WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nov. 17, 2015) — President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced his intent to posthumously award Minoru “Min” Yasui with the 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Minoru Yasui was the first Japanese American to practice law in his home state of Oregon. In 1942, he deliberately violated the curfew order placed on Japanese Americans in order to challenge the curfew and internment orders. His challenge made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the Court upheld the constitutionality of the curfews. Though Mr. Yasui’s legal challenge was unsuccessful at the time, his fight for justice was ultimately validated through his work to obtain redress for the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Throughout his lifetime, Mr. Yasui fought to protect the civil rights of Japanese Americans as well as Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans, youth, people with disabilities, senior, international human rights agencies, and many others.
Earlier this year, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Chair Emeritus Michael Honda (CA-17) led a letter to the President in support of Mr. Yasui that was signed by several CAPAC Members. Leaders of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus released the following statements:
Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), CAPAC Chair:
“During one of the darkest chapters in American history – the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II – Min Yasui was a bright light who never gave up on the fight for civil rights. Champions like Mr. Yasui have shaped our country’s history through their determination and courage to stand up against what they know to be wrong. This fight for equal rights under our laws is one that Mr. Yasui championed throughout his lifetime, and I am proud that his accomplishments will be honored posthumously with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This award is well deserved and recognizes the crucial role that Americans like Mr. Yasui have played in ensuring a more equal and just country.”
Senator Mazie K. Hirono (HI):
“Minoru Yasui stood up for what was right at a time of injustice toward Japanese Americans. I am proud to have worked with so many passionate advocates in support of this nomination. The Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mr. Yasui recognizes him not only for his courageous stand during the time of the unjust internment of Japanese Americans, but for his lifelong commitment to civil rights and social justice.”
Congressman Michael Honda (CA-17), CAPAC Chair Emeritus:
“Min Yasui was an American civil rights leader who bravely challenged our government’s incarceration of Americans of Japanese ancestry in WWII in the Supreme Court. I am proud to have joined Senator Hirono and Representative DeGette, along with many of our House and Senate colleagues, to support his nomination for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This Medal expresses our country’s appreciation for the continued lessons we learn from his courage and lifetime of advocating for civil rights, providing legal assistance to Japanese American and immigrant communities, and building bridges with communities of color. I am thrilled to congratulate Mr. Yasui on his well-deserved recognition. It will shed light on his dedication, and inspire others to make contributions of their own.”
The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) is comprised of Members of Congress of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and Members who have a strong dedication to promoting the well-being of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Currently chaired by Congresswoman Judy Chu, CAPAC has been addressing the needs of the AAPI community in all areas of American life since it was founded in 1994.