Japanese Latin American internees deserve full redress
Japanese Latin Americans interned in U.S. camps during World War II were not compensated with interned Japanese Americans in 1988.
A reunion taking place in Waikiki this week is a reminder that reparations made to Japanese Americans interned during World War II did not include Japanese Latin Americans who were brought to America and placed in camps during the war. They did receive a fraction of the compensation given to the interned Japanese Americans, but a commission proposed in Congress should seek parity for these victims of human-rights abuse.
During the war, the United States was given permission by 13 Latin American countries to seize 2,264 people of Japanese descent, most of them from Peru, and bring them to America to be used for prisoner exchange with Japan. At the war's end, more than 900 were deported to Japan, about 100 were able to return to Latin America and more than 350 remained in the United States, according to Campaign for Justice: Redress Now for Japanese Latin American Internees.
Congress enacted legislation in 1988 that apologized to the Japanese Americans who were interned during the war and made redress payments of $20,000 to each of the internees. The 1980 congressional commission that recommended the compensation did not become aware of the internment of the Japanese Latin Americans until late in its study so did not include them among the recipients.
The Japanese Latin Americans filed a class-action lawsuit against the government in 1996 seeking redress. The lawsuit was settled two years later with an apology and $5,000 compensation payments.
Art Shibayama, among those attending the Waikiki reunion, is a former Peruvian who spent more than two years detained at an internment camp in Texas. After the war, his family and many others tried to return to Peru but were denied entry because they were unable to present passports.
Shibayama remained in the United States and became a U.S. citizen in 1970. He and two brothers refused to accept money from the settlement and filed their own lawsuit against the government. The lawsuit was rejected because of the class-action settlement, and the brothers have filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an arm of the Organization of American States.
Sen. Daniel Inouye and Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., introduced legislation early this year that would establish a commission to study the history of the internment and recommend possible remedies. Inouye noted that the 1980 commission "was unable to fully uncover the facts but found them significant enough to include in its published study, urging a deeper investigation."
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