LOS ANGELES — Actor George Takei criticized Feb. 17 President Donald Trump’s executive order that had banned the entry of people from seven Muslim-majority countries ahead of the 75th anniversary of the executive order that forced Japanese Americans into concentration camps in World War II.
“We know that this executive order was the same kind of prejudiced order that tarred and feathered, with the same broad brush, one group of people as the enemy,” the 79-year-old Star Trek actor said in a press conference at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.
Takei and his family were sent to the Rohwer Relocation Center in Arkansas when he was 5 years old under President Franklin Roosevelt’s executive order that prescribed “regulations for the conduct and control of alien enemies.”
More than 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced into camps under the order of Feb. 19, 1942.
The press conference was held on the eve of the opening of a special exhibition titled “Instructions to All Persons: Reflection on Executive Order 9066,” which took place a day before the annual Day of Remembrance.
“I remember going to school in a barrack and beginning each school day with a pledge of allegiance to the flag,” said Takei, a member of the museum’s board of trustees. “I could see the barbed wire fence and the sentry tower right outside my schoolhouse window as I recited the words ‘with liberty and justice for all.’”
However, Takei, a vocal supporter of the Muslim community, expressed confidence that Americans will not allow this kind of exclusion to happen again.
“We are living in a different America,” Takei said. “We opened this exhibit for this different America.”
Eric Garcetti, the first Jewish mayor of Los Angeles, attended the event and also expressed hope history would not repeat itself despite the so-called “Muslim ban” having been issued under Trump.
“As George so powerfully said, this is a different America,” Garcetti said. “This is our home, an America that welcomes, an America that embraces, and America that will defend each and every one of us when any of us are in peril.
“Seventy-five years ago … we betrayed our own fellow citizens,” he said. “Resistance is much more vocal, strong, unlike in the ‘40s.
“We will stand up. We will defend you,” said the mayor, who recently declared Los Angeles a “sanctuary city” for undocumented immigrants. “We’re fighting battles we thought we no longer had to fight anymore.”
The exhibit, whose name recalls the leaflets plastered around Japanese American communities, includes two pages of the original Executive Order 9066 document, as well as the original Presidential Proclamation 2537, which preceded the executive order. Both documents are on loan from the National Archives.
The exhibit also includes government documents from World War II such as “loyalty questionnaires,” regulations handbooks, identification cards and contemporary artwork reflecting on Japanese American incarceration.
“Instructions to all Persons,” which will be on view through Aug. 13, encourages visitors to reflect on its continuing relevance and “how the lessons of that shameful chapter of history are powerfully meaningful in our world today,” according to Ann Burroughs, interim president and CEO of the museum.