Florence Daté Smith and her daughter Barbara Daté on Feb. 16 were among at least 17 Japanese-Americans invited to sit on the chamber floor of the Oregon State Senate for a vote unanimously approving Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 14. The resolution recognizes the historical significance of Feb. 19, 1942, the date President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order 9066 setting in motion the internment of some 120,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II.
The resolution recognizes how the executive order restricted “the freedom of Japanese Americans and other legal resident aliens through required identification cards, travel restrictions, seizure of personal property and incarceration,” and resolves to “support the goals of the Japanese American community in recognizing the national Day of Remembrance to increase public awareness of these actions.” Among other things, the resolution also calls on the people of Oregon to “pause to reflect upon the lessons learned from the Japanese American incarceration experience, appreciate the contributions that immigrants and refugees bring to our nation and commit to valuing all Americans, irrespective of their ethnicity, religion or country of origin” (see https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2017R1/
Among those affected by executive order 9066 were Florence Daté Smith and her parents. Smith, now age 95, is a resident of Eugene, Ore. She sat with her state Senator Floyd Prozanski, and Daté sat with Republican Lead Senator Ted Ferrioli. Daté reported to Newsline that Ferrioli had worked hard on SCR 14.
The Oregon House vote on the measure is scheduled for March 28, which Daté notes is Minoru Yasui Day in Oregon. Yasui, born in Oregon, became a lawyer and after the bombing of Pearl Harbor fought laws targeting Japanese-Americans. Eventually his own conviction for breaking curfew made its way to the Supreme Court, which affirmed his conviction, and he spent most of World War II in internment camps. President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Nov. 24, 2015.
“One thing amazing about this is that at its inception, Oregon was designed for ‘white people’ only. So Oregon has come a long way,” Daté wrote in her report on the event. “This statement by the Oregon Senate is amazing and affirming even just as a stand-alone decision to acknowledge the historic, demeaning, and perhaps even unconstitutional Presidential Executive Order 9066.”
Find personal testimonies submitted to the Oregon legislature in support of SCR 14 at https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2017R1/Measures/Exhibits/SCR14 . Read Florence Daté Smith’s personal story of the internment--told originally in “Messenger” magazine in 1988, and now published in Messenger Online--at www.brethren.org/messenger/articles/2017/remembering-internment.html .