Puneet Varma (Editor)

Japanese American life after World War II

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On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 relocating 110,000 Japanese Americans from the West Coast into internment camps for the duration of the war. The personal rights, liberties, and freedoms of Japanese Americans were suspended by the United States Government.


Japanese American Evacuation Claims Act

After World War II in the year 1948, President Truman signed the Japanese-American Claims Act. [1] This act was a way to compensate Japanese Americans for their economic losses due to their forced evacuation. "Although some $38 million was to be paid out through provisions of the act, it would be largely ineffective even on the limited scope in which it operated." [2]

McCarran-Walter Act

When the war ended, the American opinion of Japanese was altered. Japan was in the process of rebuilding with the help of the U.S. military. Japanese became known for their intelligence, amiable relations, and hardworking ethic. The new perspective of this country changed American minds about Japanese. In 1952, this new opinion of the Japanese resulted in first-generation Japanese Americans receiving the right to become naturalized U.S. citizens with the McCarran-Walter Act. [3]

Congress’ investigation of WWII Japanese-American imprisonment

The effort to rebuild for the Japanese Americans in America after the war was difficult because memories of imprisonment still surfaced. Many wanted justification for the harsh conditions they experienced during World War II.

“1978, the Japanese American Citizens League officially asked Congress to investigate whether the imprisonment during World War II was unjustified and wrong. A bipartisan commission conducted extensive research and, in a report titled ‘Personal Justice Denied: Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians,’ finally concluded that the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II was a ‘grave injustice’ and resulted from ‘race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.’”

1965 Immigration Act

The Immigration and Nationality Act amendments of 1965 eliminated the national origins quota that was first established by the United States in the Immigration Act of 1924. Emanuel Celler, proposed the 1965 Act, which was strongly backed by Senator Ted Kennedy. This legislation “created the foundation of today’s immigration law.” [4]


"The internment of the entire Japanese-American population violated the equality principle. At the time the social movement for reparations began in the late 1970s, this principle was quite firmly entrenched in American culture, although at the time of the internment, it was not. In the America of the 1940s there was a strict racial hierarchy which was considered quite legitimate. Nevertheless, by the 1970s the organizers of the redress movement were able to make effective use of the equality principle, using it to build alliances with other groups in the U.S. dedicated to equality." [5]

Groups dedicated to the Equality Principle

  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • "The internment also violated the principle of private property, again having more moral resonance in the 1970s than in the 1940s, when it was common to violate the property rights of nonwhite Americans. The Japanese American redress movement was also very well organized. After some internal debate and competition among various groups, the lead organization was considered the legitimate representative of the collectivity. The claimants also had access to very influential, high-level governmental insiders." [6]

    Japanese Americans who sat in Congress in 1979

  • Daniel Inouye
  • Spark Matsunaga
  • Norman Mineta
  • Bob Matsui
  • "Matsunaga and Inouye were also WWII veterans. This allowed them to act as insider advocates. Inouye was also a very visible victim of violation of physical integrity, as he had lost part of his right arm in battle. The visibility of his injury became a condensation point in the struggle for reparations." [7]

    Civil Liberties Act

    The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 was an official apology made to Japanese Americans in 1988 by Congress. [8]

    Financial Settlements [9]

  • $20,000 per individual
  • the claimants were not awarded the full market value of their lost property
  • about 80,000 individual claims were paid, at a total cost of about $1.6 billion
  • References

    Japanese-American life after World War II Wikipedia

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