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Bennet, Hickenlooper, Neguse, Buck Celebrate Senate Passage of Bill to Add Amache National Historic Site to the National Park System

This week Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D) and John Hickenlooper (D), along with Colorado U.S. Representatives Joe Neguse (D) and Ken Buck (R), are celebrating a victory in the U.S. Senate: the passage of legislation to establish the Amache National Historic Site, a former Japanese-American incarceration facility outside of Granada, Colorado, as part of the National Park System.

Bennet and Hickenlooper introduced the bill in the U.S. Senate last year. Neguse and Buck introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, which passed by 416-2 in July 2021.

“I’m thrilled the Senate passed our bill to establish Amache as a part of the National Park System,” said Bennet. “The incarceration of Japanese-Americans during World War II at sites like Amache is a shameful part of our country’s history. Our bill will preserve Amache’s story to ensure future generations can learn from this dark chapter in our history. I’m grateful to Senator Hickenlooper, Representatives Buck and Neguse, the survivors and descendants of Amache, and numerous advocates and community leaders for their partnership on this legislation, and I look forward to seeing it become law.”

“Interning Japanese-Americans at Camp Amache is a dark stain on our past. Elevating Amache to a National Historic Site will preserve the survivors’ stories and ensure that history never repeats,” said Hickenlooper.

Amache was one of ten Japanese-American incarceration facilities across the country. During World War II, nearly 10,000 Japanese-Americans passed through Amache and over 7,000 lived there between 1942 and 1945. According to the National Park Service (NPS), today “the cemetery, a reservoir, a water well and tank, the road network, concrete foundations, watchtowers, the military police compound, and trees planted by the internees still remain.” Amache is currently a National Historic Landmark maintained by the Amache Preservation Society, established by John Hopper, a social studies teacher who is currently the principal of Granada High School, and powered by student volunteers from the high school.

Earlier this month, Bennet asked the Senate to pass his Amache National Historic Site Act. Ninety-nine senators supported Bennet’s request, but one objected: U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah). Bennet and Lee reached an agreement on the bill on the Senate floor. It passed the Senate by unanimous consent shortly thereafter. View the exchange here.

“The Amache National Historic Site Act is a prime example of local leadership at work. Countless community leaders, descendants and advocates from across Colorado have come together behind this bill to support the designation and preservation of the Amache site,” said Neguse, Chair of the U.S. Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. “This bill also proves what we can accomplish when we work together, across party lines, for the people of Colorado. Introduced in early 2021, we’ve been able to usher this legislation through the House and Senate in record time and I look forward to seeing the President sign it into law.”

“The Amache National Historic Site Act recognizes the awful injustices committed against Japanese-Americans who were placed in internment camps, while preserving the site for the citizens of Colorado — and the United States — to visit and learn from in the future,” said Buck.  “I am grateful to my colleagues in the Senate for voting to pass this act in honor of former Amache detainees and their families.”

“The Amache site as a National Park unit highlights the injustices of the internment of Japanese-Americans, one of our nation’s darkest chapters. Colorado is home to world-class national parks and adding the Amache site honors those values and our history,” said Colorado Governor Jared Polis.

The effort to recognize the historical importance of Amache has been a decades-long effort. “In 2006, Senators Allard and Salazar supported the designation of the site as a National Historic Landmark (NHL); during the Bush Administration, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton designated the site as an NHL; and in 2019, Senators Gardner and Bennet passed legislation to study the site as a potential new unit. By adding the site to the National Park System, the NPS will be able to tell the remarkable stories of courage and sacrifice of Japanese Americans who overcame racial prejudice to serve in the military, promote local agriculture and build businesses and religious institutions,” said former U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell.

Messages from Amache survivors and descendants

“I have waited many, many years to see the day where we can be certain that Amache, as a place of reflection, remembrance, honor, and healing, is protected for our current and future generations,” said Bob Fuchigami, Amache survivor. “Passage of the Amache National Historic Site Act in the Senate brings me hope that we are finally closer to this certainty, and I thank Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper for their leadership. My parents did not live to see this day. The time is not only right; it is long overdue.”

“As a young boy at Amache, I never thought I’d see an America that cared about my story. I am now a 91 year old veteran who served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, 1950-1954. Thank you, Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper, for your leadership and for the great decisions made regarding Amache as a National Park Historic Site. When signed by the President, long lasting U.S history will be made,” said Ken Kitajima, Amache survivor.

“Congressmen Neguse and Buck and Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper demonstrated what cooperation looks like on the Hill. With the bill soon on its way to the White House, this will finally be the expression and realization of the people’s will,” said Mike Honda, former Member of Congress and Amache survivor.

“My great-grandparents were from samurai families, college-educated, and started churches for the American Baptist in Japan and the U.S.A. Grandfather was a dentist with Hollywood movie stars as patients.  None of that mattered—three generations of my family were detained behind barbed wire at Amache because they had Japanese faces and names,” said Mitch Homma, Amache descendant. “Amache is a story we cannot forget—and with today’s Senate passage of the Amache National Historic Site Act, thanks to Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper, we have a chance to preserve, honor, and protect it, because it is very much a story that is alive today.”

“I applaud Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper today and I am proud that the many efforts made to preserve and protect Amache combined to create something that will benefit all Americans.  Amache has the power to shed light upon a mistake we all must remember. We must recall the service and sacrifice of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and celebrate the Constitutional vision of Colorado Governor Ralph Carr. All these things are worthy of doing and doing so will make us better American citizens,” said Calvin Taro Hada, Amache descendant and President, The Japanese Association of Colorado, dba The Nikkeijin Kai of Colorado.

The designation comes just ahead of the 80th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which began the forced internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans, between 1942 and 1945.