WASHINGTON, DC (February 17, 2012) — Today, Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) released the following statements regarding the Japanese Latin American experience during World War II in conjunction with observing this year’s Day of Remembrance:
Rep. Judy Chu (CA-32), CAPAC Chair: “Taking ownership of past mistakes is the only way to prevent them from happening again. It is also the only sincere way to apologize to those who were wronged. While many Americans may be familiar with the story of internment camps during World War II, most were not aware that the U.S. government also removed 2,300 men, women and children of Japanese descent from their homes in Latin American countries to be used in hostage negotiations with Japan. As we mark 70 years since the signing of Executive Order 9066, we must never forget the injustices that were committed against Japanese Latin Americans and have yet to be fully redressed.”
Rep. Mike Honda (CA-15), CAPAC Chair Emeritus: “For many Americans, it seems inconceivable that the United States government abducted and deported 2,300 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry from Latin America, using many as pawns in prisoner of war exchanges with Japan. As a nation, we must accept that it happened, investigate and study the wartime violations of our own government, and provide full redress for the families. America showed its greatness when it apologized to Japanese Americans, including my family, for the internment; it must now do the same for the Japanese Latin Americans.”
Senator Daniel Akaka (HI): “The forced relocation, internment, and on occasion deportation of Latin Americans of Japanese ancestry is a regrettable part of World War II that not many Americans know about. For this reason, I have consistently supported efforts in Congress to further investigate the U.S. treatment of Japanese Latin Americans during World War II, in hopes that we can finally bring some closure to the many families involved in this painful history. As we observe the Japanese Latin American Day of Remembrance, I’m hopeful we can raise awareness of this history and continue to move forward in healing.”
Rep. Xavier Becerra (CA-31), Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus: “During World War II, thousands of Japanese Latin Americans were relocated, expatriated and held captive in U.S. internment camps. This grave injustice has yet to be fully redressed. On this Remembrance Day, let us redouble our efforts to increase awareness of this troubling period in our nation’s history.”
Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (GU), CAPAC Vice-Chair: “Japanese Latin American Day of Remembrance sheds light on one of the darker chapters of American history. During World War II, our country detained more than 2,000 individuals of Japanese descent who were living in Latin American countries. Although we cannot change the past, we can educate ourselves about these issues and work to ensure that similar breaches of civil rights are never again perpetrated in our country.”
Rep. Mazie K. Hirono (HI-02), CAPAC Education Taskforce Chair: “Although the relocation and internment of Japanese American families is now well-known, most Americans don’t know about U.S. involvement in taking some 2,300 Japanese Latin Americans from their homes in other countries to internment camps in the United States. At the least, we owe it to those who suffered this injustice to remember what happened.”
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD-08): “Today we mark the grave injustices done to Japanese descendants from Latin American countries by our government during World War II. Not only were they forced to suffer inhumane treatment, but it took far too long for the U.S. government to acknowledge their mistreatment. We must recommit ourselves to ensuring that such atrocities never be allowed to happen again.”
Background: 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, orchestrated by the U.S. government, which often resulted in their deportation to Japan or other Axis countries. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act granting redress to Japanese Americans interned during the war, but this did not include Japanese Latin Americans. Ten years later, following a class-action lawsuit, the U.S. Government offered settlements of $5,000 to Japanese Latin Americans (in contrast to the $20,000 offered to Japanese Americans) and a letter of regret. Despite all this, the official narrative on this troubling period remains incomplete. There are hundreds of people of Japanese, German and Italian descent who have yet to receive appropriate redress.
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.