State Senate Supports Presidential Medal of Freedom for Mitsuye Endo

0

SACRAMENTO  — The California State Senate on July 2 voted 38-0 to pass SJR 12, a joint resolution supporting the nomination of Mitsuye Endo (1920-2006) for the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The resolution, which has bipartisan support, will now go to the State Assembly, where it has been co-sponsored by nine members. A vote is expected in August.

Mitsuye Endo was one of four plaintiffs who challenged the constitutionality of the Japanese American incarceration during World War II. She won a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision in late 1944 that led to the closing of the camps and allowed Japanese Americans to begin returning to the West Coast.

The Japanese American Citizens League partnered with State Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) to sponsor the resolution. The principal co-authors are Sens. Carol Liu (D-Glendale) and Janet Nguyen (R-Santa Ana).

Mitsuye Endo

Mitsuye Endo

Principal co-authors in the Assembly are Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), Ling Ling Chang (R-Brea), Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park), David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Kansen Chu (D-Milpitas), Young Kim (R-Fullerton), Evan Low (D-Cupertino), Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), and Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara).

If passed, copies of the resolution will be sent to President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

The resolution reads, in part:

“Mitsuye Endo was among 120,000 Japanese Americans residing on the West Coast of the United States who were forced from their homes in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor … Pursuant to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order No. 9066, Mitsuye Endo and her family were uprooted from their Sacramento home and incarcerated first in the Tule Lake War Relocation Camp in California, and later in the Topaz War Relocation Camp in Utah. Altogether, Endo spent nearly three years surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers in some of the most remote and desolate areas of the United States …

“Based on Mitsuye Endo’s background as a loyal American citizen, a Nisei (second-generation Japanese American) from Sacramento who was Christian, had never been to Japan, and had a brother serving in the U.S. Army, Endo was selected as the plaintiff for a test case challenging Japanese internment …

Ex parte Mitsuye Endo (1944) 323 U.S. 283 was a habeas corpus case challenging the authority of Executive Order No. 9066 and the War Relocation Authority to detain a ‘concededly loyal’ American citizen without charges. The case was first filed on July 13, 1942, while Endo was incarcerated at Tule Lake, denied in 1943, and appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1944 …

“While her case was proceeding, Endo rejected an offer from the government for conditional release, choosing instead to remain incarcerated to allow her case to continue through the court system …

“On Dec. 18, 1944, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in favor of Endo, stating that ‘A citizen who is concededly loyal presents no problem of espionage or sabotage. Loyalty is a matter of the heart and mind not of race, creed, or color. He who is loyal is by definition not a spy or a saboteur. When the power to detain is derived from the power to protect the war effort against espionage and sabotage, detention which has no relationship to that objective is unauthorized’ …

“On Dec. 17, 1944, the Roosevelt Administration, which had been alerted in advance of the court’s ruling, rescinded Executive Order No. 9066 … Beginning on Jan. 2, 1945, only two weeks after the Endo decision, Japanese Americans held in the camps were released and able to return to the West Coast … With the exception of Tule Lake, the incarceration camps began closing shortly thereafter …

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Endo created significant tension with the court’s decision in Fred Toyosaburo Korematsu v. United States (1944) 323 U.S. 214, which was decided the same day. In short, the court held in Korematsu that the government could criminally punish someone for refusing to be illegally imprisoned …

“Mitsuye Endo was the only female plaintiff in the four U.S. Supreme Court cases that challenged the legality of military orders selectively affecting over 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II … The three remaining plaintiffs included Fred Korematsu, who challenged the exclusion order; Gordon Hirabayashi, who challenged the exclusion and curfew orders; and Minoru Yasui, who challenged the curfew order …

“Although two of these plaintiffs, Fred Korematsu and Gordon Hirabayashi, were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Endo, who brought the only victorious legal challenge filed by a Japanese American during World War II, has not …

“Endo is an authentic American heroine who made a principled, courageous, and historic stand and voluntarily sacrificed her own freedom to secure the rights of all Japanese Americans who were forcibly removed from their homes and confined in camps without the benefit of due process.”

In May, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) sent a letter to Obama urging him to bestow the medal on Endo, with support from JACL and the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans.

An effort is also under way to have Obama award the medal posthumously to Yasui, whose case was reopened in the 1980s along with those of Korematsu and Hirabayashi.

Tags

Share.

Leave A Reply