Federal recognition of Crystal City internment camp still an issue

St. Mary’s history students pushing for federal legislation

St. Mary's University students are pushing the federal government to formally acknowledge the internment camp that held German American families in Crystal City during World War II.

SAN ANTONIOUpdate (11:20 a.m. Friday): A spokesperson for Rep. Joaquin Castro has released the following statement to KSAT regarding the push for the bill:

“Congressman Castro is continuing to prepare this bill for introduction and invites his fellow members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, to join him as original co-sponsors. He thanks Dr. Teresa Van Hoy and the history students at St. Mary’s University for their advocacy.”

Original: A national movement that began at St. Mary’s University five years ago continues to push for federal legislation, formally acknowledging the government’s internment of German-Americans at a camp in Crystal City, southwest of San Antonio, during World War II.

History students led by professor Teresa Van Hoy reported they had at least 240 signed letters urging Congressman Joaquin Castro to push for passage of the legislation he proposed, in hopes it could be enacted and signed by President Joe Biden on Feb. 27, 2023, to mark the 75th anniversary of the camp’s closing.

Nate Liveris, a freshman and this year’s student leader of the project, said German-Americans “have every right to be recognized along with Japanese-Americans and Italian-Americans.

They also were deemed by the U.S. government at the time as “enemy aliens,” leading to their interments.

Liveris said, “The whole goal is to ensure that they are remembered and exonerated from all the accusations that they were charged of, and wrongfully imprisoned.”

He said they are especially mindful of the children who were interned there and who are now in their 80s and 90s.

“They’re still having to live with this legacy of imprisonment by the United States government,” Liveris said.

He and Charles Rickets, a freshman assisting Liveris, spoke via Zoom to one of the former child internees, Werner Ulrich Jr.

“We’re happy to represent you,” Rickets told him.

“I’m absolutely grateful,” Ulrich said. “I don’t want to see Crystal City die away, and it will if we don’t do anything. It will die away.”

About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.