Tsuru for Solidarity, a project started by Japanese Americans and Japanese Latin Americans, is calling upon Buddhist leaders, activists, and members of the public to join them in protesting the abhorrent conditions of the detention facilities in which the administration of US President Donald Trump is holding asylum seekers and migrant families.
The nonviolent project was initiated in March by Dr. Satsuki Ina, Nancy Ukai, Mike Ishii, with support from other organizations, to denounce conditions at the Dilley detention facility in southern Texas. Tsuru for Solidarity contributed to the Crystal City Pilgrimage by hanging 30,000 origami cranes—sent from all over the world—on the fences of the facility.
Duncan Ryuken Williams, author of American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War (Harvard University Press 2019) is actively involved in the project. He writes:
One of the classic Buddhist symbols of liberation is likened to a bird soaring freely in the sky. We say that for the bird to fly, it needs both wings: the wing of wisdom and the wing of compassion. (Duncan Ryuken Williams)
The Dilley facility was used as an internment camp during World War Two to confine more than 2,000 people of Japanese descent. It currently holds over 1,000 asylum seekers, the majority of whom are women and children from Central America and Mexico. On his website, Duncan Ryuken Williams explains: “Here, the women and children try to sleep on concrete floors while being deliberately prodded by Border Patrol agents all day and night, try to live on two bologna sandwiches for four days while denied bathroom visits. These examples of harassment by the Border Patrol are attempts to persuade the refugees to turn back before they have a chance to have an interview with an asylum officer.” (DuncanRyuanWilliams)
Tsuru for Solidarity also mobilized on 24 June in Oklahoma, joining some 200 local residents and a number of immigrant rights advocate groups (including ACLU, Black Lives Matter, and the American Indian Movement) in protesting the incarceration of more than 1,400 unaccompanied migrant children at Fort Sill. The project is non-partisan in nature, denouncing both the administration of Barack Obama for first using the facility in this capacity, and the Trump administration for separating children from their parents and confining them under such abominable conditions.
To the Japanese American survivors and descendants of survivors of World War Two prison camps, the present situation is a horrifying repetition of history. Indeed, not only was Fort William used in World War Two as an internment camp to hold people of Japanese ancestry (including 90 Buddhist priests), historically it also served as a “prisoner-of-war” camp for members of the Apache tribe. Despite military police officers repeatedly warning the 24 June protestors to leave the premises, the latter peacefully stood their ground.
Satsuki Ina, a former child detainee of World War Two, stated: “We want to say that we are protesting the fact that 1,400 children are going to be brought to this military site. We’re here because we do not want to have that happen. And as former children of prison camps, of concentration camps in America, we are saying, “No more. Never again.” (Democracy Now!)
Upcoming actions by Tsuru for Solidarity can be found on the project’s GoFundMe page:
We are beginning to plan a larger action in Washington, D.C., where we will meet with other advocates to call on our leaders to stop the cruel and inhumane immigration policies of the Trump Administration. We will hang 125,000 cranes on the fence of the White House, representing each of the Japanese Americans and Japanese Latin Americans who were incarcerated during WWII and the current mass detention prisoners in U.S. mass detention sites. We will stand with allies from front-line communities and use our moral authority to support the communities currently being targeted as we were targeted during WWII. (GoFundMe)
There are many ways to support the project, such as attending in person, making a financial contribution to the Tsuru for Solidarity GoFundMe campaign, or folding paper cranes and sending them to: Duncan Ryuken Williams, c/o Ito Center, 825 Bloom Walk, ACB 130D, Los Angeles, CA 90089-1481.
A Letter Asking Buddhist Leaders to Support Tsuru for Solidarity (Duncan Ryuken Williams)
Tsuru For Solidarity Campaign (GoFundMe)
Japanese-American Internment Survivors Protest Plan to Jail Migrant Kids at WWII Prison Camp (Democracy Now!)
Tsuru For Solidarity (Twitter)
Tsuru For Solidarity (Facebook)