WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 19, 2013) — 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.
Rep. Xavier Becerra (CA-34), House Democratic Caucus Chairman: “As we remember the internment of our fellow Americans of Japanese descent during World War II, let us not forget the thousands of Japanese Latin Americans forcefully relocated, expatriated and interned as well in these camps. We must continue working to fully redress this grave injustice. And we must work to ensure that our nation’s history fully accounts for this painful chapter.”
Rep. Madeleine Z. Bordallo (GU), CAPAC Vice Chair: “The unjust detainment of more than 2,000 individuals of Japanese descent who were living in Latin American countries during World War II was a dark chapter in our nation’s history. I join my colleagues and our global community in recognizing Japanese Latin American Day of Remembrance. It is incumbent on us to learn from past mistakes to ensure these injustices do not happen again.”
Rep. Mark Takano (CA-41), CAPAC Whip: “During World War II, over 2,000 Japanese Latin Americans were removed from their homes, held captive, deported to Latin America, and in some cases, used as prisoner negotiations with Japan. Today is a day for us to remember this injustice and promise to never allow this type of mistake again. Our civil liberties are sacred and by shedding light on this dark period, we can continue to heal and move forward to a more perfect union for all Americans.”
Rep. Mike Honda (CA-17), CAPAC Chair Emeritus: “Even 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 experiences of Japanese Latin Americans who were unjustly and inhumanely treated 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 internment camps and used as pawns in exchange for POWs in the Pacific. I cannot emphasize enough that the lessons of those dark days in our nation’s history are critical today, more than ever before. America showed great maturity when it honorably redressed its wartime transgression to the Japanese Americans, including my family. Let us do the same for the Japanese Latin Americans. As Americans, and as global citizens, we must continue to find our voices and speak out against injustices, here and abroad.”
Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13): “Throughout World War II, thousands of Latin Americans of Japanese ancestry were taken from their homes and held captive in U.S. internment camps. On this Day of Remembrance, we must condemn these deplorable actions and ensure that we never fall so short of our American ideals ever again.”
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD-08): “The acts that were committed against Latin Americans of Japanese ancestry by our government during World War II were unjust. Today we pause to remember those who suffered, and we must let their memory serve as a reminder that such acts must never be tolerated.”
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.