WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 19, 2015) — 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. F
rom 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.
Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) on Thursday released the following statements regarding the Japanese Latin American experience during World War II:
Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), CAPAC Chair:
“As we reflect on the wrongful internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, we must not forget the over 2,300 men, women, and children of Japanese descent who were also forcibly removed from their homes in Latin America, incarcerated in America, and used in hostage negotiations with Japan. Let this dark moment in history serve as a reminder to remain vigilant against injustice and reaffirm our fight to protect the freedom and civil liberties of all.”
Congressman Xavier Becerra (CA-34), Chair of the House Democratic Caucus:
“Not only were Japanese Americans treated unjustly during World War II, thousands of Latin Americans of Japanese ancestry were also cruelly expatriated and interned on American soil. I join my colleagues in remembering those whose lives were brutally interrupted so that this tragic history never repeats itself.”
Congressman Mike Honda (CA-17), CAPAC Chair Emeritus:
“As we remember and learn from the experiences of the Japanese, Italian and German Americans who were placed into internment camps during World War II, we must also remember the unjust and inhumane incarceration of Japanese Latin Americans during this same time. 2,300 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry were extricated from across 13 Latin American countries and brought to the U.S., and subsequently placed in incarceration camps and used as pawns in exchange for POWs in the Pacific. Through education, apology, and redress from the US government, the Japanese American community has begun the healing process. We need to do the same for the Japanese Latin Americans. In the era of globalization, we need to be leaders and fight for justice.”
Congressman Takano (CA-41), CAPAC Whip:
“Today is a day to remember the injustices against Japanese Americans during World War II, but we should also remember that during this time, more than 2,000 Japanese Latin Americans were removed from their homes, held captive, and deported to Latin America. Our civil liberties are sacred, and if we are to learn from our mistakes, we must not forget this dark chapter.”
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13):
“During WWII, our nation fell far short of our commitment to justice and equality. Approximately 2,300 individuals of Japanese ancestry from Latin American countries were held in internment camps on American soil. On this Day of Remembrance, we condemn this deplorable action and re-commit to pursuing the American ideals that were tragically ignored and resulted in the suffering of many.”
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.