What would you do if this happened to you? Former internees have mostly come to peace with what they went through, though the government has never openly admitted that it commited human rights violations. We say we never want this to happen again, but it is happening now to other people. Do we need to go through it ourselves before we can understand that this was a crime?
Wartime Abduction and Incarceration
From December 1941 to February
1948, the U.S. government orchestrated and financed the mass abduction,
forcible deportation and internment of 2,264 men, women, and children
of Japanese ancestry from 13 Latin American countries.
Stripped of their passports en route to the U.S. these Japanese Latin
Americans (JLAs) were declared “illegal aliens”.
The U.S. planned to use them as hostages
in exchange for Americans held by Japan. Over 800 JLAs were included in two prisoner of war exchanges between
the U.S. and Japan.
The remaining JLAs were
imprisoned without due process of law in U.S. Department of Justice
internment camps until after the end of the war.
After the War
Most of the incarcerated JLAs
were forced to leave the U.S. after their release from camp.
since many were initially barred from returning to their home countries,
than 900 JLAs were deported to war devastated
Over 350 JLAs 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.
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 Civil Liberties Act excludes JLAs
The US Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. This granted
an apology and $20,000 compensation payments to US citizens and legal permanent
residents of Japanese ancestry. It also established an education
Most JLAs were excluded because the US
government claimed they were “illegal aliens.”
Mochizuki settlement a questionable victory
In 1996, a class action lawsuit, Mochizuki v. USA, was filed on
behalf of all Japanese Latin Americans who had been denied redress.
It resulted in a settlement agreement granting an apology and $5,000
compensation payments in exchange for termination of lawsuit.
provision in the agreement allowed for pursuit of legislation for
equitable redress in the US Congress.
While most Japanese Latin American internees accepted the Mochizuki
settlement, some rejected the offer and continued litigation in
the US courts. Four other lawsuits were filed and eventually dismissed.
Escalating to an international court
Unable to find justice in the US courts, a petition on behalf
of the three Shibayama brothers and the Japanese Peruvian Oral
History Project was filed with the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights (IACHR)in June 2003.
The petition seeks to hold the US government
accountable for the ongoing failure to provide redress for war
crimes and crimes against humanity.
After three years, the IACHR has determined that it has jurisdiction
over this petition and is deliberating the facts of the case.
For more information on CFJ's role in the redress history, please see the What We Do section.
1970 Edison Uno, Nisei civil rights activist, proposes demand for
redress for Japanese Americans, which was unanimously adopted by the Japanese American
Citizens League National Council
1974 First legislative plan for redress proposing individual payments
to all persons who were interned. Plan initiated by Seattle Evacuation Redress Committee
under the aegis of the Seattle JACL Chapter. Aleuts and Japanese Latin Americans
were included in the Seattle plan.
1981 Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians holds hearings in nine major cities, recording testimonies from over 750 witnesses,
including several Japanese Peruvian internees.
1988 PASSAGE OF CIVIL LIBERTIES ACT
that mandated an apology,
payment of $20,000 compensation payments and the establishment
of the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund.
1989 The Department of Justice adopts rules for the enforcement
of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, whereby Japanese Latin American internees are denied
eligibility because they were "illegal aliens" and
not US citizens or permanent residents at the time of internment.
1991 Japanese Peruvian Oral History Project established in the
San Francisco/Bay Area to preserve family histories, educate the
public about the JLA wartime experience and to provide redress
information and referrals to former JLA internees and their families.
1996 Campaign For Justice: Redress NOW for Japanese Latin Americans!
founded to Support JLA redress and education efforts
1996 Filing of MOCHIZUKI v. USA
class action lawsuit on behalf
of JLA internees in US District Court (Central District), seeking
inclusion for redress in the Civil Liberties Act of 1988
1998 Announcement of the Mochizuki settlement agreement, which
included an apology and $5,000 compensation payment, so long as monies were
available in the CLA fund. A provision in the agreement permitted the pursuit
of legislation in the US Congress for more equitable redress. Court approves settlement
agreement in 1999, despite likelihood of insufficient compensation
1998 Filing of the SHIMA v. RENO (USA) lawsuit by one of the original
named plaintiffs in the Mochizuki lawsuit who rejected the settlement
agreement. This lawsuit seeks equitable redress under constitutional
and international law.
1999 Filing of the SHIBAYAMA v. RENO (USA) lawsuit on behalf of
three JP brothers who opted out of the Mochizuki settlement, charging
the US government with crimes against humanity and continuing violations
of US and international law.
2000 Congressman Xavier Becerra (CA-D) introduces "The Wartime Parity and Justice Act"
, comprehensive redress legislation which would provide proper redress to Japanese Americans
and Japanese Latin Americans who have been denied an apology and
compensation payments and to reestablish the Civil Liberties Public
2003 FILING OF OAS PETITION
on behalf of the Shibayama brothers with the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights (a body of the Organization of American
States), seeking to hold the US government accountable for the
ongoing failure to provide redress for war crimes and crimes against
2005 ASSEMBLY ON THE WARTIME RELOCATION AND INTERNMENT OF CIVILIANS (AWRIC)
an historic public testimonial event held on April 8 & 9, 2005 at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, California.
This event served to document and preserve the little known WWII stories of immigrants of German, Italian and Japanese ancestry
(in the US and from Latin America) as well as the experiences of the Arab, Muslim and South Asian communities who are being
scapegoated as "the enemy" today.
2006 Senator Inouye and Congressman Becerra introduce "Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Latin Americans of Japanese Descent Act"
to investigate facts and circumstances about the relocation, internment, and deportation of Latin Americans of Japanese descent.
2007 Senator Inouye and Congressman Becerra reintroduce Commission Bill
hopefully with a new Senate and House of Representatives, this bill will move forward.
2007 S. 381 passes Senate Committee
on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on June 13, 2007.