“Redress/Reparations Lobby shows That People Are the Makers of History”

By the summer of 1987, the campaign for redress and reparations had gained significant momentum in the Japanese American community, the broader justice-minded community, and in Congress. With an all-important vote on HR442, the Civil Liberties Act of 1987, slated in the House of Representatives for September, NCRR organized the largest lobbying delegation of Asian Pacific Islander Americans that Capitol Hill would see.

Using saved vacation days and paying for their own trip, 120 primarily Japanese Americans gathered in Washington D.C. from July 25 through the 29. These multi-generational delegates represented hundreds of folks back home whose contributions and support were represented by long yellow ribbons, each showing the name of its donor. The ribbons were displayed at gatherings throughout the trip.

After preliminary meetings and orientation sessions were held, the small teams of lobbyists visited a total of 101 Congressional offices to educate and urge the Representative to support HR 442. Former internees and veterans of the 442 RCT shared their personal stories with the Representatives. By the week’s end, approximately 16 members of Congress committed to becoming a co-sponsor or to vote for HR442. Fifteen more stated that they “might” vote for the bill, while another 15 were studying the issue and requested a follow-up call.

Only 8 of the 101 Congressional Members were against the Bill. Most stated concerns about setting a precedent. The members of the community delegation got an important experience in the legislative and lobbying process, as well as important personal benefits. NCRR member, Guy Aoki stated that the lobbying experience changed his life.

NCRR’s Legislative Director, Miya Iwataki, concluded, “The week on the Hill is only part of the continuing struggle of the Japanese American Community to get redress and reparations, symbolically important in light of those who suffered, fought, died and survived. However, it vividly shows that yes, people can be the makers of history.”

See the NCRR Banner, August 1987 for more information.

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