|Reading: Legacies of Incarceration: Redress|
The right to due process of law is a constitutional right, as stated in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. The right to redress is a constitutional right, as stated in the First Amendment to the Constitution. Redress is defined as, "n. 1. the setting right of what is wrong: redress of abuses. 2. relief from wrong or injury. 3. compensation or satisfaction from a wrong or injury." Reparation is defined as, "n. 1. the making of amends for wrong or injury done: reparation for an injustice. 2. Usually, reparations. compensation in money, material, labor, etc., payable by a defeated country to another country or to an individual for loss suffered during or as a result of war. 3. restoration to good condition. 4. repair."
After World War II, some Japanese Americans thought the U.S. government should officially recognize that it had denied their rights and unjustly incarcerated them. Beginning with a few individuals, these efforts grew into a national movement to obtain an apology and compensation from the U.S. government for wrongful actions taken against people of Japanese ancestry during World War II, and to help ensure that such injustices would never be allowed again. Japanese Americans and their supporters sought redress for injustice through all three branches of government, all of which had contributed to the denial of their constitutional rights.
A major result of the redress movement was the federal government's acknowledgment that during World War II, army and government officials used "military necessity" as a false justification for forcing all Japanese Americans out of their homes on the West Coast and putting them in concentration camps. In 1983, the federal Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) stated that, "Executive Order 9066 was not justified by military necessity," and the true causes of the mass removal and incarceration of people of Japanese ancestry, without due process of law, were "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership." This was reaffirmed by the U.S. Congress in its statement that:
Other major results of the redress movement included: an official apology from the federal government acknowledging the injustice of its actions, the repeal of Executive Order 9066, monetary reparations payments to individuals of Japanese ancestry who had been removed from their homes and held in incarceration camps, and the creation of a federal fund for education about the incarceration to prevent similar events. (Note: This reading that you are now viewing is one of the results of the federal fund for education.)
Remembering, organizing, educating, and lobbying
Bringing up painful memories of discrimination and the incarceration was one step toward seeking justice. In 1969, Japanese Americans in Southern California organized a pilgrimage to the Manzanar incarceration camp site. In 1978, Seattle community members held the first Day of Remembrance at Puyallup Fairgrounds, site of the "Camp Harmony Assembly Center." Since then, a Day of Remembrance has been recognized annually on February 19--the anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066--by Japanese Americans and others concerned with civil rights across the nation. It is a time to educate people about this part of U.S. history, and resolve to prevent similar violations of civil liberties. Japanese Americans and others also worked to educate elected officials and persuade them to support some form of redress for the injustices suffered by people of Japanese ancestry during World War II.
One successful effort resulted in President Gerald Ford's repeal of Executive Order 9066 in 1976, thirty-four years after it had been signed. He stated, "We now know what we should have known then--not only was that evacuation wrong, but Japanese-Americans were and are loyal Americans...."
Through the 1970s, many individuals and groups worked to build support for redress. In 1970, the national Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) adopted a resolution calling for the federal government to pay monetary reparations to Japanese Americans excluded from the West Coast and incarcerated in concentration camps. While passing federal redress legislation seemed impossible to many people, others organized to make it happen. The Seattle Evacuation Redress Committee (of the Seattle Chapter, JACL), the National Council for Japanese American Redress and the National Coalition for Redress/Reparations were among many groups that built the redress movement. By 1973, the Seattle activists had devised the first concrete redress proposal, which became known as the "Seattle Plan." It proposed monetary payments to individuals affected by Executive Order 9066. Monetary payments were central to the federal redress legislation that eventually passed.
Rather than trying to immediately pass legislation entailing payments to individuals, Senator Daniel Inouye suggested forming a commission to study the government's treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) was formed in 1980 by an act of Congress. The CWRIC gathered thousands of pages of evidence from government and military records. In 1981 it held hearings in ten cities across the country at which hundreds of Japanese Americans testified about their experiences. Key government personnel involved in the development and implementation of Executive Order 9066 also testified. The Commission concluded that the "relocation and internment" had been unjustified and recommended that the government issue an apology and make monetary compensation to individuals.
After years of struggle and a massive lobbying campaign by Japanese American individuals, community organizations, and their supporters, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on August 10, 1988. It authorized payments of $20,000 to each person who was incarcerated (and who was still alive as of August 10, 1988). It also authorized $50 million to create the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund, which was intended to fund research and education about the incarceration so as to prevent similar injustices in the future. In 1990, the oldest surviving Japanese Americans were the first recipients of redress from the federal government in the form of a check and an apology signed by President George Bush. The apology read, in part, "A monetary sum and words alone cannot restore lost years or erase painful memories.... We can never fully right the wrongs of the past. But we can take a clear stand for justice and recognize that serious injustices were done to Japanese Americans during World War II."
Judicial Branch: Court Cases
Class action lawsuit: Hohri v. United States
Coram nobis petitions
A question still exists about the constitutionality of the mass relocation and incarceration of people of Japanese ancestry during World War II. In her opinion on the Korematsu coram nobis case, District Judge Marilyn Patel wrote:
Although Fred Korematsu's criminal conviction was nullified, the U.S. Supreme Court's 1944 decision in Korematsu v. United States remains as a legal and historical precedent that can still be used to justify denying people's constitutional rights on the basis of their race or ancestry.
1. Random House Compact Unabridged Dictionary, Special Second
Edition, (New York: Random House, Inc., 1996) p. 1617 and p. 1632.
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