WASHINGTON — In conjunction with Fred Korematsu Day (Jan. 30), which is observed in California and other states, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has followed up on a previous request to make the day a national holiday.
A letter sent to President Obama on Feb. 2, signed by a majority of the commissioners, reads as follows:
“We write on behalf of the United States Commission on Civil Rights (‘the Commission’) to follow up on our letter to you dated March 28, 2014 and renew our request for federal recognition of Jan. 30 as a national holiday to recognize National Fred Korematsu Day.
“Recognizing this day would be a fitting tribute to Fred T. Korematsu’s courage to stand up for civil rights and liberties by challenging President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, which authorized the removal of Japanese Americans from their homes and placement into internment camps during World War II.
“As we previously mentioned, the legacy of Mr. Korematsu has a very personal connection to the Commission — even more so than last year. The families of Commissioners Michael Yaki and Karen Narasaki were both interned during World War II due to their Japanese ancestry. It is a testament to the beauty and ideals of the United States that the children of interned Japanese Americans are now serving on a federal commission dedicated to ensuring the civil rights of all Americans.
“Mr. Korematsu’s actions are truly inspiring. Arrested and convicted for defying Executive Order 9066, he took his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld his conviction in one of the Court’s most infamous decisions.
“He never gave up, and nearly 40 years later a federal court overturned his conviction after a historian discovered that the government intentionally concealed evidence that Japanese Americans did not pose a military threat.
“Mr. Korematsu continued to be an outspoken civil rights activist, seeking redress for interned Japanese Americans, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Clinton, and fighting discrimination against the Muslim American community after 9/11.
“Fred Korematsu Day is celebrated every Jan. 30 on Mr. Korematsu’s birthday. Since we last wrote you, the number of states who have recognized Fred Korematsu Day is now up to five, with the most recent being Georgia. Moreover, state representatives in three additional states (Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia) have introduced resolutions to recognize the holiday.
“Federal recognition of Fred Korematsu Day would foster greater awareness of not only Mr. Korematsu’s life, but the ideals of equality and justice that he sought for all Americans.
“We thank you for your consideration and look forward to continued cooperation in advancing civil rights for all.”
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is composed of eight members, four appointed by the president and four by Congress. Not more than four members shall at any one time be of the same political party.
The presidential appointees are: Chairman Martin Castro (Democrat), president and CEO of Castro Synergies LLC, Chicago; Karen Narasaki (Independent), civil and human rights consultant, Washington, D.C.; Vice Chair Patricia Timmons-Goodson (Independent), associate justice (retired) of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, Fayetteville, N.C.; Roberta Achtenberg (Democrat), corporate advisor in public policy and California State University trustee, San Francisco.
The congressional appointees are: Gail Heriot (Independent), professor of law, University of San Diego; Michael Yaki (Democrat), Michael Yaki Consulting, San Francisco; David Kladney (Democrat), lawyer, Reno; Peter Kirsanow (Republican), partner, Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Arnoff, Cleveland, Ohio.
The letter was signed by Castro, Timmons-Goodson, Achtenberg, Kladney, Narasaki and Yaki.