My name is Rose Shibayama Nishimura. I was born in Lima, Peru. My parents had a successful business importing textiles and manufacturing dress shirts. We had maids and a chauffeur who drove us to a private school. May grandparents owned a department store in Callao and were one of the first Japanese Peruvians to be taken hostage. They were used in one of the exchanges for American civilians trapped in Asia. We never got to see them again.
After the first Japanese Peruvian hostages were placed on a U.S. Army transport and shipped to an unknown destination, each time a U.S. transport arrived in the harbor some of the Japanese Peruvian men went into hiding, including our father. The police came looking for him several times and not finding him, they arrested my mother and placed her in jail. Our oldest sister, who was 11 years old, went with her because she did not our mother to be alone. When word of this reached my father, he gave himself up.
We were then put on a U.S. Army transport called Cuba. We were guarded by U.S. military personnel with rifles, machine guns and whips. Passports were confiscated. The women and children were put in a small cabin. There were six of us, our mother and five children. Another family of four were placed in the same cabin, so many of us had to sleep on the floor.
The men and older boys, 13 years and older, were put down below and were only allowed to go on deck twice a day for ten minutes. During those ten minutes, the women and children had to remain in their cabins. Families were separated and were unable to see each other during the entire trip, which took 21 days.
When we arrived in New Orleans, the women and children were led off the ship first and marched to a warehouse. We were ordered to strip and stand in line naked. We were then sprayed with insecticide. We were put on a train and then the men and older boys followed the same procedure. On the train, the families were finally reunited. It took two days for us to arrive at Crystal City, Texas. One of my sisters believed that we were going to be killed at the end of the train ride.
They put us in a camp with barbed wire fences and we were guarded by U.S. soldiers with machine guns in guard towers. They put eight of us in two rooms of a three room barrack. In camp our parents sent us to Japanese language school because there were only Japanese and English schools and no Spanish schools. English was rarely used in Peru in those days.
After two and a half years in Crystal City, there were reports that the camp was going to be closed. We wanted to return to Peru, but the Peruvian government would not permit us to return, so we were paroled to Seabrook Farms in New Jersey. There my oldest brother and sister had to go to work since my mother was pregnant and my father was unable to support the family of six children working alone. We had difficulty communicating with other workers because we did not speak English.
After two and a half years in Seabrook, my father gave up all hope of returning to Peru, so we moved to Chicago in March 1949. In 1952, my oldest brother got drafted into the U.S. Army. In 1953 while serving in the Army, his warrant officer tried to get him his citizenship, but my brother was denied because the government claimed that he did not have legal entry into the United States.
We did not want to come to the United States. We were forcibly brought here by the U.S. government on a U.S. military transport, put in a Department of Justice internment camp administered by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) so how could we be considered illegal aliens? Passports were confiscated when we boarded ship. Later, we learned that between 1953 and 1955 two of our Japanese Peruvian friends received their permanent residency and citizenship while in the Army.
Between August 1954 and July 1955, 150 Japanese Peruvians received permanent residency retroactive status without leaving the country. And because of their retroactive status, they qualified to receive the redress of $20,000.
We had our hearing with the INS in August 1954 and they sent us to Canada in 1956 to get legal entry. Now were are denied redress because of the mistake INS made. My mother received retroactive status and received redress. One of our sisters did not go to Canada and received permanent residency in 1957. She received redress after two appeals, but the rest of us are still being denied.
Crystal City Page