Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Kazumu Naganuma Interview
Narrator: Kazumu Naganuma
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda, Yoko Nishimura
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: September 20, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-482-12

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: You talked about needing to get your birth certificate from Peru for, I think, your U.S. citizenship, which you were talking earlier, that you received, I guess, last year, 2018?

KN: My citizenship? Yes.

TI: Yeah, so tell me about that. Why did you decide to become a U.S. citizen when you're in your late seventies?

KN: Right. Part of that was because, I think, okay, it might be easier just to travel with a U.S. passport. So I applied in 2017. Of course, it took forever. And, of course, then we started the new administration, then I realized it's time to make a move. With this administration we're vulnerable. I even saw an article, it was on either 60 Minutes or what, there was a person with a green card, and he broke the law and they got him out. They took his green card out and they shipped him out. So we're vulnerable, especially with this administration, it's just way too scary. That's another reason why. And, of course, it took so long, I ended up getting my Peruvian passport. There's a story of that in itself, because years ago, when I first got my Peruvian passport, we went through red tape, it was just a horrible place to go, to the consulate general here, they just put you through the wringer. We had a contact in Los Angeles, this is through my sister Kiyo, who was a newspaper writer and he traveled to, back to Peru once a month. And he took care of my birth certificate for me, he had to get a current one in order to get my passport for my trip to Japan. And he did that quickly, and they had to have something more current, my old one didn't work. So he took care of that, so the contacts that we had is so crucial. And then the social security one, I turned sixty-five, and they said you to have the original birth certificate. I said, "I don't have any." I can't tell them I was kidnapped, they don't know what I'm talking about. So we had this whole thing again, contacts in Peru, they had it done quickly. It was so encouraging, no red tape, we get all the red tape here. Went back to the Peruvian consulate the first time I went there years ago, this is back in the '70s, '80s, it was really hard. The last one I got to travel to Japan which was 2018, they changed everything, meaning they call it, they were people-friendly. Everything changed there for the better. During the time I was having trouble back in the '70s, '80s, our contact in Los Angeles said, "Who is this person that you have so much trouble with?" and I said, well, and then he sent a picture to me, "Is this her?" I said, "Yeah." He says he's gotten a lot of complaints about that woman.

TI: Just that one person?

KN: Well, he got her out because it's a constant complaint. And that's different from what they have now. The woman there, I had my friend from Guatemala help me fill out some of the forms, because it's all in Spanish. So his wife helped me, which was really great, but when I was at the consulate, there were other additional things, and the woman there, she just said, "Oh, I'll help you," she just filled it all out for me. So there's a big difference from years ago, so that was really quite refreshing to get that kind of service. And I was also relieved about the U.S. citizenship. First of all, there's a hundred questions that you have to answer. But once you pass sixty-five, I believe, they narrowed it down to twenty. So I said, okay, that's a lot easier.

TI: So it had to be after you're sixty-five years old, you mean, they make it simpler?

KN: Simpler.

TI: I didn't know that.

KN: Okay, well, so you say, "Well, fine, and most of it you learn in high school, but high school was a long time ago. So out of the twenty -- they give you a booklet -- and out of the twenty they'll ask you ten. They even asterisk, out of the hundred, which twenty, so you could know which one they're going to ask. [Laughs] So you could quickly kind of do a quick, refresh your memories.

TI: That's funny. Because I've heard people say the regular test is, a hundred questions are hard.

KN: It could be, yes. If you're in governmental, you know anything, if you watch MSNBC, you should know all that by now, but not most people do. I went and... first of all, the environment there at the immigration office, again, very different. When we came out of camp, we had to check in every month. Every month, take a day off, my sister took a day off work, Sumi, took Jimmy, George and myself there. Of course, we never drove there, we took a bus, it felt like forever to get there. So the whole day is spent there. You go there, you wait, there's hundreds of people. Several hours later, you get in, you register and you go back home. Another side thing is our family has motion sickness, so even taking the bus, we get motion sickness, we're that sensitive. It's our eye-ear, all that. So we had to get off several blocks before we got home to walk home. But those days were just grueling because... so now I go there for my U.S. citizenship, it was before October, to do the test. And I get in line and the guard there, first of all, welcomes you, "Oh, are you here for your citizenship?" "Yes." Then he said, "Okay, you go over there," they just escort you, and the woman there says, "Okay, just relax." [Laughs] Take a deep breath, you go to the second floor, clear instructions, very friendly. I go to the second floor, there's maybe forty people or so waiting. And I could see immediately all the people that's going to give you the test are, of course, younger, just casually, not the old fogies that we had before. Totally different environment. The guy that interviewed me had all my papers ready, and he had to dig because back in those days, no computers. So he had my army record, he had the record of our internment, so he had it all ready. And then basically, as we were just talking, he knew, I've been here for a while and I knew English, so he gave me like two questions and we're done. But I can imagine...

TI: Do you think part of it was your service? I think you were a National Guard.

KN: Perhaps. I brought my army discharge and National Guard discharge papers, and that was important because they didn't have that, but they had the record. It could be that, but I think also because he knew the story of the internment.

TI: Oh, interesting.

KN: Because he had that all in front of him, which I was glad, he knew...

TI: But did he know the Japanese Peruvian part? That was probably....

KN: He knew because of the papers and that was important. I was surprised that he had things ready, he knew who I was. That was really good. Two questions, I was done, a few months later I was sworn in in Oakland, they do like a thousand people at a time. That's an interesting experience in itself. In this case, I had 880 people there out of eighty different countries. And they go by alphabetical order, they say, "Okay, for the people that are from this country, you stand up." They say from Peru, I think I was the only one. [Laughs] Mexico, big group. From China, big group. But that was a good experience, and then I got my papers, then, of course, I got my passport. I got the passport just because, for any travel it would be a lot easier.

TI: Does that make you think any differently now that you're a U.S. citizen? Did that change you in any way?

KN: It makes me feel a lot more protected. Right now because, again, I go back to our administration is breaking the law daily, daily. Anything they could get away with, because the House is, I mean, the Senate is just letting them get away with it. So you feel safer, it makes a big difference in that sense, yeah. They can't do something weird to get you in trouble, that makes a big difference. So that's the part that means a lot to me.

YN: How was your identity? Is that changing? Because you were basically growing up here, but you're keeping that Peruvian passport for a long time and now your identity became a U.S. citizen. How your identity, did you feel more American, and still you feel more Peruvian?

KN: No, not much different, to be honest. I was always proud to be a Japanese Peruvian, citizenship or not. And now that the stories are coming out, I get together, Hiro Shimizu and I, we all grew up together, so our group gets together once every two months or so. And they hear the story and say, "Oh, I forgot, you're from Peru," things like that are coming up. And so it's fine, but as far as the impressions or anything, like I said, my racquetball club group, they're having fun calling me Julio. And I had fun with that, too, because they see me differently. It's more they know that I'm from a different country. And some people say, "Where are you from? You look Japanese," or, "You look Asian." [Laughs] But it's all in good spirit, I think, I like that a lot. It hasn't changed anything as far as my inner feelings. I think I've always been good about who I am and I go back to, I know it's from my parents. And my older siblings, they have a big influence in me, a lot more than I had imagined until I became older and I realized all the things that they've done that's influenced me being the youngest. So not a whole lot difference in ID, I am who I am and I feel good about it.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.