One Republican lawmaker in Colorado appeared to twice defend the mass incarceration of Japanese-Americans during World War II while debating a bill that would prevent the state from carrying out President Donald Trump’s executive orders that target people based on their race, religious views or immigration status.
“We keep hearing about how things went down with the Japanese people,” state Rep. Phil Covarrubias said Wednesday during a debate over House Bill 1230, also known as the Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act.
“For anyone that has never been in combat, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and all of that was going on, there’s no time to ask questions and find out who is a citizen and who’s not,” Covarrubias said.
“I hear people saying that we need to respect other people’s rights, and I agree with that, but what about them respecting our rights and our country and our laws?”
The Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act, introduced in early March by House Democrats, would help establish Colorado as a “sanctuary state” by prohibiting state officials from helping federal authorities identify, track and detain its residents based on their race, religion or nationality.
Democratic lawmakers said in a press release that the bill would ensure that “the state never has a repeat of its tragic history regarding Japanese internment during World War II.” One of the camps was in Granada, Colorado, imprisoning families from Los Angeles.
Covarrubias evoked his defense for the incarceration of Japanese-Americans a second time when he objected to the Democrats’ use of the name Ralph Carr, the late Colorado governor and Republican who famously opposed President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1942 executive order that forced 120,000 people of Japanese descent, many of whom were American, from their homes and into concentration camps across the country.
Covarrubias compared the fears after the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack to the fears Americans have now after recent acts of terrorism, such as in Orlando, Florida, and San Bernardino, California.
“What happened prior to [the camps] that kicked all this off? I think we were attacked at Pearl Harbor,” he added. “I think we need to look at the Americans that are in fear from the terrorism and the things that we’ve seen over the last few years especially.”
Despite Covarrubias’ attempts to kill HB 1230, the bill passed the second reading and is headed to the House floor for a third and final reading before it goes to the Republican held Senate, where it’s chances of passage are slim, according to The Durango Herald.
Jo Ann Fujioka, a Japanese-American who was forced into an incarceration camp under Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, said last week: “This act shows that Colorado will not sit by idly waiting to see what other executive orders are signed by President Trump but rather will preemptively protect the rights of all citizens.”