Japanese Latin American life under U.S. policies after World War II

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This article series was part of the spring 2007 Student Editor Program - Asian Pacific Americans and American Public Policy. For more information about how to use this site in the classroom, see the main informational page or contact Congresspedia Managing Editor Conor Kenny at File:Conoremail.png.

This article is part of Congresspedia’s coverage of Japanese Americans and Japanese Latin Americans and U.S. Policy During World War II

The series was part of the Student Editor Program - Asian Pacific Americans and American Public Policy.

Twelve countries in Latin America deported some or most of their resident “enemy aliens” of the Allies to the United States, two thirds, or 2,300 being of Japanese descent. The countries were Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Peru. Peru was the supplier of eighty percent of Latin Americans of Japanese descent taken to America. The stated purpose of this collection of Japanese Latin Americans was to secure the Western Hemisphere from dangerous enemy spies and conspirers. However, the real purpose was to use Japanese Latin Americans as war pawns to trade with Japan in exchange for its American prisoners. [1]

Contents

Legal status of Japanese Latin Americans

Once World War II ended, there was no more use for Japanese Latin Americans for prisoner exchange nor was there any justifiable purpose for keeping them interned. The 1,400 Japanese Latin American internees who remained in the U.S. after the war had no political or legal rights. When they were taken from their home countries by military force, the Japanese Latin Americans were denied visas to enter the U.S. and had their passports taken from them. Consequently, the internees were in violation of American immigration laws and were deemed illegal aliens. [2]

Many tried to fight being detained by the US government, saying that they were not “enemy aliens” under the Alien Enemy Act of 1798 because they were not natives of an enemy country. However, they lost that fight and under Proclamation 2655, which authorized the deportation of “dangerous” enemy aliens, 800 Peruvian Japanese were forcibly deported to Japan. More deportations followed, eventually leaving approximately 450 Japanese Latin American in the U.S. [3]

Those who remained in the United States were stateless people. Most were not allowed back into their home countries and had no rights as citizens in America. Only 100 Peruvian citizens were permitted to return to Peru, and faced extreme racism and economic hardships there. They had lost their homes and businesses and many could not find their families. Some families voluntarily went to war stricken Japan, the only country which would accept them. For those families, and the hundreds of others who were deported to Japan, a life in a devastated country with a foreign culture awaited them. Approximately 350 Japanese Latin Americans, mostly of Peruvian descent, stayed in America to fight for citizenship and later for redress.[4]

Escape to Seabrook Farms, NJ

Wayne Collins, a lawyer and advocate for the Japanese, helped arrange for Peruvian Japanese to leave the internment camps and work at a produce processing plant in Seabrook, NJ, the only way to leave the internment camps. Art Shibayamas, a Japanese Peruvian internee, described Seabrook as "like an internment camp," living in "barracks with communal showers" and working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. Although the Japanese Latin Americans were still not completely free, it was a step up from life at the camps. The workers were able to earn money and establish a community. [5]

Path to Citizenship

In 1949, the Japanese Peruvian internees were given the status of "permanently legal admitted immigrants" and were allowed to remain in the U.S., though still not as citizens. Even though they were not granted U.S. citizenship, they were still drafted to fight in the Korean War. Later, in 1952, the Board of Immigration Appeals suspended further deportation of Japanese Peruvians, and allowed them to begin the process of applying for citizenship. [6]

Recent efforts at reparations and redress

The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 granted an apology and $20,000 compensation payments to Japanese American internees who were citizens or legal residents at the time of their internment. The Japanese Latin Americans were excluded from the payments because they were "illegal enemy aliens" at the time of their internment. [7]

"In 1996, lawsuit Mochizuki v. the United States sought inclusion for Japanese Latin Americans in the redress of the Civil Liberties Act. The settlement included an apology and $5,000 compensation, as long as monetary funds were available; however there were not sufficient funds for all Japanese Latin Americans."[8]

In California, the State Senate and State Assembly passed Joint Resolution AJR 66, which called for redress for Japanese Latin Peruvians, in the late 1990s. It was supported by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. [9] [10]

However, one remaining roadblock to redress for Japanese Latin Americans is the appropriation of the money involved - who will pay for it and how it will be divided.

"There is a possibility that even if Japanese Latin Americans are allowed to apply for redress, they each will be given less than $20,000. Or some will get $20,000 and others will get nothing,” according to activist and college professor Phil Tajitsu Nash. [11]

Current efforts at reparations and redress

A coalition of senators, both Republican and Democrat, are currently urging Congress to create a bill reinvigorating the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians previously set up by Congress in 1980.

Main article: Redress for Japanese Latin Americans/ U.S. legislation#Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Latin Americans of Japanese Descent Act of 2007

Recent public education efforts

Recent public education efforts include:

  • In 1991, the Japanese Peruvian Oral History Project was established in San Francisco to educate the public about the experiences of Japanese Peruvians during WWII and to provide information about fights for redress.
  • The Campaign For Justice: Redress Now for Japanese Latin Americans organization was founded to support Japanese Latin American redress.
  • The commission proposed by Sen. Inouye would provide new information and a prominent platform to convey that information to the American public. [12]

Articles and resources

See also

References

  1. "Personal Justice Denied," Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians found via The National Parks Service, December, 1982.
  2. John Cta, "Justice for all or for some? Japanese Peruvian is tired of Runaround," Asian Weekly, (Vol. 14, Iss.47, p.32), July 16, 1993.
  3. "Personal Justice Denied (Appendix)," Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians found via The National Parks Service, December, 1982.
  4. "Campaign for Justice," The Campaign for Justice.
  5. "Seabrook Farms NJ," USGenNet.
  6. "Personal Justice Denied (Appendix)," Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians found via The National Parks Service, December, 1982.
  7. "Personal Justice Denied (Appendix)," Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians found via The National Parks Service, December, 1982.
  8. "Campaign for Justice," The Campaign for Justice.
  9. Phil Tajitsu Nash, "Washington Journal: The Kafkaesque Dilemma Of Japanese Latin Americans," Asian Week (Vol. 19, Iss. 38, p.10), May 1998.
  10. "Assembly Joint Resolution 66," California State Senate, April 20, 1998.
  11. Phil Tajitsu Nash, "Washington Journal: The Kafkaesque Dilemma Of Japanese Latin Americans," Asian Week (Vol. 19, Iss. 38, p.10), May 1998.
  12. "Bill seeks probe of WWII treatment of Japanese-Latin Americans," DATELINE: HONOLULU 5(2007): 125.

External resources

  • "REP. BECERRA INTRODUCES BILL TO INVESTIGATE JAPANESE LATIN AMERICAN." DATELINE: WASHINGTON 2(2007): 125.

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