CFJ Redress Update
February 22, 2004 San Francisco Day of
By Grace Shimizu, Campaign for Justice
Published in Nichi Bei Times, Tuesday, March 9, 2004
The US government would like to have you believe that the wartime
experience of persons of Japanese ancestry, both US citizens and
immigrants, and our struggle for redress is over…a closed
chapter. Many people have accepted this because of the passage of
the historic Civil Liberties Act of 1988 and the completion of a
10-year redress program whereby the majority of former Japanese
American internees received an apology letter and their symbolic
So why are we still struggling for redress? And why is the US government
continuing to fight former internees and our community in the courts
and in the halls of Congress?
Our community has unfinished redress business. Here are three reasons
why we are carrying on the redress struggle:
The first reason is because there are still over
1000 Japanese Latin Americans as well as Japanese Americans who
have not received proper redress from the US government. During
our candle lighting ceremony today, we were honored with the presence
of two of our neighbors who are carrying that light for justice—Jane
Yano and Art Shibayama. The US government fought Jane all the way
to the US Supreme Court. And the US government has never explained
why there were still Japanese Americans kept in internment camps
for years after the war ended.
And what about Art Shibayama? Again, the US government has fought
the Japanese Latin Americans all the way to the US Supreme Court
and forced us to take their case to the international community.
War crimes and crimes against humanity---this is the level of severity
of the human rights violations for which the US has not been held
accountable---and, under international law, these crimes are ongoing
until there is full acknowledgment, a sincere apology and proper
redress. Why does the US government continue to refuse to do the
right thing? Why is there not full implementation of international
and human rights law for immigrants and citizens in the US?
We are fighting for redress for those in our community who have
been deemed “ineligible” even though their rights were
violated. We are fighting for redress for those who did not get
it in the name of achieving redress for the majority of Japanese
Americans. We continue this struggle because at stake is the precedent
of what the government can and cannot get away with and who can
and cannot qualify for redress, should the US government ever again
inflict such wrongdoing on its own citizens and immigrants inside
and outside its borders.
The second reason we carry on the redress struggle
is because we want the US government to fulfill the educational
mandate of the Civil Liberties Act. Our community was promised $50
million dollars for education and research, but only $5 million
was appropriated during the last year of the 10-year redress program.
We want the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund to be reestablished
with the $45 million that is still owed to our community and the
The necessity for this education has been underscored in the aftermath
of 9-11 and the unfolding of the global and domestic “war
on terrorism”. Remember last year’s comments by North
Carolina’s Representative Howard Coble when he justified the
internment of Japanese Americans by saying it was for “their
own safety” and because “some were probably intent on
doing harm to us just as some of these Arab Americans are probably
intent on doing us harm.”
Our community knows the danger of such pronouncements, especially
when made by a US Congressman who voted against the Civil Liberties
Act of 1988 and who is now the chairperson of the House of Representatives’
Subcommittee on Homeland Security. We don’t want such distortion
of our history to be used to discredit and slander other communities.
The legacy of our wartime experience should serve to prevent the
repeat of such violations, not to justify the destruction of our
nation’s constitutional and human rights today.
Education is a critical part of our legacy. The public education
fund will be an opportunity for people of any race, ethnicity or
creed to propose an educational or research project that will help
us learn not only about the wartime experiences of people of Japanese
ancestry, but also of other scapegoated communities like the German
and Italian American communities during WWII. And the education
fund will also be an opportunity to explore parallels and lessons
about how our civil and human rights remain vulnerable to attack
This brings me to the third reason why we are
still struggling for redress. We are fighting to stand up to the
government’s past discriminatory actions and its current “instant
replay” of those actions—especially against immigrants
and racial minorities who are being targeted as the possible “enemy”.
What happened to the Issei and the Japanese Latin Americans is history
repeating itself in the government’s current racial profiling,
discriminatory immigration policies, detentions without charge or
due process, and expedited deportations. These policies have sown
the seeds of distrust and divisiveness throughout the country, which
manifest themselves in hate crimes, physical violence and verbal
attacks --- especially against our neighbors who are US citizens
and immigrants of Muslim, Middle Eastern and South Asian ancestry.
The constitutionality of the internment was never ruled upon, so
it is still legal for our government to repeat the wholesale incarceration
of citizens and non-citizens alike in the name of national security.
The U.S. Constitution was written to protect all people in the United
States, not just people who are US citizens. Today, the defense
of our Constitution has never been put to a harder test.
Our struggle continues because we are concerned with how our history
is being interpreted and what will be the legacy of our Nikkei experience.
We want our legacy to show that we fought our best so that no one
in our community—neither Japanese American nor Japanese Latin
American--was left behind and deprived of their right to redress.
We want the full implementation of the education fund that can serve
as a bridge from the past to the present and be part of a legacy
for future generations. We want our legacy to show that our struggle
for redress, both in its early stages and now, is a struggle for
truth and justice that reaches beyond our immediate community and
is part of the common struggle in which we are all engaged: to defend
our Constitution, to apply international human rights to the US,
and to ensure human dignity.
So what can you do?
We invite you to support and participate in the first Assembly
on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians in the early fall
of this year. This major public event will be held in the San Francisco
Bay Area to publicize and document the experiences of Japanese Americans
and Japanese Latin Americans through their own testimony. They will
speak in front of a public audience and a panel of elected officials,
historians and other dignitaries. It will be a time when the public
will be able to put a human face to the shameful wartime experience.
The public will be able to hear the stories of Art, Jane and others
who have not been given their due acknowledgment nor apology. It
will also be a time for individuals and organizations from all communities
to voice their concerns about the US government’s failure
to fulfill the educational mandate of the Civil Liberties Act. We
hope for extensive media coverage and we will document the proceedings
and present the findings to Congress as part of an educational process.
Our community’s goal is to secure a congressional hearing
for our comprehensive redress legislation, the Wartime Parity and
Justice Act, HR 779.
- We need volunteers to help us organize, to provide logistical
and translation support, and to make sure the event runs smoothly.
Also, please help us spread the word…to your family, friends,
coworkers, your church or temple, and your community organizations.
- We would like you to express your opinion on the plight of
those in our community who have been denied redress and concerns
for ongoing education. We will be collecting written testimonies
from the former internees and from any concerned member of the
public: you can be of any age, race, ethnicity, creed, religion,
gender, political affiliation, and you need not have been interned
in the camps. Send us your thoughts and we will be able to include
some of these written testimonies at the public testimonial event.
Let your voice be heard on this critical human and civil rights
- Also, please support our comprehensive redress legislation,
“The Wartime Parity & Justice Act”, HR 779, which
is pending in Congress. Sign our support letter and urge your
Congressperson and Senator to support our legislaiton. See our
information table that will be set up at the community center
during the reception for more information.
- And last, but not least, we need your financial support. And
we hope that you will give generously. Please make your donation
to the “Campaign For Justice”.
Thank you for your kind attention and consideration of our call
for community support and action.