Camp Amache Preservation Bill Overwhelmingly Passes US House

Caitlyn Kim/CPR News
A weathered wooden map of Amache drawn by Eddie Kubota, a high school student at Amache, at the entrance of the camp.

The House passed a bill Thursday that would make Camp Amache, a former Japanese American internment camp located in southeastern Colorado, part of the National Park System, on a 416-2 vote.

Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse, who introduced the Amache National Historic Site Act, said he was “extremely excited” that the bill passed. He described it as an “important step in terms of ultimately ensuring that this important story that is told by the Amache internment camp is preserved for future generations.”

“I've always believed that the landscapes, the cultural places, the stories we choose to protect, really reflect our values as a country and in that vein the story of Amache is such an important one,” Neguse said.

Neguse sponsored the bill with Republican Rep. Ken Buck, who represents the area where the camp is located. 

“Our nation is better today because of the lessons we have learned from our past,” Buck said in a statement. “The Amache National Historic Site Act is important because it recognizes the horrible injustices committed against Japanese Americans and preserves the site for people throughout Colorado and the United States.”

The two introduced the bill in April, and it moved quickly through the chamber. It helped that Neguse is chair of the relevant subcommittee and that leadership of the House Natural Resources Committee is also on board. But Neguse added that, more broadly, it was the experiences of those who lived through Amache that resonated with members on both sides of the aisle.

In urging members to vote for the bill, Republican Rep. Bruce Westerman of Arkansas, ranking member of the committee, described the “powerful” testimony from Amache survivor Bob Fuchigami as part of his decision to support the bill. 

“Sites like Amache help to remind us of the challenges our nation has faced and the mistakes we have made as we have endeavored to form a more perfect union. I urge my colleges to support this bill so that, in Mr. Fuchigami’s own words, ‘We can help shine a light on this forgotten history.’”

The Amache Act now heads to the Senate, where Neguse and Buck hope Senators will act quickly on the measure.

Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper have asked the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to schedule a hearing for the bill.

“Preserving Amache is about what we choose to remember and what we commit ourselves to prevent,” said Hickenlooper. “The ball is now in the Senate’s court.”

Bennet said he looks forward to working with colleagues in the Senate to pass the bill, and preserving the site for future generations.

It might be a while, though, before the chamber takes up the issue. There are a number of other, more pressing, priorities currently on the Senate’s plate, including infrastructure, reconciliation and budget bills. 

Congress is still scheduled to be on recess for most of August.

CPR’s coverage of Colorado’s congressional delegation focuses on accountability and on providing information constituents need to live their lives. Read more about our priorities here.