WASHINGTON — Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) released the following statements to celebrate Fred Korematsu Day (Jan. 30):
• Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), CAPAC chair: “Fred Korematsu was an inspiration and a true civil rights icon. During a time in which racial prejudice and war hysteria led to the internment of over 100,000 Japanese Americans, Fred refused to be silent in the face of intolerance and injustice. As we celebrate his life and legacy, let us renew our commitment to remain vigilant in protecting the rights of all Americans.”
• Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii): “Fred Korematsu fought tirelessly and courageously for the constitutional rights of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans, including those interned in Hawaii during World War II. I am honored to have known Fred and his family. I am proud Hawaii is one of five states to recognize Fred Korematsu Day and committed to preserving his heroic legacy of standing strong for civil rights even in the face of war and discrimination.”
• Rep. Mike Honda (D-Santa Clara), CAPAC chair emeritus: “Today we celebrate the fifth Fred Korematsu Day and honor the life of Fred Korematsu — a civil rights leader who stood up and challenged the injustices imposed upon Japanese Americans during World War II. As a Japanese American who was illegally incarcerated, I thank Mr. Korematsu for his bravery, his commitment to civil rights, and his sacrifice for our community and our nation. Mr. Korematsu is a true American hero. Fred Korematsu Day reminds us that the fight for civil rights is not over — through education and a collective voice calling for justice and equality, we can be the more perfect union promised in the Constitution.”
• Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside), CAPAC whip: “As a Japanese American whose immediate family was affected by the Japanese internment during World War II, it is with great pride that I celebrate the fifth annual Fred Korematsu Day. Fred’s commitment towards justice and freedom during one of America’s dark periods is a prime example of courage, which resonates deeply with the Japanese American community. Let us never forget his actions and continue to fight for the rights of all Americans.”
• Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii): “On Fred Toyosaburo Korematsu Day, we honor the life of a man who refused to back down in the face of unspeakable adversity. Mr. Korematsu’s struggle was not self-centered; he stood up for Japanese Americans who were subject to internment across the country, including the Oahu Honouliuli camp, or those who served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II. He remains an inspiration as we continue to fight for civil rights and liberties today.”
• Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland): “Fred Korematsu’s story is a reminder of the power of having a courageous voice. A native of Oakland, Fred Korematsu refused to accept state-sanctioned injustice and racism. After he was placed in an internment camp during World War II, Fred Korematsu challenged our nation to stand up for the rights of all. Even after the Supreme Court upheld the unjust incarceration of more than a hundred thousand Americans, he never gave up the fight for civil rights. When I first met him years later, he was still a tireless champion for the voiceless. Today, his legacy is a reminder of our shared responsibility to advocate for justice and equality.”
• Rep. Mark Takai (D-Hawaii): “I am thrilled to join my colleagues in honoring Fred Korematsu, a civil rights pioneer who fought for Japanese Americans’ rights for decades. As I did in the Hawaii Legislature, I will soon be introducing legislation that recognizes the efforts of several Americans of Japanese ancestry, like Korematsu, who challenged the validity and constitutionality of wartime actions.”
Fred Korematsu Day is the first day in U.S. history named after an Asian American. During World War II, Korematsu refused to relocate to an internment camp under President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, which mandated the mass roundup and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans. Korematsu was eventually arrested and interned in May of 1942. He worked with the American Civil Liberties Union to challenge his case, ultimately taking it to the Supreme Court. Although unsuccessful at the time, he cleared his name in 1983 – more than four decades after first being detained.
The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus is composed of members of Congress of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and members who have a strong dedication to promoting the well-being of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. It has been addressing the needs of the AAPI community in all areas of American life since it was founded in 1994.