The original Japanese American Confinement Sites Program was signed into law in December 2006 with strong bipartisan support. In fact, the bill was led in the House by Rep. Bill Thomas of California, the powerful chair of the Ways and Means Committee. The Senate bill was led by the late-Sen. Daniel Inouye. Unfortunately, neither Thomas nor Inouye are still in Congress, and the original JACS program is running out of money.
Fortunately, just a month ago, Rep. Doris Matsui, the first co-sponsor on Rep. Thomas’ bill, introduced HR 8637, the Japanese American Confinement Education Act. This legislation would renew the JACS program with fresh funding of $38 million, which should continue the program for another 12 years.
In addition, the JACE Act establishes a new museum-based program to promote education regarding the Japanese American experience during World War II. This new program, in addition to the original JACS program, will bring with it $10 million in new funding and comes at the suggestion of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The program is modeled after the recently signed-into-law Holocaust Education Act and similarly would be implemented through the leadership of a museum setting.
While this bill is led by a Democrat, the first co-sponsor in the House is Republican Congressman Rob Bishop, the ranking member of the Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over this legislation.
We could not have asked for a more ideal co-sponsor, as Bishop’s career before coming to Congress was as a high school history teacher who chaired the history department at the high school where he taught.
Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) stated upon introduction of the bill, “The forced internment of our fellow citizens through Executive Order 9066 is one of the darkest chapters in American history. The fact that it occurred during my lifetime highlights just how fresh of a wound this is for Japanese Americans across our country.”
The House bill has 21 co-sponsors, including five Republicans. The original JACS bill had 114 co-sponsors, with 22 Republicans among them, so we have quite a bit of work to get to similar numbers.
This is where you, JACL’s membership, are important. Congress is not done yet for the year, and we are making a push to gain support for this legislation.
On Dec. 1, the first of three days in our GivingTuesday Series, we want you to call your representative and ask him or her to support HR 8637 to ensure that the National Park Service will be able to continue to fund programs to enhance our understanding and knowledge about the incarceration experience through the lens of the confinement sites. The new education program would help to ensure more students have the opportunity to learn about the Japanese American experience with quality curriculum and resources.
For more information about the JACS program and the GivingTuesday Series, visit the JACL website, where we have fact sheets, reference materials to see if your congressional district has received JACS funding and more.
You can also see the information box on this page. When we gather together for the last Tuesday of the GivingTuesday series, let’s plan to be thankful for the broad bipartisan support created for the JACE Act.
David Inoue is executive director of the JACL. He is based in the organization’s Washington, D.C., office.