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Returning Kakehashi Participants Quarantined

By March 9, 2020No Comments

[Note: The following  news release is from JACL Executive Director David Inoue and VP Public Affairs Sarah Baker.]

Last week, 68 Japanese American college students, young adults, and chaperones returned from JACL’s Kakehashi program, a 10-day cultural exchange trip to Japan. Unfortunately for some, they have not been warmly welcomed back to their schools and jobs.

Despite State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines that permit travel to Japan, several returnees have been subjected to quarantines of up to two weeks preventing their return to school or work. 12 participants have reported policies preventing their return to class or work for travel specific to Japan. While we can understand the desire to protect other students and co-workers, such decisions must be made based on data and not fear.

Among some of the cases of discrimination, we are seeing is the inclusion of Japan on lists of travel restrictions to China, Italy, Iran, and South Korea. State Department and CDC advisories against travel have been issued for all those countries except Japan. The exclusion of Japan is especially concerning when several European nations are experiencing similar numbers of COVID-19 infection, but are not placed under similar restrictions.

David Inoue, JACL executive director, emphasizes that every precaution was taken with the Kakehashi trip. JACL was in regular contact with both the Japanese and United States governments to ensure the participants were protected as best possible, and daily assessments of the disease spread in Japan were made. Despite these measures, several schools and employers are choosing to discriminate based on fear.

As stories to continue to arise of bigotry, racism, and discrimination directed against Asians and Asian Americans in response to COVID-19, the JACL reminds everyone that this prejudice is unfounded.

There is much that we still do not know about COVID-19, but we do know that it does not discriminate based on country, race, or ethnicity. As employers, schools, and businesses develop policies for how to respond to the disease, all caution must be taken to ensure that racism is not allowed to be institutionalized under the cover of protecting the public’s health.

The Kakehashi trip was an amazing experience for all participants, only to be soured by the discrimination some have faced in returning home.