Austin Architect Shares Story of Family's WW2 Internment in South Texas as "Enemy Aliens"

By Morgan Montalvo


Evan Taniguchi, an Austin architect and activist whose family in part inspired Jan Jarboe Russell's book The Train to Crystal City,  last evening offered San Antonians an intimate look at his Japanese  immigrant grandparents and U.S.-born father, among thousands of  Japanese, German and Italian nationals interned after Pearl Harbor as a  national security precaution.

As part of  his hour-long presentation at the Thousand Oaks Branch Library on the  far north side Taniguchi, a third-generation American, drew parallels  between World War two hysteria and similar fears fed by today's War on  Terror.

"It's very  inspirational that this book came out when it did, before the switch in  politics here in the country," Taniguchi told News Radio 1200 WOAI.  "We're worried about immigration now, we're worried about a lot of  issues that we didn't worry about before, but this is exactly what the  Japanese-Americans went through when they were incarcerated during World  War Two.

"That's my inspiration for going out and talking about this book; I don't want history to repeat itself," Taniguchi said.

Executive  Order 9066, also known as Public Law 503, was signed in early 1942 by  Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt. The order authorized the creation of  military zones in designated parts of the U.S and allowed for the  roundup and imprisonment of Japanese, German and Italian nationals,  along with their U.S.-born children and relatives. At the time, the U.S.  was at war with the Axis powers of Japan, Germany and Italy, and  immigrants from those countries were viewed as potential spies,  saboteurs and subversives. The U.S. Government established a "family  camp" in South Texas in hopes that it could trade "alien" families from  Axis countries for American citizens or prisoners of war, even though  many internees were native-born U.S. citizens.

FDR  suspended Executive Order 9066 in December 1944. Internees were  released, often returning to their home towns during a time of  continued, intense prejudice against "foreigners," especially those of  Japanese ancestry - even though thousands of Japanese-American Nisei (U.S.-born) internees volunteered for the U.S. military and were fighting against the Axis.

Taniguchi  said soon after Pres. Donald Trump issued a travel ban affecting seven  Moslem-majority countries, he was "bombarded" with questions from  friends and readers asking: "Evan, what is this? Is history really  repeating itself?"

The Train to Crystal City, subtitled FDR's Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and American's Only Family Internment Camp During World War II, provides  a glimpse into the lives of families uprooted by Executive Order 9066  and relocated to a "family camp" in South Texas. It is the recommended  Mayor's Book Club Spring 2017 read. 

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