In a glaring example of the difference between how the mainstream media approaches stories involving the Trump administration’s handling of immigration versus its coverage of the Obama administration on the issue, several headlines from mainstream outlets this week portrayed the Trump administration’s use of Fort Sill as using a former “Japanese internment camp” to house immigrant children.
“Trump administration to send migrant children to Army base once used as Japanese internment camp,” The Hill reported Wednesday. “Trump Admin to Use Army Base That Once Served as Japanese Internment Camp to House 1,400 Migrant Kids,” The Daily Beast blasted. “Trump Administration to Hold Migrant Children at Base That Served as WWII Japanese Internment Camp,” Time declared.
The Washington Post likewise stresses the internment camp reference, but at least hints that another administration might have done something similar: “Geronimo and the Japanese were imprisoned there. Now Fort Sill will hold migrant children — again.” Here’s how the Post’s coverage begins:
Record numbers of unaccompanied children from Central America have crossed the border in recent months. So many that the Office of Refugee Resettlement has been scrambling to find housing for them.
On Tuesday, the agency announced it has chosen a military base as a temporary shelter: Fort Sill in Oklahoma, which was used during World War II as an internment camp for Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants. Before that, it was the longtime prison for Apache leader Geronimo.
As intended by the outlets, the headlines have triggered outrage online, with floods of laments about the alleged cruelties of the Trump administration and attempts to compare its handling of immigrants to that dark period in American history in which one of the Democrats’ most idealized presidents issued Executive Order 9066 authorizing the military to lock up Japanese Americans — as well as some Italian and German Americans — in internment camps (more on that below).
But as many have pointed out, for those willing to take the step to read a little further than the headlines, an uncomfortable fact emerges: The Obama administration used the same “former Japanese internment camp” to house immigrants in 2014. The Post report acknowledges this fact in its fourth paragraph:
This isn’t the first time that Fort Sill has been used this way, though. During the Obama presidency, unaccompanied children were housed there for four months. At the time, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) blamed Obama’s “failed immigration policies,” saying, “It is alarming to have 1,200 children in a military Installation.”
In a Twitter thread that has begun to gain some attention online, including over at Twitchy, freelance writer Jeryl Bier decided to see how the media reported on the Obama administration’s use of Fort Sill a few years ago. You’ll never guess what reference is missing.
“Search of Twitter before 2015 for ‘fort sill japanese internment’: Zero hits,” wrote Bier. “Search of Twitter since 6/10/19 for ‘fort sill japanese internment’: Dozens and dozens of hits.”
Bier then began to provide some examples of what he found, including “Fort Sill to host children of illegal immigrants,” “1,800 immigrants processed through Fort Sill,” “All immigrant children transferred from Fort Sill facility”…
To make matters worse for the mainstream media, Bier discovered that the Obama administration didn’t just use one “former Japanese internment camp” to house immigrants, it used appears to have used two:
There’s a reason that references to the Japanese internment camps stir up so much outrage. George Mason University‘s summary of the infamous executive order issued by FDR:
In an atmosphere of World War II hysteria, President Roosevelt, encouraged by officials at all levels of the federal government, authorized the internment of tens of thousands of American citizens of Japanese ancestry and resident aliens from Japan. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, dated February 19, 1942, gave the military broad powers to ban any citizen from a fifty- to sixty-mile-wide coastal area stretching from Washington state to California and extending inland into southern Arizona. The order also authorized transporting these citizens to assembly centers hastily set up and governed by the military in California, Arizona, Washington state, and Oregon. Although it is not well known, the same executive order (and other war-time orders and restrictions) were also applied to smaller numbers of residents of the United States who were of Italian or German descent. For example, 3,200 resident aliens of Italian background were arrested and more than 300 of them were interned. About 11,000 German residents—including some naturalized citizens—were arrested and more than 5000 were interned. Yet while these individuals (and others from those groups) suffered grievous violations of their civil liberties, the war-time measures applied to Japanese Americans were worse and more sweeping, uprooting entire communities and targeting citizens as well as resident aliens.