LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The federal government will pay $5,000 and apologize to each Japanese taken from Latin America and held in U.S. internment camps during World War II, the Justice Department announced today.
``This was a tragic chapter in the history of our nation,″ Attorney General Janet Reno said. ``It’s time to right this wrong and close the book.″
The settlement stemming from a federal lawsuit received preliminary approval Thursday night from the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington. A fairness hearing was scheduled for Nov. 17.
President Clinton said he was pleased with the settlement to those ``who suffered serious injustice.″
More than 2,200 Latin Americans, most with Japanese ancestry and a majority from Peru, were forcibly brought to the United States during the war. The government has never provided an official explanation for the removals and internments.
After internment, some of the internees were exchanged for U.S. prisoners of war held by Japan.
Japanese-Americans interned by the United States during the war who were either U.S. citizens or legal U.S. residents at the time of their detention were paid $20,000 each in reparations under a 1988 federal law.
A federal lawsuit filed in Los Angeles in 1996 sought equal treatment for the Latin American internees.
Those who backed the lawsuit noted the disparity in the payments.
``This is not a totally joyous occasion,″ said Julie Small, co-chairwoman of the Campaign for Justice.
The settlement covers surviving Japanese Latin American internees and heirs of those who were alive on Aug. 10, 1988, when the reparations law was signed. She said the Campaign for Justice has contacted about 600 people around the world and may find more.
Small said the only current source of payment for the settlement is the fund established for Japanese-American reparations.