Reprinted from Nikkei West, Sept. 25, 2000

JACL's Position on Redress Bill Raises Concern

The Campaign for Justice-Redress Now for Japanese Latin Americans! would like to thank the many supporters of H.R. 4735, the Wartime Parity and Justice Act of 2000, introduced this June by Congress member Xavier Becerra of Southern California, and urges everyone in our community to let our government know that redress is not yet over.

For potentially 2,000 Japanese Americans (JA) and Japanese Latin Americans (JLA) in our community, the fight for justice continues, and we need your help to see that our families and our families' struggles are not forgotten. This bill will provide redress for those JAs who have been denied redress due to technicalities, such as Jane Yano, who was born in camp after the incorrect camp closing date specified in the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 (CLA); for JLAs such as Alicia Nishimoto and Art Shibayama, who were kidnapped from their homes in Latin America and imprisoned in this country during World War II, and who seek equitable redress for the violations of their civil and human rights by the U.S. government, and $45 million to fulfill the original amount of the education fund mandated in the CLA, to ensure that future generations will know what happened to our families and to prevent such injustices from being repeated.

With this bill, we now have a chance to show Congress that we will not tolerate injustice to our community. This is our chance to finally make redress a reality for those who have suffered so much due to our government's racist wartime actions, unfair redress policies, and the treatment of our JA and JLA families, even by our own community. It will take everyone's effort to make this happen.

We recognize that this effort for just redress for JLAs could not have been possible without the help and support of many individuals and organizations in the community, including the JACL. We appreciate the JACL for playing an important part in our struggle to right the wrongs of our government. There are also many individuals and chapters within the organization who have stepped forward to speak out against this injustice and who have joined in the campaign's efforts to give voice to this important issue. To them, we are grateful and hope that they will continue to support our efforts.

While the JACL has been a strong supporter in the past, their current national position is that their organization supports the intent of the legislation but cannot publicly endorse the Becerra legislation. They state, however, that members can provide their support as individuals. The JACL has stated that they cannot formally support this bill because their organization made promises to the individuals in the Department of Justice (DOJ) and in Congress to stand by the Mochizuki settlement and not to seek further redress money. However, as one of the major provisions of the settlement agreement states, "Nothing in this agreement shall be deemed to override any subsequent legislative enactment designed to compensate class member."

Supporting H.R. 4735 is in full accordance with the Mochizuki settlement agreement. As expressed in Emily Moto Murase's article, "On Accidents of History, Grave Injustices, and Blind Relatives," (Pacific Citizen, Aug. 25-31, 2000), we realize that there are those in the JACL who are troubled by the JACL's position and feel it damages the organization's moral credibility in the community.

The Campaign, too, is disappointed with the JACL's position and feels it is troubling, not only to members of the JACL, but also to many others in the community, that their organization is not supporting this redress bill. While Paul Mills' commentary, "JACL's Position on JLA Bill Comes as a Surprise," (Hokubei Mainichi, Aug. 18, 2000) expressed his own personal views and did not entirely reflect the Campaign's position, it did voice legitimate concerns regarding the JACL's involvement in the redress efforts surrounding the Mochizuki case. As the Campaign we ask, why weren't we told about the alleged promises made to individuals in the DOJ and in Congress during the Mochizuki settlement negotiations? To whom were these promises made? If these promises were in fact made by the JACL, we feel disappointed that, during this critical period of settlement negotiations, the JACL, while being a member of the Campaign, was making separate agreements with the government that were kept secret from the JLAs, their attorneys, and other members of the Campaign.

The decision of whether or not to accept the settlement offer was based on a collective and democratic approach by the Campaign members. We feel it is unfortunate that the JACL did not share this approach. Had we in the Campaign known about the secret deals the JACL claims were made behind closed doors, we would have had a completely different view of the government's settlement offer of $5,000, especially given the fact that JAs were awarded $20,000 under the CLA. These supposed promises undermined a key provision in the settlement agreement, which specifically allowed for JLAs to pursue a more equitable redress through congressional action. As the Campaign goes forward in our redress efforts, including seeking passage of this important legislation, the negative consequences of the JACL's actions are becoming more apparent. As one of the largest Asian American civil rights organizations in the U.S., we feel it is deeply unfortunate that the JACL is not supporting this civil rights bill.

Although Mills' comments acknowledged the internal struggles within the DOJ during the Mochizuki lawsuit, his assessment of those in the DOJ who supported settlement of the lawsuit is not shared by the Campaign. The Campaign does appreciate Bill Lann Lee, Rose Ochi, Ray Fisher, and others in the DOJ for their efforts to resolve the lawsuit. However, while the Mochizuki lawsuit has reached resolution, there is still unfinished redress business in the courts as well as in Congress. We urge this Administration and the DOJ to stop fighting internees in court and to support this legislation to bring an honorable closure to this shameful part in U.S. history.

We now have the opportunity to resolve the remaining redress issues, but the question we must ask our community and our nation is, do we have the political will and moral fiber to meet this challenge? With the support of the Administration, the DOJ, and Congress, this redress bill can get passed. We need the continued support of our community, including members of the JACL, to see that justice is served to all of our families.

The Campaign is encouraged by the dialogue that is opening up within the JACL and hopes that their members will make their voices heard so that their organization will step forward to support H.R. 4735. This bill gives our community and our friends in the government a chance to show that this country can live up to its ideals and provide equitable redress for those in our own community who have been wronged for too long.

Campaign for Justice-Redress Now for Japanese Latin Americans

P.O. Box 251425

Los Angeles, CA 90025

(323) 549-9425

Opinions expressed in the NikkeiWest are those of the writers and not of the NikkeiWest.

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