WASHINGTON — Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) and congressional leaders released the following statements Monday in honor of California’s second annual Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution:
• Rep. Judy Chu (D-El Monte), CAPAC chair: “Fred Korematsu’s story of courage and determination is one that touches every American. At a time when unconscionable policies were depriving our citizens of their freedom and upending their lives, Mr. Korematsu stood for what he knew to be right. His life story is a lesson for us all about how fragile justice can be, and it serves as a constant reminder that the rights of every citizen must be protected.”
• Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), House Democratic leader: “On this celebration of Fred Korematsu Day, we honor extraordinary courage and bravery in the face of adversity. A civil rights icon in the Asian American community and our nation as a whole, Mr. Korematsu was unrelenting in his advocacy of the freedom and justice all American citizens are accorded — regardless of race or ethnicity. Today, we can ensure his legacy lives on by constantly guarding against prejudice and keeping our commitment to equal rights and equal protections for all Americans.”
• Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose), CAPAC chair emeritus: “Words cannot express the appreciation, respect, and debt of gratitude that I have for Fred Korematsu’s bravery and heroism in refusing the government’s order to intern Japanese Americans nearly 70 years ago. Having been placed in internment camps myself when I was less than one year old, I am eternally grateful for his bravery in the face of the prejudice, failed political leadership and war hysteria of the time.
“Fred Korematsu will be forever honored for standing up to racial prejudice and committing his lifetime to activism as a leader of civil rights. Today, Fred Korematsu Day — the first day in the history of the United States named after an Asian American — serves as a constant reminder that any one individual can spark a collective movement to fight injustice, and that together, we can form a more perfect union with justice and liberty for all.”
• Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), CAPAC Education Taskforce chair: “Fred Korematsu’s legacy represents courage in the face of discrimination. It was a privilege to know Fred and his family personally. Although it took close to four decades for Fred to receive justice, his story reminds us that we must continue to commit ourselves to the ideals of equality and diversity. His story also reminds us that individuals can make a difference.”
• Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Los Angeles): “I join my fellow Californians in celebrating the second annual Fred Korematsu Day. Fred Korematsu was a Japanese American who stood up for civil rights during the U.S. imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II. His inspirational story is a reminder that the fight for civil rights for all Americans is never ending, and we must continue to stand up for what is right.”
• Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Long Beach): “I stand with my fellow Californians and CAPAC in commemorating Fred Korematsu Day. Fred Korematsu stood up for the rights of Japanese Americans by refusing to relocate to a concentration camp during World War II. Fred Korematsu Day serves as a reminder of this dark period in our nation’s history, and reminds us of the rights afforded to individuals by the U.S. Constitution.”
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 on the West Coast. After living in hiding for several months, he was arrested and interned in May of 1942. Korematsu worked with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California to challenge his conviction, 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.
On Sept. 23, 2010, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill 1775 to officially recognize Jan. 30, Korematsu’s birthday, as “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.”