapist who was born in the Tule Lake Segregation Center, a maximum-security internment camp for Japanese Americans during WWII. “After decades of living our lives as compliant and quiet, and demonstrating and proving ourselves as good citizens, many of us have felt that it’s time for us to speak out, to protest, to resist, and to speak out in ways that we haven’t in the past, because we know what these children are experiencing,” Ina said. “We know what it’s like to have family separation, to suffer the long-term consequences of the trauma of being incarcerated—for some of us, more than four or five years.”

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to look at the traumatic impact on the mental health of migrant children from being held by the Border Patrol and in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers. In Oakland, we’re joined by Satsuki Ina, a psychotherapist who was born in the Tule Lake Segregation Center, a maximum-security internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II.

AMY GOODMAN: This past weekend, she risked arrest at a protest against the plan to detain migrant children at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, the site of a former Japanese-American internment camp in World War II.

Satsuki Ina, welcome to Democracy Now! We played a clip of you from that protest, that Democracy Now!’s Renée Feltz covered in Oklahoma on Saturday. As you listen to these descriptions of the children, and you yourself having been detained, born at Tule Lake, what you call a concentration camp for Japanese Americans—over 110,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans were interned in the United States in these camps during World War II—what are your thoughts?

SATSUKI INA: Well, Japanese-American community has come to realize that what is happening to children in these detention facilities is so resonant of the trauma that we suffered during World War II. And after decades of living our lives as compliant and quiet, and demonstrating and proving ourselves as good citizens, many of us have felt that it’s time for us to speak out, to protest, to resist, and to speak out in ways that we haven’t in the past, because we know what these children are experiencing. We know what it’s like to have family separation, to suffer the long-term consequences of the trauma of being incarcerated—for some of us, more than four or five years. We feel like it’s really important to speak out.

AMY GOODMAN: And you are also a psychotherapist.

SATSUKI INA: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about your own experience as a child interned and what you’re seeing about the children who are interned today, who are jailed today, the psychological effects it has.

SATSUKI INA: So, yes, I was—my family was held for over four years, and I was born in a concentration camp. And the lifelong effects, I think, have led me to become a psychotherapist, to try and understand what happened to us, and recognize that these children today held in captivity, separated from loving care of adults, is very disturbing. You know, the reality that this is happening again is causing many of us to recognize that this is an injustice that is so discussed in the same way, presented in the same way, that we were a threat to national security, that we were an unassimilable race of people, that we were a threat to the economy of the United States. These are so much echoing what charges were made against us, that were unjust and without any basis. And these children are growing up in a time of tremendous chronic states of trauma. Captivity trauma is known to have lifelong effects on children growing up and resulting in depression and anxiety and post-traumatic stress.

AMY GOODMAN: Satsuki Ina, we are going to break now, but we’re going to interview you for Part 2 and post it online at democracynow.org. Satsuki Ina was born in Tule Lake Segregation Center, a maximum-security internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II.

That does it for our broadcast. Happy birthday to Karen Ranucci, Qasim Massoud and Ava Crosby-Wallach.

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