Redress Act

History:: Experience:: Redress Act


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 horrific experiences.

"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 wrong actions.