'Star Trek's' George Takei Pens Comparison of Migrant Camps to Japanese Internment

The actor spent weeks with his family in a Japanese internment camp as a child.

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Star Trek actor and activist George Takei published a compassionate, contemplative op-ed on Foreign Policy today about his experience in Japanese internment camps in the 40s, and how today’s migrant children camps echo, and even intensify, one of America’s greatest shames.

Takei recounts how he and his family were sent to a racetrack for several weeks to live in a stall, along with 120,000 other Japanese-Americans, two-thirds of whom were US citizens. He admits there is “hideous irony” in saying so, but Takei writes that the internment he endured was at least better than the Trump administration’s policy of separating of children from their parents.

“At least during the internment, we remained a family, and I credit that alone for keeping the scars of our unjust imprisonment from deepening on my soul,” Takei writes. “I cannot for a moment imagine what my childhood would have been like had I been thrown into a camp without my parents.”

He compared Trump’s zero-tolerance policy that captured the world’s attention, with viral photos of children in cages and audio of their screams as they were ripped from their parents’ arms, to the Wartime Relocation Authority’s “a Jap is a Jap” rhetoric. Takei urged politicians and the public to speak up against what he labeled the “flirtation of authoritarianism” that threatens US politics in times of war and increased border security.

“Trump prepared his followers for this day long ago, when he began to dehumanize Mexican migrants as drug dealers, rapists, murderers, and animals. Animals might belong in cages. Humans don’t,” Takei writes. He also referenced the adverse effects that separation has on children, including what former First Lady Laura Bush wrote in her Washington Post op-ed about the likelihood of disease and trauma.

Celebrities have been widespread in their condemnation of the nearly 2,000 children forcibly separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border. Takei joins a list that includes Chrissy Teigen and John Legend, who donated $288,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union, Anne Hathaway, who dedicated her Father’s Day Instagram post to fundraising for Americans for Immigrant Justice, and Jimmy Kimmel, who urged his Twitter audience to call their congressional representatives.

Takei has been involved in civil liberties activism since he came out as gay in 2005. He has a strong social media presence, with over 10 million likes of Facebook, and uses his platform to speak out on immigration issues regularly.