ASHLAND, Ore. — An Ashland woman is sharing her story in the hopes that history doesn’t repeat itself.
Mitzi Asai Loftus and her family were placed in an internment camp after the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 because she’s Japanese-American.
She’s now working with Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley who’s looking to introduce a bill to ensure camps like those are never used in the United States again.
Loftus and her family spent time in several camps in Oregon, California and Wyoming.
She was young at the time and didn’t completely understand why she and her loved ones were being sent away, but says her experiences over the ensuing years will never be forgotten.
“Sometimes a picture’s worth a thousand words…”
This is one of three internment camps that 86-year old Ashland resident Loftus and her family were forced to re-locate to from 1942 to 1945.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed an executive order forcing more than 110,000 Americans of Japanese descent to be sent to isolated camps.
“These are my parents who immigrated to the United States…my father, my mother, my oldest sister…”
Loftus says she remembers the experience like it was yesterday.
“I was in the fourth grade when Pearl Harbor was attacked and we were immediately put on a curfew,” said Loftus.
She says her family was given a week’s notice before being sent away, later boarding trains with other Japanese-American families and not knowing where they were going.
“We were told to close the blinds and not look out the windows of the train and that was very disappointing because it was my first big train ride in the fourth grade and I was so excited…,” said Loftus.
Loftus and her family were interned for three years. It’s a period in her life she doesn’t shy away from talking about especially today.
“Looking at things about ICE and separating these tiny children… I mean, we were with our parents when we were interned… There are these families being torn apart…,” said Loftus.
Her story caught the attention of Oregon Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley.
Last month, the Senator proposed an amendment to the 2019 Labor-Health and Human Services bill and says he’s proposing a stand-alone bill soon.
“…That would say very clearly that there will be no internment camps, family internment camps in the U.S. and say any existing camps the administration has set-up and they have to be shut down within a specified time period…,” said Senator Jeff Merkley, Oregon Democratic Senator.
Loftus is sharing her story in the hopes that history doesn’t repeat itself.
“When I give speeches especially to high school students they always ask me do you think that it will ever happen, and I hate to say…it could…I hope not, but it could…,” Loftus said.
Amanda Rose is a multimedia journalist for NBC5 News. Amanda graduated from Columbia University earning a Master’s degree in Journalism. She also received a Bachelor’s degree in English with a specialization in literature from the University of British Columbia.
She’s a Los Angeles native, but is thrilled to return to the beautiful Pacific Northwest and is passionate about reporting on the criminal justice system.