Redress for Japanese Latin Americans/ U.S. legislation

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This article series was part of the spring 2007 Student Editor Program - Asian Pacific Americans and American Public Policy. For more information about how to use this site in the classroom, see the main informational page or contact Congresspedia Managing Editor Conor Kenny at Conoremail.png.
This article is part of Congresspedia’s coverage of Japanese Americans and Japanese Latin Americans and U.S. Policy During World War II

The series was part of the Student Editor Program - Asian Pacific Americans and American Public Policy.


History of Japanese Latin American oppression

From December 1941 to February 1948, the U.S. government orchestrated and financed the mass abduction and forcible deportation of 2,264 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry from 13 Latin American countries to be used as hostages in exchange for Americans held by Japan. Over 800 Japanese Latin Americans were included in two prisoner of war exchanges between the U.S. and Japan. The remaining Japanese Latin Americans were imprisoned without due process of law in U.S. Department of Justice internment camps until after the end of the war.

Stripped of their passports en route to the U.S. and declared “illegal aliens”, most of the incarcerated Japanese Latin Americans were forced to leave the U.S. after their release from camp. However, since many were barred from returning to their home countries, more than 900 Japanese Latin Americans were deported to war devastated Japan. Over 350 Japanese Latin Americans remained in the U.S. and fought deportation in the courts. Eventually, about 100 were able to return to Latin America. It was not until 1952 that those who stayed were allowed to begin the process of becoming U.S. permanent residents. Many later became U.S. citizens.

Japanese Latin Americans were subjected to gross violations of civil and human rights by the U.S. government during WWII. These violations were not justified by a security threat to Allied interests. Rather, it was the outcome of historical racism, anti-foreign prejudice, economic competition, and political opportunism. The U.S. government has yet to properly acknowledge this wrongdoing against the Japanese Latin Americans.[1]

Current legislation

Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Latin Americans of Japanese Descent Act of 2007

Although the internment experience itself took place over sixty years ago, the issue of redress for Japanese Latin Americans still gets attention today. The unwillingness of the Japanese Latin American people to accept historical silencing can be seen in their current activities in the political sphere.

Members of Congress have put together a bill "to establish a fact-finding Commission to extend the study of a prior Commission to investigate and determine facts and circumstances surrounding the relocation, internment, and deportation to Axis countries of Latin Americans of Japanese descent from December 1941 through February 1948, and the impact of those actions by the United States, and to recommend appropriate remedies, and for other purposes." [2]

A coalition of senators, both Republican and Democrat, are currently urging Congress to create a bill reinvigorating the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians previously set up by Congress in 1980. The commission would have the power to hold public hearings, receive evidence and give testimony or be able to recommend remedies based on its findings. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) has introduced a bill in the 110th Congress that would establish a commission that would determine the facts and circumstances involving the relocation, internment and deportation of Japanese Latin Americans.[3] The bill, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Latin Americans of Japanese Descent Act (S.381) is cosponsored by Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Robert Bennett (R-Utah), Joseph Biden (D-Del.), Thomas Carper (D-Del.), Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). [4]

An identical bill has also been filed in the House as H.662 by Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.). It is cosponsored by Reps. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), Christopher Cannon (R-Utah), Chaka Fattah (D-Penn.), Luis Fortuno (P.R.), Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Michael Honda (D-Calif.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas), Daniel Lungren (R-Calif.), Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.), James McGovern (D-Mass.), George Miller (D-Calif.), James Moran (D-Va.),Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Gerald Weller (R-Ill.), Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) and Donald Young (R-Ark.).[5]

Past legislation

Wartime Parity and Justice Act of 2000

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), proposed the Wartime Parity and Justice Act of 2000 on May 15, 2000. The bill was aimed at compensating people of Japanese ancestry who were taken from their homes in Latin American countries and interned in the United States during World War II. Speaking at a rally at the Japanese-American Nation Museum, Rep. Becerra said that while previous legislation offered redress to Japanese-Americans for the forced relocation, it failed to provide relief for Japanese-Latin Americans. [6]

"The Japanese-Latin Americans were unconscionably uprooted from their homes and forced into detention in the United States," Becerra said. During the war over 100,000 Japanese-Americans were held in detention centers without trials under President Franklin Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066. In addition to the Japanese-American detainees, over 2,000 Japanese-Latin Americans were taken from their homes in Latin American countries and held as part of a prisoner exchange program. [7]

While some 81,000 Japanese-Americans have received $20,000 each under the provisions of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, relief was not provided for the Japanese-Latin Americans because they were not considered citizens or legal residents during the war. [8]

The text of the Wartime Parity and Justice Act of 2000 said it would "allow certain individuals of Japanese ancestry who were brought forcibly to the United States from countries in Latin America during World War II and were interned in the United States to be provided restitution under the Civil Liberties Act of 1988." [9] The bill would extend the redress provisions of the 1988 act equally to Japanese Latin Americans. [10] It would also authorize $45 million for education funding to fulfill the mandate of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 in order to spread awareness and record for posterity the events in World War II. [11]

"It is time to finally, and conclusively, say to all those people who suffered as a consequence of this government's rash acts of hysteria that we will provide them justice," Becerra said. [12] "I believe the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 was the right thing to do to bring fairness to these Americans... However, justice demands a full account. The same attitudes that precipitated the internment of our own neighbors brought us to unjustly strip away the civil liberties of a whole group of people in nations not even participating in the war." [13]

Delegates of the Campaign for Justice, a community coalition which seeks redress for Japanese Latin Americans and who has led the legislative redress effort, went to Washington, D.C. to lobby for the bill the week of July 17, 2000. The delegates included: Grace Shimizu of El Cerritom California; Mariko Nakanishi, of Los Angeles, California; John Amerson, of Coppell, Texas; Hiroshi Dodohara, of Lusby, Maryland; and other supporters in the D.C. area. The Campaign is seeking additional cosponsors for the bill, especially Republican supporters in Congress. [14]

"We would like to thank Rep. Becerra and the original co-sponsors of this bill for taking action on what our country stands for," said Mariko Nakanishi of the Campaign for Justice. "As a nation we must continue to speak out against such grave injustices. We urge Congress to support this legislation so that we can be proud of the legacy of redress we leave behind." [15]

Gary Hayakawa, a Japanese American Republican from Fountain Valley, California, who was born in camp in Crystal City, Texas, expressed his support for their bill. Hayakawa also served in Vietnam. "This is an important issue that affects every American and needs bipartisan support," stressed Hayakawa. [16]

Rep. Becerra formally introduced the Wartime Parity and Justice Act of 2000 (H.R. 4735) on June 23, 2000. The Act eventually gathered 32 co-sponsors in addition to Rep. Becerra, including Republican Reps. Tom Campbell (R-Calif.) and Stephen Horn (R-Calif.). It was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary (then chaired by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) [17] and then to the its Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims. It never received a hearing or a vote. [18]

Wartime Parity and Justice Act of 2001

To allow certain individuals of Japanese ancestry who were brought forcibly to the United States from countries in Latin America during World War II and were interned in the United States to be provided restitution under the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, and for other purposes.[19]

To allow certain individuals of Japanese ancestry who were brought forcibly to the United States from countries in Latin America during World War II and were interned in the United States to be provided restitution under the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, and for other purposes.[20]

Wartime Parity and Justice Act of 2003 (Introduced in House)

To allow certain individuals of Japanese ancestry who were brought forcibly to the United States from countries in Latin America during World War II and were interned in the United States to be provided restitution under the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, and for other purposes.[21]

Articles and resources

Sources

  1. Becerra, Xavier & Lungren, Dan "HISTORICAL BACKGROUND," Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress, February, 2003.
  2. H.R. 662 "Japanese Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Latin Americans of Japanese Descent Act" January 24, 2007.
  3. "SENS. INOUYE, AKAKA, LEAHY, LEVIN, BENNETT, MURKOWSKI, STEVENS," US Fed News 15, 2007.
  4. Info page for S.381, OpenCongress.org, captured September 19, 2007.
  5. Info page for H.R.662, OpenCongress.org, captured September 20, 2007.
  6. "U.S. lawmaker proposes bill to redress Japanese-Americans," Kyodo News International, May 22, 2000.
  7. "U.S. lawmaker proposes bill to redress Japanese-Americans," Kyodo News International, May 22, 2000.
  8. "U.S. lawmaker proposes bill to redress Japanese-Americans," Kyodo News International, May 22, 2000.
  9. Thomas information page on H.R. 4735 (106th Congress), Library of Congress.
  10. "U.S. lawmaker proposes bill to redress Japanese-Americans," Kyodo News International, May 22, 2000.
  11. Article behind ProQuest pay wall. Can someone find an online version of this article that can be more easily viewed?
  12. "U.S. lawmaker proposes bill to redress Japanese-Americans," Kyodo News International, May 22, 2000.
  13. Article behind ProQuest pay wall. Can someone find an online version of this article that can be more easily viewed?
  14. Article behind ProQuest pay wall. Can someone find an online version of this article that can be more easily viewed?
  15. Article behind ProQuest pay wall. Can someone find an online version of this article that can be more easily viewed?
  16. Article behind ProQuest pay wall. Can someone find an online version of this article that can be more easily viewed?
  17. House Committee on the Judiciary website, captured September 20, 2007.
  18. Thomas information page on H.R. 4735 (106th Congress), Library of Congress.
  19. H.R. 619 "Wartime Parity and Justice Act of 2001" February 14, 2001.
  20. S 1237 IS "Wartime Parity and Justice Act of 2001" July 25, 2001.
  21. H.R. 779 "Wartime Parity and Justice Act of 2003" February 13, 2003.

External resources

  1. Asian Week Staff "Asian Week article on JLA Redress" "Inouye to Introduce JLA Redress Bill," Jul 18, 2001.
  2. Hayashi, Brian M. Democratizing the Enemy : the Japanese American Internment. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2004.
  3. Harth, Erica, ed. Last Witnesses : Reflections on the Wartime Internment of Japanese Americans. 1st ed. New York: Palgrave, 2001.
  4. Brooks, Roy L., ed. When Sorry Isn’T Enough : the Controversy Over Apologies and Reparations for Human Injustice. New York: New York UP, 1999.