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A Son’s Plea to Governor Miles

Men’s New Dorm
University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, New Mexico

February 3, 1942

Honorable Governor Miles
Governors Mansion
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Dear Sir;

Last week thirty Japanese from Clovis were sent to Ft. Stanton to be interned. This action affected me very much because my parents are Japanese and are aliens.

My name is James Matsu. I am a junior here at the University and planning to major in chemistry. I was born in Los Angeles, California, and therefore am an American citizen. There are also four other citizens in our family. I am the oldest and my sister in the seventh grade at Belen Junior High School is the youngest.

My father has been in America for 40 years. He is close to 58 and has worked for the Santa Fe Railroad for almost 25 years. Our family has been in Belen for 16 years. When the treacherous attack on Pearl Harbor occurred on December 7th, we were startled as the rest of the people. We did not think, however, that the situation which our family is now in would ever arise. On December 9th, the railroad told my father to quit work for a while. We thought this was only natural and felt that there was justification for the action. We were sure that the Government had put a blanket on all aliens to determine which aliens were loyal to this country and which aliens were unsafe, and as soon as this was determined everything would be all right. Now we realize that this wasn’t so. The attitude seems to exist that anyone who is Japanese is disloyal to America. To be sure, there are aliens who constitute a threat to our security, but the FBI can certainly handle them.

We have been very happy under the democratic system of the United States. The goal of my parents is to make good Americans out of my three brothers, my sister, and myself, and I say this with all sincerity. We are being educated by the best educational system in the world and know the full meaning of American freedom and justice. We realize too that no other country in the world could have given us the happiness we have had. Of course, there are many things which can stand improvement, but these are negligible.

My father has never done anything against the law, for during the 40 years in this country he has never been arrested on any charge. His record is as clean as anybody’s could be. There is no just reason for clamping down on innocent people. I believe, and I am sure you agree that this isn’t the American way. This is the Axis method and it is one of those things which belong to those whom we are fighting. Yes, it is war, and my father and mother are aliens from an enemy country, but this doesn’t mean that they are enemies. What about the people of German and Italian ancestry in this country? Are they to be considered enemies too? I should think not. Of course, Germans and Italians are miscible into American society and we, being orientals are not, but we are not asking for this. All we ask is that a better understanding be made to those who do not think beyond their prejudices, and that we be given a chance to do our part for America.

On the sixteenth of this month I am to register for the draft in preparation for service in the armed forces of the United States. There arises the problem which I think is difficult to understand. My parents have no assurance of security because the railroad for which my father has worked faithfully 25 years will not employ him, not because they don’t need him, but because of suspicions which are groundless. What kind of a soldier would one be if he has no assurance that the ones he loves most will not be taken care of by the country for which he is fighting. My parents do not wish to be interned at Ft. Stanton, because there is no justifiable reason for them being so. Our family needs no protection, if that is the purpose of Ft. Stanton, because the people in Belen are for us. The men in the shops at Belen have no ill-feeling towards my father, but on the contrary are asking when he will go back to work. We are the only Japanese family in Belen. If there is anyone in Belen who holds a grudge against us, it is because we happen to be Japanese.

I wish that there were some way of making certain misunderstand-ing people see what is in our hearts. Were the situation such that it could not be helped, I would not be writing this letter. I feel that you can help us and the decision which you make will be unquestioned, because of your high office. My father deserves the help and the right to work. He has never harmed anyone. He is as innocent of the cause of the present conflict as you or any of your trusted staff. During the 40 years here in America he has never thought of going back to Japan. This is borne out by the fact that none of us children can write even our own names in Japanese and though we speak the language, only the members of our family could understand it for when my brothers or I visit some other Japanese family we are lost when conversation in Japanese has to take place. I fully realize that you cannot accept the words of someone you do not know as being the truth, but I am sure that the gentlemen whose names I have listed will verify my statements in this letter as correct. Dean J. L. Bostwick, Dean of Men, University of New Mexico; Mr. E. H. Leupold, Belen; Mr. Archie M. McDowell, Principal Belen High School, Belen; Mr. George C. McBride, Superintendent of Schools, Belen; Mr. F. G. Fischer, Belen; Rev. Joseph Peterson, Pastor Federated Church, Belen; Mr. J. L. Gill, Principal Union High School, Las Cruces; and Mr. Al Seery, Belen.

I hope that the action you may take in answering this letter will not jeopardize your honor in any way and that you can help us. Your help means everything to us. May I say that this letter was written by myself after weeks of pondering and that I did so without help from anyone. I write to you because I feel that I am doing the right thing in appealing for justice.

I wish that I could express my deep gratitude for your attention and I shall be praying for your help.

Yours very sincerely,

James Matsu