Migrant Detainment Centers Look Familiar to Survivors of Japanese Internment

As an expert in trauma, Ina is convinced that the trauma of her early life — not just in the camps, but in immigrant communities obsessed with modeling perfect behavior to an audience of Caucasian judges — affected the choices she made throughout her life.

Satsuki Ina was not yet born when the Emperor Hirohito ordered a bombing raid on Pearl Harbor and, in response, the U.S. government rounded up residents of Japanese extraction on the West Coast, bussing them to internment camps. She was born in one of those camps, a maximum security facility built at Tanforan Race Track, where her mother and father were living in a horse stable. Ina, now a 74-year-old psychotherapist and respected expert in child trauma, knows that the way she came into the world — under guard, under arrest, under lock and key — changed her life.  Ina is convinced that the trauma of her early life — not just in the camps, but in immigrant communities obsessed with modeling perfect behavior to an audience of Caucasian judges — affected who she became by informing how she made choices.

This is why she recently snuck into a Texas detention center for Latin American migrants and why she is so concerned, not only about the Trump Administration’s former policy of separating families, but also about their current policy of detaining families together. Prison is prison. Armed guards are armed guards. Call the policy what you will, but internment is internment and imprisonment is imprisonment. Both as an expert and as a human being, Ina has been witness to this hard fact.

Ina spoke to Fatherly about the beginning of her life, the legacy of trauma for Japanese-Americans, and what she’s seen at detainment centers, some of which she’s been to several times.

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