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Feb. 19 ceremony marks Japanese internment

For many Japanese-Americans, Feb. 19, 1942, is as memorable as any date in U.S. history.

Two months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 - resulting in the imprisonment of thousands of Japanese-Americans.Forced from homes and businesses, people of Japanese descent were herded into railroad cars to desolate relocation camps, including the Topaz barracks near Delta.

Utahns will mark the anniversary of Executive Order 9066 on Feb. 19 at 7:30 p.m. with a Day of Remembrance program at Cottonwood High School, 5717 S. 1300 East.

Acting assistant attorney general for civil rights Bill Lann Lee, whose recent presidential nomination was vigorously opposed by U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, will offer the keynote.

"FDR's executive order that threw us into camps was a great loss of civil rights," said Yas Tokita, who leads the Intermountain District Council of the Japanese American Citizens League.

"We thought it would be appropriate that the country's number one civil rights guy address this forum."

Earlier in the day, Lee is expected to visit the remains of the Topaz Relocation Center, which once detained 8,000 American citizens and legal residents.

He'll be accompanied by his Department of Justice legal counsel, Stuart Ishimaru.

The Washington, D.C., lawyer's parents were "relocated" for a time at Topaz.

"(Ishimaru's) first visit to Topaz should be very symbolic and very touching," said Tokita, who himself spent the World War II years in an Idaho internment camp.

Lee was a regular in Utah news last year.

Hatch, R-Utah, bristled at Lee's nomination, saying he had a history of distorting law to push racial-preference programs that courts have made "presumptively unconstitutional."