Washington, D.C. (Feb. 19, 2014) — On February 19, 1942, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, leading the United States government to confine more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent in internment camps across
the United States. Almost two-thirds of those incarcerated were United States citizens.
Despite tremendous prejudice and the internment of their families, more than 33,000 second-generation Japanese Americans (nisei) volunteered to serve in the United States Army during World War II – most notably, in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, one of the most decorated units of World War II, and the Military Intelligence Service.
In 2010, over 65 years later, Congress passed and President Obama signed into law legislation awarding the Congressional Gold Medal – one of the highest civilian awards in the United States – to thousands of these veterans, finally recognizing the sacrifices they made for their country.
On Tuesdat, President Barack Obama met with seven of these surviving veterans, all in their 90s, to thank them in person for their service.
Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) on Tuesday released statements regarding the Japanese Latin American experience during World War II.
During World War II, the United States relocated approximately 2,300 men, women and children of Japanese descent from Latin American countries and held them in internment camps on American soil.
From 1941 to 1945, these individuals were used in hostage exchanges, which often resulted in deportation to Japan or other Axis countries.
In 1988, Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act, granting $20,000 in redress to Japanese Americans interned during the war, but did not include Japanese Latin Americans. After a decade following a class-action lawsuit, the U.S. Government offered settlements of $5,000 to Japanese Latin Americans and a letter of regret. Despite these actions, hundreds of people of Japanese, German and Italian descent have yet to receive appropriate redress.
Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), CAPAC Chair: “As we mark the Day of Remembrance for Japanese Americans, we must also reflect on the injustice faced by more than 2,300 men, women and children of Japanese decent who were taken from their homes in Latin American countries during World War II. Many were imprisoned on American soil and used in hostage negotiations with Japan. Some were even deported to Axis countries. We mark this solemn event each year so that these dark days of American history are never repeated.”
Congressman Mark Takano (CA-41), CAPAC Whip: “On this solemn day of remembrance, let us not forget the abhorrent acts that were committed against Latin Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II. As a result of Executive order 9066, over 2,000 Japanese Latin Americans were removed from their homes, held captive, and in some cases, used as prisoner negotiations with Japan. Even in times of crisis, our nation’s commitment to uphold the values of our Constitution should never yield, and fairness and equality must be ensured for all.”
Congressman Mike Honda (CA-17), CAPAC Chair Emeritus: “Today we remember not only the incarceration of the Japanese, Italian, and German Americans during WWII, but we also remember the often forgotten Japanese Latin Americans who were also forcibly removed and incarcerated. 2,300 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry were extricated from 13 Latin American countries and brought to the U.S. Once here, they were placed in internment camps and used as pawns in exchange for POWs in the Pacific. Unlike the Japanese Americans, including my family, who received redress for the wartime transgression in 1988, Japanese Latin Americans have still not received an apology from the US government. It is time for us to recognize the injustices we inflicted on the Japanese Latin Americans. As global citizens, we need to remain cognizant of our history and fight to preserve freedom for all.”
Congressman Ami Bera (CA-07): “On this Remembrance Day, we reflect on the internment of thousands of Latin Americans of Japanese descent who were expatriated and held in internment camps along with 120,000 Japanese Americans. We should use this somber anniversary to reaffirm our nation’s role in speaking out against injustices at home and abroad.”
Congressman Eni Faleomavaega (AS): “Today we remember the more than 2,000 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry who were taken from Latin American countries and relocated to U.S. internment camps during World War II simply because of their race. As many Japanese Latin Americans were deported back to Japan or other Axis countries, their lives were completed altered and their families were torn apart. As we reflect on the irreparable harm suffered by these families, may we reaffirm now and always that such wrongful treatment can never be tolerated during wartime or in peace.”
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.