A U.S. activist who has been demanding government redress for Japanese-Latin Americans interned during World War II told reporters in Tokyo on Friday that the “shameful chapter in U.S. history” is not yet closed despite the settlement reached in June between the U.S. government and former internees.
Grace Shimizu, leader of the California-based Campaign for Justice, arrived in Japan on Wednesday to discover an estimated 600 Japanese-Latin American former internees here have yet to apply for the U.S. redress program, which is to end Aug. 10.
The settlement agreement includes a $5,000 redress payment and a letter of apology from U.S. President Bill Clinton for each former internee.
Although Washington decided in 1988 to give $20,000 to each Japanese-American interned in U.S. camps during World War II, Japanese-Latin Americans had not been eligible for any reparation until the settlement agreement was reached June 10. But Shimizu insisted that the struggle for justice and redress is not over.
Since the amount of compensation is one-fourth that given to Japanese-Americans, some former internees are likely to reject the offer and file separate lawsuits.
During her one-week stay in Japan, she said she will speak with former internees and their families in Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima, Fukuoka and Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, and help them decide whether to accept the agreement.
On Nov. 17, the U.S. Federal Court of Claims will hold a hearing over the agreement and decide on giving final approval after examining its fairness. Shimizu does not expect approval is likely.
“Some (of the former internees) believe the settlement is a major victory because, for the first time, the U.S. government will express profound regret that it denied fundamental liberties and committed a grave injustice,” she said. “Others feel that the settlement was a bittersweet victory. They think it’s better to get a compromise than get nothing. Some others feel that the settlement agreement is an insulting gesture,” Shimizu said.
Many of the former internees have already passed away. Shimizu’s father, a Japanese-Peruvian who was among an estimated 2,200 Japanese-Latin Americans taken by force to the U.S. during the war, is now 91.
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