Actor George Takei, who was sent to a Japanese prison camp with his family during World War II, said immigrant detention centers that separate migrant children from their parents are worse than what he experienced.
“At least during the internment of Japanese-Americans, I and other children were not stripped from our parents,” Takei wrote in a piece published Tuesday in Foreign Policy. “We were not pulled screaming from our mothers’ arms. We were not left to change the diapers of younger children by ourselves.”
Takei was sent to a prison camp in Arkansas when he was 5 years old. Thousands of families of Japanese ancestry were sent to such camps in wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Takei described how his parents told him that they were going on vacation and tried to soften the horror of what was happening to their family. He said he would not have been able to prevent “the scars of our unjust imprisonment from deepening on my soul” without the comfort and some sense of security that his family provided to him during the difficult period.
“As the Wartime Relocation Authority made clear, ‘a Jap is a Jap.’ That was their own ‘zero-tolerance’ policy,” he said, referring to terminology Attorney General Jeff Sessions has used to justify family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border.
An audio recording of distressed children crying out for their parents sparked backlash when it was released Monday, as did photos released over the weekend that show children held in chain-link enclosures at an immigrant processing facility in McAllen, Texas.
Sessions announced a “zero-tolerance” immigration policy in May, which has resulted in undocumented immigrants being separated from their children while being prosecuted. The administration has falsely claimed that it is enforcing a law, but there is no law that requires officials to separate families at the border.
Trump has said, repeatedly and erroneously, that Democrats are responsible for family separation.
Migrant children who are detained can suffer long-term psychological consequences due to the cramped quarters, stress and limited outdoor activity, according to child development researchers.