President Ronald Reagan signs the Civil Liberties Act on Aug. 10, 1988. From left: Sen. Spark Matsunaga (D-Hawaii), Rep. Norman Mineta (D-San Jose), Rep. Patricia Saiki (R-Hawaii), Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.), Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), Rep. Robert Matsui (D-Sacramento), Rep. Bill Lowery (R-San Diego) and National JACL President Harry Kajihara.

WASHINGTON — On Aug. 10, 34 years after the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which granted reparations and a presidential apology to every citizen or legal immigrant of Japanese ancestry incarcerated by the U.S. government during World War II, was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) released the following statements:

CAPAC Chair Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena): “Today, as we recognize the anniversary of Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which offered reparations and apologies to Japanese Americans in light of their forced imprisonment during World War II, we also reflect on a dark period in our American history marked by discrimination, xenophobia and fear. It is particularly harrowing to think about the forced incarceration of Japanese Americans occurring during my lifetime — and that of many of my colleagues. For so many, the wounds are still fresh and, as we continue to see a nationwide surge in anti-Asian hate, those wounds are being reopened.

“As we continue to forge a path forward rooted in equity and acceptance, we as AAPIs must ramp up our calls to better educate Americans on our history and uplift the voices of all in our communities — past, present and future — to ensure such atrocities are never repeated.”

CAPAC First Vice Chair Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.): “Thirty-four years ago, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 provided reparations to Japanese Americans that were imprisoned by the U.S. government during World War II. The reparations that were provided were a way to fix the wrongdoings that were perpetrated during a time of war, panic, and racial prejudice. We saw the difficulties the AAPI community has had to endure during the COVID-19 pandemic and we cannot let the nation regress, but instead should look to ways we can come together, even during our most difficult times.”

CAPAC Whip Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Manhattan Beach): “Today is the anniversary of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which granted reparations to Japanese Americans who were wrongfully interned by our government during World War II. In the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, our nation turned its back on Japanese American citizens, many of whom were unjustly blamed and sent to internment camps. These discriminatory actions are a stain on our nation’s history. While no amount of money could attempt to heal the pain caused by this injustice, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 represented an important acknowledgement of our government’s wrongdoing.

“As we commemorate the enactment of this law, we remember its mission to dismantle prejudice, stereotyping, and racial profiling and pave the way for inclusivity in our nation.”

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Santa Clara): “The signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 was a significant step in addressing the harm caused to Japanese Americans during World War II and the violation of their fundamental rights. As we mark the 34th anniversary of this landmark bill, we build on this work to fully address these injustices and stand up for freedom and human rights at home and around the world.”

Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento): “Thirty-four years ago, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 was signed into law, finally acknowledging and apologizing for the grave injustice of Japanese American incarceration during World War II. Today, we share our stories and lift up the voices of our community, but we also recognize the tireless work of those who fought for this legislation to help heal our country.

“My late husband, Bob Matsui, Norm Mineta, Daniel Inouye and many others worked tirelessly to make sure that Americans and lawmakers across this country were educated about the terrible prejudice that led to incarceration. Members of the Japanese American community came forward to tell their stories for the first time — many with great emotion. And with these stories, people across the nation finally grasped the gravity of the pain inflicted on an entire community.

“Today, we renew our commitment to lead with compassion and understanding, to speak out against injustice, and build a more inclusive, equitable future for us all.”

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