WASHINGTON — Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus released the following statements regarding the Japanese Latin American experience during World War II on Feb. 19:
• Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), CAPAC chair: “As we mark the Day of Remembrance for Japanese Americans, we must also reflect on the injustice faced by more than 2,300 men, women and children of Japanese decent who were taken from their homes in Latin American countries during World War II. Many were imprisoned on American soil and used in hostage negotiations with Japan. Some were even deported to Axis countries. We mark this solemn event each year so that these dark days of American history are never repeated.”
• Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside), CAPAC whip: “On this solemn day of remembrance, let us not forget the abhorrent acts that were committed against Latin Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II. As a result of Executive order 9066, over 2,000 Japanese Latin Americans were removed from their homes, held captive, and in some cases, used as prisoner negotiations with Japan. Even in times of crisis, our nation’s commitment to uphold the values of our Constitution should never yield, and fairness and equality must be ensured for all.”
• Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose), CAPAC chair emeritus: “Today we remember not only the incarceration of the Japanese, Italian, and German Americans during World War II, but we also remember the often forgotten Japanese Latin Americans who were also forcibly removed and incarcerated. 2,300 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry were extricated from 13 Latin American countries and brought to the U.S. Once here, they were placed in internment camps and used as pawns in exchange for POWs in the Pacific.
“Unlike the Japanese Americans, including my family, who received redress for the wartime transgression in 1988, Japanese Latin Americans have still not received an apology from the US government. It is time for us to recognize the injustices we inflicted on the Japanese Latin Americans. As global citizens, we need to remain cognizant of our history and fight to preserve freedom for all.”
• Rep. Ami Bera (D-Rancho Cordova): “On this Remembrance Day, we reflect on the internment of thousands of Latin Americans of Japanese descent who were expatriated and held in internment camps along with 120,000 Japanese Americans. We should use this somber anniversary to reaffirm our nation’s role in speaking out against injustices at home and abroad.”
• Rep. Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa): “Today we remember the more than 2,000 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry who were taken from Latin American countries and relocated to U.S. internment camps during World War II simply because of their race. As many Japanese Latin Americans were deported back to Japan or other Axis countries, their lives were completed altered and their families were torn apart. As we reflect on the irreparable harm suffered by these families, may we reaffirm now and always that such wrongful treatment can never be tolerated during wartime or in peace.”
During World War II, the United States relocated approximately 2,300 men, women and children from Peru and other Latin American countries and held them in internment camps on American soil. From 1941 to 1945, these individuals were used in hostage exchanges, which often resulted in deportation to Japan or other Axis countries.
After the war, many of the detainees were not sent back to Latin America but instead were deported to Japan. Some successfully fought to remain in the U.S.
In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act, granting $20,000 in redress to Japanese Americans interned during the war, but did not include Japanese Latin Americans on the grounds that they were not U.S. citizens or permanent residents at the time. Advocates argued that since the detainees were brought to the U.S. against their will, their immigration status should not be used against them.
After a decade, following a class-action lawsuit, the U.S. government offered settlements of $5,000 to Japanese Latin Americans and a letter of regret. Some accepted the settlement, while others said the amount of compensation and the wording of the letter were inadequate and opted to continue pursuing justice through the courts.
Hundreds of people of Japanese, German and Italian descent have yet to receive appropriate redress.