Calls for Justice at DOR event
By Gwen Muranaka at Rafu Shimpo

 Rep. Xavier Becerra urges support for Japanese Latin American commission

Words of poetry and calls for justice for Mexican Americans and Japanese Latin Americans marked the annual Day of Remembrance ceremony held Saturday, Feb 18th, at the Japanese American National Museum.

The remembrance was one of many ceremonies around the country to commemorate the signing of Executive Order 9066 on Feb. 19, 1942, which led to the forcible removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast.  The event was sponsored by JANM, Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress, and the Pacific Southwest District of the Japanese American Citizens League.  MCs for the program were Alayne Yonemoto, PSWD-JACL district governor, and Junichi Semitsu, poet and an instructor at the University of San Diego School of Law.

Kay Ochi, NCRR co-chair, paid tribute to the Issei and Nisei generations.  She also noted the passings of redress and human rights leaders Tom Hayashi, Sox Kitashima, and Fred Korematsu.

“We remember our community’s shared past and the devastating impact of EO 9066 that dramatically affected many generations of Japanese Americans,” Ochi declared.

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) spoke about legislation introduced by himself and Sen. Daniel Inouye calling for a federal commission on Japanese Latin American (JLA) internment.  During WWII more than 2,000 JLAs were deported and sent to U.S. concentration camps.

“We are much further along than we have been in the last seven or eight years toward bringing about full redress for Japanese Latin Americans,” Rep. Becerra told the gathering of more than 200 people.

If passed, the Commission of Wartime Relocation and Internment of Latin Americans of Japanese Descent Act will set up a federal commission that will recommend appropriate remedies for the internees.  The film “Here in America” showed footage from the assembly on the Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians and included the experience of JLAs as well as German and Italian Americans.

Becerra told the gathering to appeal to their congress members, particularly Republicans, to cosponsor the legislation.

Dr. Francisco Balderrama, Cal State Los Angeles professor of Chicano Studies and History, described the treatment of Mexican Americans and Mexican nationals who were repatriated in the 1930s.  Between 1929-1940 1.2 million Mexican Americans were repatriated to Mexico.  The professor told the story of a Mexican American who grew up in Idaho and whose father died of tuberculosis after the family was rounded up and repatriated to Mexico.  The state Senate passed a bill calling for an apology to Mexican repatriates.  Rep. Hilda Solis (D-El Monte) is among representatives seeking a federal apology.

“Let this private hurt become a public call for activism.  Ignacio does not want this to happen to anyone,” Balderrama stated.

 Other speakers included Sireen Sawaf, hate crimes coordinator for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, Robin Toma, executive director, L.A. County Human Relations Commission and poets Gloria Alvarez and Amy Uyematsu.

Photos by David Urmston
Alayne Yonemoto

Amy Uyematsu

Gloria Alvarez

Junichi Semitsu

Kay Ochi

Prof Balderrama

Robin toma

Junichi Semitsu, Rep. Becerra, Alayne Yonemoto

Sireen Sawaf