Heart Mountain is asking to not increase the fee to process immigration documents
The U.S. Customs and Immigration Service is proposing to boost fees to process and copy immigration files from the end of the 19th century through the beginning of the 20th century. That could affect family research on people held at Japanese-American internment camps in the Mountain West during World War II.
For thousands of people whose families immigrated to the United States during this time period, these types of documents can mean the difference between a family legend and an established fact. The record contains travel documents, entry papers and even alien registration forms.
Ray Locker, Heart Mountain’s Director of Communications and Strategy, said those papers are important for families that may have ancestors who were incarcerated in Heart Mountain, located between Powell and Cody.
“We thought that it was important for us and other Japanese American confinement organizations to have our voice heard, because this affects real people,” Locker said. “After all, these are not the government's records. They're the public records. They belong to the families of the people who had to file them.”
If approved, the fee would increase from $65 to about $260. Locker said this type of increase makes it harder for families who are trying to piece together their family histories.
“It's kind of a fishing expedition to begin with, to see what's out there,” he said. “And then you have to file and you have to pay and you have to wait.”
Some 14,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated at Heart Mountain from 1942 through 1945.