Making paper cranes to send the message “We stand with you” to interned children in Texas

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Origami cranes can’t really fly. But Japanese Americans from around the country hope they will bring a message of support to children and parents who are currently interred at the southern border at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas.

To support this national effort, a group of local people will gather upstairs at the Lake Forest Park Town Center on Wednesday, March 20th from 4:00 to 8:00 pm, to make and string paper cranes.

Then, the cranes will be sent to the organizers of the pilgrimage by Japanese Americans to be held on March 30, 2019. 

They are taking this action because they can’t forget what happened to loved ones who were interred in their own country, not because of what they did, but because of what they looked like. Painful memories still reverberate from WWII when 110,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated nationwide from February 19, 1942 to March 20, 1946.

“We want children and families separated and incarcerated in detention sites, or separated by the Muslim travel ban to know that Japanese Americans are fighting for them,” says Michael Ishii of New York, one of the pilgrims who will attend the march. 

Early in the day, the pilgrimage will visit the former Crystal City Internment Camp in south Texas, where thousands of Japanese Americans and Japanese Latin Americans were held during World War II. Then, they will march to the Texas detention center where the cranes will be hung on the chain link fence which surrounds the facility.

The South Texas Family Residential Center, located an hour south of San Antonio, is a 2,400-bed facility, the largest detention facility in the nation. Even infants are detained there. Earlier this month 12 babies were released from ICE custody after complaints by immigrant advocates that they were not receiving adequate care.

The infants were described as listless and were not engaged with their surroundings. There were also toddlers who were in even worse conditions. “There is a clear and obvious stunt in development,” according to digital reporter for CBS News, Kate Smith, who reported on the story.

Internment of families affects us all

Sally Yamasaki and Luanne Brown, both of Lake Forest Park, were inspired to offer this event for the Lake Forest Park community and surrounding area where they live.

For Yamasaki and Brown, the incarceration of asylum seekers hits very personally. 

Yamasaki recalls, “It’s meaningful to me because my dad was incarcerated during World War II. He was 17 and was supposed to be graduating from Queen Anne high school, but instead he was initially relocated to the horse stalls at the Puyallup Fairgrounds, renamed Camp Harmony. At that time, hardly any people spoke out for this injustice. However, one teacher did come to see him. That gesture struck him deeply." 

For Yamasaki, making these cranes is her way of speaking up for the incarcerated children and parents seeking asylum.

"Although we can’t be there for the march, we can still let those who are being held in Texas know that with each crane we make, we send the message, ‘you are not alone.’”

Luanne Brown said,
“When Sally asked me to join her in this effort, I was very pleased to do so. My father served in the WWII in the 278th FABN and he was one of the first officers into Dachau after the camp was liberated. He was stunned by what he saw there, and it impacted the rest of his life in profound ways. 
"He told me frequently, ‘Luanne, what happened in Europe during the war could happen here, in this country.’ His words have stayed with me always,” Brown said. “And we must all do what we can to stand against hate, whatever form it takes to make sure my father’s fears don’t come true.”

From the tutorial
The paper crane-making tradition

The Japanese tradition of making 1000 cranes comes from a senbazuru legend that says if you make a 1000 paper cranes you will be granted a wish by the gods. This tradition gained worldwide attention in the 1950s with a Japanese girl, Sadako Sasaki who contracted leukemia from being exposed to radiation from the Hiroshima atomic bomb. 

While in the hospital she started folding cranes wishing for her health and peace and healing to all victims of the world. She died when she was 12 having folded over 1000 cranes. Today, her story inspires people from around the world as a symbol of peace, hope, and good wishes to children and others who are ill or need of help in other ways.

The strings of cranes or tsuru from Lake Forest Park will be joined with others from across the country and the world. A donation of cranes is arriving from Japan, too. Paper and string will be supplied, and the folding technique will be demonstrated.

Will you help us fold?

If you’d like to start making paper cranes today or practice how to before the event, this tutorial is will help.

Cranes are being made by people all over the States and are being collected by Grassroots Leadership in Austin, Texas.

The Seattle crane project is sponsored by Seattle Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), APACE, and the Puyallup JACL.

Lake Forest Park Town Center is at the intersection of Bothell and Ballinger Way NE. The group will gather in The Commons on the upper level.


Doug March 16, 2019 at 7:58 AM  

Thank God our country has a safe holding place for border violators. It is a safe and clean place for children to be cared for while their identities and paperwork is tended to. It is also an opportunity to assure that the children are with their rightful parents and not being victims os trafficking.

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