Sixteen GOP lawmakers voted against a House bill that seeks to promote public education on the history of Japanese Americans in World War II, including their incarceration in so-called “internment camps.”
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Jay Obernolte of California — who is also a Republican — ultimately passed with 406 yeas on Wednesday, while 10 others did not vote.
Introduced as H.R. 6434, the bill directs the Secretary of the Interior to establish a “Japanese American World War II History Network” within the National Park Service (NPS). Such a network will consist of all NPS units and programs related to Japanese American history and experiences in World War II.
Those experiences will include the persecuted group’s time in “relocation centers” and “confinement sites,” the bill said. Such terms, however, are controversial, with advocates advising against their use due to their failure to capture the harsh conditions endured by those forced into them.
The Republicans who voted against the bill include Reps. Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Mo Brooks (Ala.), Michael Cloud (Texas), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Bob Good (Va.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Andy Harris (Md.), Clay Higgins (La.), Trey Hollingsworth (Ind.), Doug LaMalfa (Calif.), Thomas Massie (Ky.), Mary Miller (Ill.), Ralph Norman (S.C.), Matt Rosendale (Mont.), Chip Roy (Texas) and Van Taylor (Texas).
The lawmakers had various reasons for registering their opposition. A spokesperson for LaMalfa told The Hill that while he generally supports the bill, there are concerns that a historical site in his district cannot sufficiently accommodate tourists at this time.
Harris said the House should prioritize other legislation. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Roy said the matter will better be handled by “private and charitable entities,” according to The Hill.
About 126,000 Japanese Americans were forced into concentration camps in World War II. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, issued the executive order following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Rep. Bruce Westerman (Ark.), the leading Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee, acknowledged the bill’s significance in honoring Japanese Americans. “[It] will be an important tool to ensure that this history, no matter how painful it may be, is always remembered, and the important stories of interned Japanese Americans are told with honor and respect,” he said.
Aside from the bill, the House reportedly passed legislation that would preserve the concentration camps and create a grant program to promote education on Japanese American incarceration.
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