Internment camp survivor offers caution over Trump rhetoric

Advocates for social justice

Born and raised in Los Angeles Paul Kusuda was just 19-year-old when he and his family were ordered to a Japanese American internment camp. Now 75 years later he is working for social justice and warning against racism directed toward Latino and Muslim Americans.

“I fear that hysteria is going to take hold again as it is right now and the specter of security will override concerns about civil liberties,” says Kusuda.

Kusuda, along with his mother, father, brother and sister were taken to the Manzanar Relocation Center near Death Valley following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. A college student at the time Kusuda couldn’t understand the arbitrary action toward Japanese Americans.

“It was an impossible situation because through educational systems we had a lot of discussions about the U.S. Constitution, about the California Constitution, about the Bill of Rights and how as Americans we had a great concern about protecting civil liberties,” says Kusuda. “Before I would get moved I would get something called due process. All that did not happen. Within a short period of time we had to leave Los Angeles where I was born and where I had all of my friends.”

Kusuda spent one year in the internment camp, but it changed the direction of his life.

“Because of my relocation center experience I changed my career plans and moved from engineering to social work.”

An advocate for social justice Kusuda is concerned about the rhetoric from President-Elect Donald Trump directed toward Latinos and Muslim Americans.

“I worry about that because I think that people have lost the sense of history,” says Kusuda.