WASHINGTON — Aug. 10 marked the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which apologized and provided redress for the forced relocation and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) released the following statements to commemorate the anniversary:
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), CAPAC chair: “The signing of Executive Order 9066 during World War II blindly and unequivocally severed Japanese Americans from the fabric of American society. Forced into internment camps, Japanese Americans were deprived of their constitutional rights, freedoms, and dignity.
“While nothing can ever undo these injustices, the signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 marked a major victory in providing redress to those interned during the war. As we commemorate the 25th anniversary of the passage of this historic act, let us rededicate ourselves to fighting for equal rights and social justice. Never again can we allow misguided fear to institutionalize discrimination.”
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii): “Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Liberties Act helps us remind each other, and every American, of what happened to Japanese Americans during World War II. In Hawaii, there were 13 locations where people of Japanese ancestry were held during the war, including Honouliuli Gulch, which Hawaii’s delegation is seeking to get included in the national park system. Let us remember the tireless work of leaders like Norm Mineta, Spark Matsunaga, Daniel Inouye and many others who helped the redress bill get to President Reagan’s desk.”
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii): “Twenty-five years ago, the United States took steps to right a terrible wrong. While the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which granted reparations to Japanese Americans who were interned during World War II, could not possibly undo the injustices done to these men, women, and families, it did send a message. We must never allow something like that to happen in this country ever again.”
Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose), CAPAC chair emeritus: “Seventy-one years ago, the signing of Executive Order 9066 forced 120,000 Japanese Americans into internment camps during World War II. I was a year old when my family was incarcerated behind barbed wire. Constitutional rights were set aside for an entire community, simply because we looked like the enemy.
“Today, 25 years later, we celebrate the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which provided reparations and a formal apology from the U.S. government to those held in internment camps. The strength and maturity of a nation is measured by its ability to admit wrong and remedy its past mistakes.”
Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside), CAPAC whip: “As the son of parents who were interned during World War II, I understand the grave and lasting effects of unjust policies. The forced relocation and internment of Japanese Americans deprived thousands of their rights, dignity, and livelihood. While it can never fully repair the damage, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 marked a major victory for justice, as those who were thrown into internment camps were formally apologized to and were compensated. As we continue the effort to strengthen civil liberties in the United States, we must challenge our prejudices and reject discriminatory practices.”
Rep. Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa): “While the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 could never make up for the harm suffered by Japanese and Japanese Americans in the United States during World War II, this historic law played an important role in discouraging similar injustices and violations into the future. As we mark the 25th year anniversary of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, we also pay tribute to the many Japanese Americans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces on behalf of their country despite the harm suffered by their families. May we continue to be a nation that is worthy of such patriotism as we uphold justice and civil liberties for all Americans.”
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland): “The internment of Japanese Americans during World War II represents one of the darkest chapters in our nation’s history. My district is the birthplace of Fred Korematsu, a courageous American citizen who defied the internment order and challenged the policy all the way to the Supreme Court. Forty years later, Mr. Korematsu was a leading advocate for the Civil Liberties Act, in which the U.S. government apologized for the internment and offered reparations to 120,000 living Japanese Americans.
“While nothing can undo the enormous injustice perpetrated against Japanese Americans during World War II, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 helps us heal the wounds of the internment and reaffirms our national commitment to liberty and justice for all.”
Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-Northern Mariana Islands): “Twenty-five years ago, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, acknowledging the grave injustice of the internment of 120,000 individuals of Japanese ancestry including U.S. citizens and permanent residents during World War II. Championed by former congressman and CAPAC’s first chair, Norman Mineta, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 ensured long-overdue reparations were made to survivors of the racially prejudiced Executive Order 9066, one of the darker moments of our nation’s history.
“Military internment is unfortunately not foreign to the history of the people of the Northern Mariana Islands, as thousands of Chamorros and Carolinians were also confined in camps after American forces captured Saipan during World War II. Our country must acknowledge and remember our past mistakes and work to protect the rights and freedoms of all Americans.”
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento): “As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, we remember the steps the United States took to right its wrongs. Executive Order 9066, signed 71 years ago, forced over 120,000 innocent Japanese Americans into unjust incarceration. The Civil Liberties Act made reparations and apologized to the many Americans of Japanese ancestry who bore the burden of that dark time. It is important for our country to remember the grave mistake that resulted in serious injustice, but even more important to recognize the steps our nation took to finally stand for what is right.”
Rep. Susan Davis (D-San Diego): “I’m proud to join the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus in celebrating the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. The internment of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II was a dark time in our history, and the reparations granted by the Civil Liberties Act are a testament to our nation’s great capacity for righting the injustices of our past. As we look to confront new dangers, these camps should be a reminder that we must never react to threats to our security with prejudice or hate.”
Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach): “On the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, we remember the strength and determination with which wrongfully interned Japanese Americans continued to fight for justice, freedom, and equality. The injustice – not to mention the unconstitutionality – of internment was a dark moment in our country’s history. We must never forget those who suffered under internment, nor should we ever ignore the lessons of racial prejudice and infringement of civil liberties that it taught us.”
Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove): “The Civil Liberties Act was an important milestone in our country’s efforts to reconcile a regrettable and dark chapter in our nation’s history. On this 25th anniversary, it is important that we not only remember and reflect on our past mistakes, but also continue the fight to stop injustice and violations of human rights everywhere.”
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.): “Japanese internment during World War II is one of the darkest stains on American history. Over 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced out of their homes and communities and placed into internment camps purely based on racial prejudice. The Civil Liberties Act, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan 25 years ago today, paid necessary reparations to surviving Japanese and Japanese Americans who were unjustly interned during World War II.
“Many of the Japanese and Japanese Americans interned lost their property, jobs, and their status and reputation in society. Although long overdue, the Civil Liberties Act acknowledged and apologized for the discriminatory internment of U.S. citizens, provided funds to educate the population in hopes to prevent such prejudice from happening again, and paid surviving Japanese and Japanese Americans for injustices and any personal or community property that was taken or destroyed during the war.
“Because many Japanese and Japanese Americans were interned in Washington State, the Japanese internment plays an important role in the history of the region. Through museums such as the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian American Experience, and the many Japanese Americans closely tied to this dark period of our shared history, the people of Washington’s 9th District are both educated and active in sharing the important lessons of Japanese internment. I am honored to join my constituents and my colleagues in celebrating the 25th anniversary on the Civil Liberties Act being signed into law.”
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo): “In one of the darkest times in our nation’s history, Japanese Americans became the targets of mass hysteria and poor judgment. As World War II shook the globe, tens of thousands were separated from their families and forced into internment camps here in the United States. No one should ever suffer the loss of liberty simply because of race or background. I hope the survivors of that terrible period can take solace in their resolve. Today, hard-working Japanese Americans are an integral part of our society and the American Dream.”
CAPAC consists of Asian Pacific American members of Congress as well as members of Congress that represent significant numbers of APAs.