La. internment camp survivor says Trump's words remind him of sad time in history

La. man says Trump talk reminds him of internment camp mentality

Donald Trump's idea to ban all  Muslims from entering the United States reminds one Louisiana man of a sad time in history. After the Japanese attacked Pearl harbor, the U.S. government imprisoned those of Japanese descent in internment camps for years, singling them out as potential threats.

"My father was bitter for years," said Walter Imahara, whose family spent more than three years in the camps.

The  78-year-old landscape artist runs a thriving business that his late father started decades ago. His parents, James and Haruka Imahara, were born in America. In 1941 they were enjoying life with their seven children in Sacramento Calif.

"He was a farmer - grapes, strawberries, raising chickens. He was very successful, like overnight, after Pearl Harbor he lost everything," Imahara said.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, military leaders saw the West Coast as a potential combat zone. The more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent that lived there became threats overnight. President Roosevelt signed an executive order in February of 1942 forcing them into relocation camps. Walter Imahara was 5 years old.

"You can only carry two duffel bags per person. You can't take personal belongings," he said.

The Imaharas and others were housed for months in a horse stable in Fresno. Their eighth child was born there while the government was completing 10 camps in the country's interior.

"All the camps were in desolate places, they all had barbed wire," Imahara said.

An Arkansas camp would become the Imahara's home for more than three years.

"All the barracks were tar paper, hot in summer and cold in winter," he said.

He said the camp had things like hospitals and social functions for those inside, but it was all surrounded by barbed wire.

Imahara knows the pain of being ostracized because of your race or religion. He watches the same sentiment unfold with Muslims in the news today.

"When Donald trump made that remark, we in the family didn't like it because it singled out just Muslims. It wasn't whether they were Americans," he said.

Imahara's family moved to New Orleans and then to St. Francisville after being released from the camp. Later, James Imahara moved to Baton Rouge to start his own business. They eventually had nine children.
Walter bought land in St. Francisville 10 years ago and created a beautiful botanical garden to honor his parents and eight siblings.

"We are clearing out a spot called the Mom and Pop's Garden," he said.

He remembers the pain of the past but doesn't dwell on it.

"We smile because we are grateful people. What happened is behind us."

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