Japanese-Americans Hail Senate Vote With AM-Internment, Bjt
Undated (AP) _ A man who unsuccessfully challenged the mass internment of Japanese- Americ ans during World War II said Wednesday’s Senate approval of reparations represented a rare opportunity to right an old wrong.
The Senate approved a bill Wednesday calling for the government to apologize for the mass roundups and making each of the estimated 60,000 survivors eligible for $20,000 payments. The House passed a similar bill.
About 120,000 Japanese-Americans were forced to give up their homes and businesses and were put in internment camps after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941.
″The country doesn’t have too many opportunities to redress something,″ Gordon Hirabayashi said in a telephone interview from Edmonton, Canada.
″When it does, I think we should take that opportunity and look to the future to keep the honor of our country inviolable. I think that result would be the finishing touch to what the Japanese-Americans hope that their tragedy will contribute to.″
Hirabayashi, then a 23-year-old student in Seattle, was arrested in 1942 after refusing to abide by an 8 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew or report to a civilian control center, the first step toward placement in an internment camp.
Constitutional challenges by him and two other Japanese-Americans to the internment orders resulted in Supreme Court rulings in 1943 and 1944 upholding the relocation as an emergency military measure.
Last September, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wiped Hirabayashi’s convictions off the books, ruling that the government had suppressed evidence that the mass imprisonment was ordered for racial rather than military reasons.
The government has not appealed the ruling, but Hirabayashi said his lawyers have asked the Supreme Court to take up the case anyway so the high court’s previous decision can be removed from the records.
In Seattle, Cherry Kinoshita rejoiced in the Senate vote 46 years after she was uprooted from her home and sent to a camp in Idaho.
″Pleased would be an understatement,″ she said. ″We’ve been working for over 10 years to see this happen. I think it’s great to see our nation admit an error, and take steps to remedy what was a great injustice.″
Ms. Kinoshita, who was 18 when she went with her family to the camp at Minidoka, Idaho, was one of many Japanese-Americans who worked to convince the government that internment defied the Constitution and was a racist.
″We hope this will acknowledge that this was a tragic travesty of justice, and that with this legislation we can hope that it will never, ever recur again to another group,″ she said.
Sam Shoji, 62, of Seattle, a social worker for the Veterans Administration who was incarcerated for 13 months, said the money was ″only a token ... but at least it is there.″
″It was basically a concentration camp,″ said Shoji.
The issue took a long time to be resolved because of the shame the Japanese-Americans felt at being locked up and the federal government’s willingness to bury the matter, Hirabayashi said.
″In this case, the victims were so traumatized by this experience that they had not recovered enough to talk about until a decade or so ago,″ he said.
″There was nothing in the history books,″ he said. ″Now the situation is different. We have to take some kind of historical perspective on this. Forty years is not all that long.″