Redress Now for Japanese Latin Americans!
February 2008

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October 22, 2009


Grace Shimizu
(510) 459-7288

Japanese Latin American Commission Bill Passes House Judiciary Committee

LOS ANGELES, CA - Yesterday, a bipartisan majority of members of the House Judiciary Committee voted to favorably report the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Latin Americans of Japanese Descent Act (H.R. 42).  Now that the legislation passed the full Committee, it is ready for passage in the House of Representatives.
"I commend chairman John Conyers and the members of the Judiciary Committee for recognizing the importance and timeliness of this legislation," said Christine Oh, Legislative Director of Campaign For Justice. "Yesterday's result is a testament to the fact that our national leaders and representatives are moving this country in the right direction.  I urge the leadership of the House of Representatives to expedite the bill to floor vote while there are former internees still left to tell their stories."

If passed by House of Representatives and Senate and signed into law, the JLA Commission bill would establish a commission to investigate and determine the facts surrounding the wartime deportation, internment and relocation of Latin Americans of Japanese descent by the U.S. government and recommend any appropriate remedies based on its findings.
Former internees, their families, and members of the campaign are extremely grateful to our friends and supporters for their encouragement and partnership on this very timely and important bill.  We ask that our supporters spread the word to their contacts to push for passage of the bill in the House of Representatives.
The House Judiciary Committee also favorably reported H.R. 1425, the "Wartime Treatment Act," which would establish two fact-finding commissions, one to study the internments and restrictions imposed by the U.S. government on certain European Americans and European Latin Americans during World War II, and the other to study government policies limiting the ability of Jewish refugees to come to the United States before and during the war.
For more information, please contact Christine Oh, CFJ Legislative Director, at (213) 500-9346 or  Visit the CFJ website at

May 29, 2008


Grace Shimizu
(510) 459-7288

A Step Forward For Japanese Latin American Commission Legislation (H.R. 662)

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The House Judiciary Committee scheduled a hearing on H.R. 662 for July 31, 2008, marking a momentous step towards the establishment of a commission that will investigate the internment of over 2,200 persons of Japanese ancestry from 13 Latin American countries by the U.S. government during World War II.

The "Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Latin Americans of Japanese Descent Act" was introduced by Rep. Xavier Becerra, Rep. Dan Lungren, Rep. Mike Honda, and Rep. Chris Cannon on January 25, 2007 in the House of Representatives. This bill would create a commission to investigate U.S. government policies and actions resulting in wartime violations (including hostage-taking, indefinite internment without charge or trial, forced labor, and placement of civilians into war zones) and to make recommendations for any appropriate remedies to Congress based on their findings. The commissioners would be composed of 9 members, 3 each appointed by the President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the President pro tempore of the Senate.

The House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties will hold a hearing on this bi-partisan effort. The Subcommittee will hear testimonies from several witnesses, including Members of Congress, scholars, community supporters and former internees themselves.

"We are grateful for Committee Chairman John Conyers, Ranking Member Lamar Smith as well as Subcommittee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and Ranking Member Trent Franks for their support and willingness to hold a hearing on this very important bill," Grace Shimizu, Campaign For Justice Coordinator said. "I expect that, as a result of this hearing, Congress will gain a better understanding of the need for a Commission to investigate the injustice faced by Japanese Latin Americans."

A community delegation of former Japanese Latin American internees and supporters will travel to Washington, D.C. to attend this important Congressional hearing. For more information, contact Grace Shimizu at 510-459-7288 or


Campaign for Justice was founded in 1996 as a collaborative effort by individuals and organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress, and the Japanese Peruvian Oral History Project.

Campaign for Justice has two primary goals. First, it continues to help former Japanese Latin American internees secure proper redress. Second, it works to educate the public about the wartime and redress experiences of the Japanese Latin Americans.

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From December 1941 to February 1948, the U.S. government orchestrated and financed the mass abduction and forcible deportation of 2,264 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry from 13 Latin American countries to be used as hostages in exchange for Americans held by Japan. Over 800 Japanese Latin Americans were included in two prisoner of war exchanges between the U.S. and Japan. The remaining Japanese Latin Americans were imprisoned without due process of law in U.S. Department of Justice internment camps until after the end of the war.

Stripped of their passports en route to the U.S. and declared “illegal aliens”, most of the incarcerated Japanese Latin Americans were forced to leave the U.S. after their release from camp. However, since many were barred from returning to their home countries, more than 900 Japanese Latin Americans were deported to war devastated Japan. Over 350 Japanese Latin Americans remained in the U.S. and fought deportation in the courts. Eventually, about 100 were able to return to Latin America. It was not until 1952 that those who stayed were allowed to begin the process of becoming U.S. permanent residents. Many later became U.S. citizens.

Japanese Latin Americans were subjected to gross violations of civil and human rights by the U.S. government during WWII. These violations were not justified by a security threat to Allied interests. Rather, it was the outcome of historical racism, anti-foreign prejudice, economic competition, and political opportunism. The U.S. government has yet to properly acknowledge this wrongdoing against the Japanese Latin Americans.


Like Japanese Americans, Japanese Latin Americans have played an integral part in the struggle for acknowledgement and redress by the U.S. government for its unjust treatment of people of Japanese ancestry in the U.S. As a result, Congress enacted the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 to make the U.S. credible in the eyes of the world on human rights issues. To accomplish this, the Act provided for an official apology and token reparations of $20,000 to eligible individuals of Japanese ancestry. It also created a fund to educate the public about the internment to prevent the recurrence of similar events.

However, under this Act, individuals were eligible for reparations only if they were U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens at the time of internment. Since the U.S. maintains the fabrication that Japanese Latin Americans were “illegal aliens”, they were excluded from the Act. Only 189 Japanese Latin Americans were given redress under the Act because they were either born in camp or granted retroactive permanent residency.


In 1996, a class action lawsuit, Mochizuki v. U.S.A., was filed against the U.S. government on behalf of all Japanese Latin American internees who were denied redress under the Act. A settlement agreement was reached in 1998 that provided for an official apology and the possibility of $5,000 in compensaútion payments to eligible Japanese Latin Americans. This settlement was controversial because it did not fully acknowledge the severity of their human rights violations. It did, however, contain essential provisions that allowed internees to opt-out of the settlement and continue litigation, and also allowed internees to pursue redress equity through legislative efforts.

Under the Mochizuki settlement, the token reparations, which were only one quarter of what Japanese Americans received, was not guaranteed. Despite assurances that all Japanese Latin Americans would receive redress payments, only 145 were paid before the funds were depleted. It was only after community effort and pressure for additional funding that supplemental appropriations were given by Congress to allow the remaining Mochizuki claimants to be paid. In addition, less than two months notification was allowed for Japanese Latin Americans to apply and the government refused to release applicant information to internee attorneys to ensure proper processing.


The fight for justice continues today for Japanese Latin Americans in litúigation and in legislation. Campaign
for Justice is currently seeking comprehensive legislation that would serve to fulfill the education and compensation mandate of the Civil Liberties Act and to resolve the unfinished redress business.

We urge our communities to support these efforts to acknowledge and redress the fundamental injustices suffered by Japanese Latin American during WWII. We cannot allow this chapter of American history to close until our government makes proper amends for its actions.

Justice for the Forgotten Internees

By Xavier Becerra and Dan Lungren   Monday, February 19, 2007;


Art Shibayama is an American who served in the Army during the Korean War. Like many veterans, Cpl. Shibayama was not born in the United States. He was born in Lima, Peru, to Japanese Peruvian parents. Until 1942, Shibayama, his two brothers and three sisters lived comfortably with their parents and grandparents, all of whom had thriving businesses. However, after America entered World War II, his family was forcibly removed from Peru, transported to the United States and held in a government-run internment camp in Crystal City, Tex.

Like many Japanese American families, Shibayama's family lost everything they owned. But the greater injustice occurred when his grandparents were sent to Japan in exchange for American prisoners of war. Their family never saw them again.

Shibayama and his family were among the estimated 2,300 people of Japanese descent from 13 Latin American countries who were taken from their homes and forcibly transported to the Crystal City camp during World War II. The U.S. government orchestrated and financed the deportation of Japanese Latin Americans for use in prisoner-of-war exchanges with Japan. Eight hundred people were sent across the Pacific, while the remaining Japanese Latin Americans were held in camps without due process until after the war ended.


Japanese Latin Americans en route to U.S. internment camps during World War II.

Further study of the events surrounding the deportation and incarceration of Japanese Latin Americans is merited and necessary. While most Americans are aware of the internment of Japanese Americans, few know about U.S. government activities in other countries that were fueled by prejudice against people of Japanese ancestry.

That is why we have introduced H.R. 662, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Latin Americans of Japanese Descent Act. We should review U.S. military and State Department directives requiring the relocation, detention and deportation of Japanese Latin Americans to Axis countries. Then we should recommend appropriate remedies. It is the right thing to do to affirm our commitment to democracy and the rule of law.

This year marks the 26th anniversary of the formation of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, whose findings led to the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. It provided an official apology and financial redress to most of the Japanese Americans who were subjected to wrongdoing and confined in camps during World War II. Those loyal Americans were vindicated by the fact that not a single documented case of sabotage or espionage was committed by a Japanese American during that time. This act was the culmination of a half-century of struggle to bring justice to those who were denied it. But work to rectify and close this regrettable chapter in our nation's history remains unfinished.

U.S. involvement in the expulsion and internment of people of Japanese descent who lived in various Latin American countries is thoroughly recorded in government files. These civilians were robbed of their freedom -- their civil and human rights thrown by the wayside -- as they were kidnapped from nations not directly involved in World War II. The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians acknowledged these federal actions in detaining and interning civilians of enemy or foreign nationality, particularly those of Japanese ancestry, but the commission failed to fully examine and report on the historical documents that exist in distant archives.

Today, the Day of Remembrance, marks the anniversary of the 1942 signing of Executive Order 9066 -- the document that made it possible to intern thousands of Japanese Americans, German Americans, Italian Americans and Japanese Latin Americans during World War II. Though it is important that we remember what took place, it is more critical that we act, for justice delayed is justice denied. And for the dwindling number of surviving internees who became Americans, such as Cpl. Art Shibayama, justice has been delayed far too long. They deserve our attention, our respect and the official recognition of a country that is willing to heal and to make amends.

Xavier Becerra, a Democrat, and Dan Lungren, a Republican, are U.S. representatives from California.