WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nov. 17, 2015) — The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) commends President Barack Obama for his announcement that Minoru “Min” Yasui, who fought for an apology and reparations from the U.S. government for its forced incarcerations of Japanese Americans during World War II, will be awarded the 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“Minoru Yasui was a dedicated civil rights leader and lawyer who bravely challenged the illegal internment of Japanese Americans during World War II,” said NAPABA President Jin Y. Hwang. “Mr. Yasui is a hero to the Asian Pacific American community because he was never silenced by fear or bitterness, and he never stopped fighting for equality for all Americans. This is an honor long overdue.”
Mr. Yasui was both the first Japanese American graduate of the University of Oregon School of Law and the first person to violate the curfew imposed on all persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II. He violated curfew with the full knowledge that he was challenging what he saw as a discriminatory law, and with the intent of bringing a test case to vindicate his rights and those of all American citizens. Mr. Yasui’s decision to challenge Executive Order 9066 took him all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld his 1942 conviction a year later in the decision of Yasui v. United States. Despite this loss, he never gave up the fight for justice, and 42 years later in 1984, his conviction was finally overturned.
A visionary well ahead of his time, Mr. Yasui recognized the common struggle of all marginalized people and dedicated his life to advocating and achieving results on their behalf. His notable achievements include helping to found the Urban League of Denver, the Colorado Latin Leadership, Advocacy and Research Organization, and the Denver Indian Center. In 1994, Mr. Yasui was a recipient of the inaugural NAPABA Trailblazer Award.
NAPABA recognizes the dedication of the Yasui family, Senator Mazie K. Hirono, Representative Mike Honda, NAPABA Past President and lead Yasui coram nobis attorney Peggy Nagae, and countless other advocates who worked tirelessly to gain this recognition.
Established by President John F. Kennedy as Executive Order 11085 in February 1963, the Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian award in the U.S. The Medal is awarded by the President to any person who has made an “especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural, or other significant public or private endeavors.”
The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) is the national association of Asian Pacific American attorneys, judges, law professors, and law students. NAPABA represents the interests of approximately 50,000 attorneys and approximately 75 national, state, and local Asian Pacific American bar associations. Its members include solo practitioners, large firm lawyers, corporate counsel, legal services and non-profit attorneys, and lawyers serving at all levels of government.
NAPABA continues to be a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting Asian Pacific American communities. Through its national network of committees and affiliates, NAPABA provides a strong voice for increased diversity of the federal and state judiciaries, advocates for equal opportunity in the workplace, works to eliminate hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment, and promotes the professional development of people of color in the legal profession.
To learn more about NAPABA, visit www.napaba.org, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter (@NAPABA).