December 7, 1941, a date that
will live in infamy. At approximately 7:55 a.m. Hawaiian time, a
few hundred Japanese aircrafts attacked Pearl Harbor. Immediately
afterwards, local authorities and the F.B.I. began to round up the
leaders of the Japanese American communities. Within 48 hours, 1,291
first-generation Japanese American men were in custody. Ten weeks
after the attack, on February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed
Executive Order 9066, which allowed military authorities to exclude
anyone from anywhere without trial or hearings. This order set the
stage for the entire forced removal and incarceration of Japanese
Americans. On March 18, 1942, the President signed Executive Order
9102, establishing the War Relocation Authority. It was at this
time that Robert Matsui's family was forced to sell their house
and abandon their produce business and sent to a concentration camp.
For three and a half years, Matsui lived through one of the most
"The mere fact that I
was acknowledging that I was incarcerated would've raised the specter
that . . . perhaps I was a spy, that I was an enemy alien. That
still lives with me."- Robert Matsui
By January 2, 1945, restrictions
preventing resettlement on the West Coast had been removed, although
many restrictions were still there. In March 1946, mass evacuations
of concentration camps began. On July 2, 1948, President Truman
signed the ineffective Japanese American Evacuation Claims Act to
compensate for economic losses caused by the sudden forced evacuation.
Congress supported the president's actions and the Supreme court
upheld the government's actions in three court cases that sanctioned
the forced exclusion and imprisonment of a group of citizens based
solely on race. These three cases are Hirabayashi v. U.S. in 1943,
Yasui v. U.S. also in 1943, and Korematsu v. U.S. in 1944.
"My parents' citizenship and
loyalty suddenly meant nothing."- Robert Matsui
For years, these Japanese
American internees were too shocked to speak up. They felt that
if they ever talked about their experiences in the camps they would
be questioning their loyalty towards the United States. Robert Matsui
and his parents felt this way and kept quiet for a very long time.
The reason for their internment was still unknown. Between 1948
and 1970, there were several hearings throughout the U.S. Many Japanese
Americans around the age of sixty began to speak out. At this time,
Matsui joined the Japanese American Citizen League, and by 1969,
he became the president of JACL. As the leader of this group of
Japanese Americans, he pushed extremely hard for reparations.
On July 10, 1970, a resolution
was announced by the Japanese American Citizen League's Northern
California-Western Nevada District Council calling for reparations
for Japanese Americans. In 1978, the Japanese American citizen League
began a campaign for redress calling for restitution in the amount
of $25,000 per internee, an apology by congress acknowledging the
wrong, and funds to establish an educational trust fund.
However, with the Japanese
Americans as less than 1 percent of the entire American population,
it was clear that Japanese Americans alone could not win this campaign.
So they decided to utilize media to reach out to educate the public
about World War II incarcerations. On November 28, 1979, Representative
Mike Lowry (D-Wa) introduced the World War II Japanese-American
Human Rights Violation Act (HR5977) into Congress. On July 14, 1981,
the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians
holds a public hearing in Washington, D.C. as part of its investigation
into the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Similar
hearings were held in other cities throughout the rest of 1981.
These emotional testimonies by more than 750 Japanese American witnesses
about their wartime experiences became a turning point in the rest
of the redress movement.
On January 3, 1985, Matsui
introduced the Civil Liberties Act of 1985 (H.R. 442), where Congress
acknowledged the fundamental injustice of the internment, apologized
for it, and seeked to prevent the recurrence of any similar event.
Survivors would receive compensation. On August 4, 1988, Matsui
as part of the Commission on Wartime Relocations and Internment
of Civilians helped implemented the report. By September 14, 1992,
Matsui and a few others have pushed HR4551, which was an Amendment
of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.
Today, there are still a few
minority groups who are still trying to get reparations from the
government for violating their civil rights, like the Native Americans
and African Americans. The Japanese Redress Act was a precendent
for other redresses for other minorities. Reparations are important
because they show that the government is willing to apology for