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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Japanese Latin Americans Set to Gain Justice After Kidnapping by the US in WWII

So few Americans know of this. They know what happened to Japanese Americans on the mainland during WWII, that they were interred, but they are unaware of what our government did to Japanese Latin Americans. From the Campaign for Justice Website:


What would you do if this happened to you? Former internees have mostly come to peace with what they went through, though the government has never openly admitted that it commited human rights violations. We say we never want this to happen again, but it is happening now to other people. Do we need to go through it ourselves before we can understand that this was a crime?


Wartime Abduction and Incarceration

From December 1941 to February 1948, the U.S. government orchestrated and financed the mass abduction, forcible deportation and internment of 2,264 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry from 13 Latin American countries.

Stripped of their passports en route to the U.S. these Japanese Latin Americans (JLAs) were declared “illegal aliens”.

The U.S. planned to use them as hostages in exchange for Americans held by Japan. Over 800 JLAs were included in two prisoner of war exchanges between the U.S. and Japan.

The remaining JLAs were imprisoned without due process of law in U.S. Department of Justice internment camps until after the end of the war.

After the War

Most of the incarcerated JLAs were forced to leave the U.S. after their release from camp.

However, since many were initially barred from returning to their home countries, more than 900 JLAs were deported to war devastated Japan.

Over 350 JLAs remained in the U.S. and fought deportation in the courts. Eventually, about 100 were able to return to Latin America. It was not until 1952 that those who stayed were allowed to begin the process of becoming U.S. permanent residents. Many later became U.S. citizens.


Japanese Latin Americans were subjected to gross violations of civil and human rights by the U.S. government during WWII.

These violations were not justified by a security threat to Allied interests. Rather, it was the outcome of historical racism, anti-foreign prejudice, economic competition, and political opportunism.

The Civil Liberties Act excludes JLAs

The US Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. This granted an apology and $20,000 compensation payments to US citizens and legal permanent residents of Japanese ancestry. It also established an education fund.

Most JLAs were excluded because the US government claimed they were “illegal aliens.”

Mochizuki settlement a questionable victory

In 1996, a class action lawsuit, Mochizuki v. USA, was filed on behalf of all Japanese Latin Americans who had been denied redress.

It resulted in a settlement agreement granting an apology and $5,000 compensation payments in exchange for termination of lawsuit.

A provision in the agreement allowed for pursuit of legislation for equitable redress in the US Congress.

While most Japanese Latin American internees accepted the Mochizuki settlement, some rejected the offer and continued litigation in the US courts. Four other lawsuits were filed and eventually dismissed.

Escalating to an international court

Unable to find justice in the US courts, a petition on behalf of the three Shibayama brothers and the Japanese Peruvian Oral History Project was filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)in June 2003.

The petition seeks to hold the US government accountable for the ongoing failure to provide redress for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

After three years, the IACHR has determined that it has jurisdiction over this petition and is deliberating the facts of the case.

For more information on CFJ's role in the redress history, please see the What We Do section. Read further>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Now after all these years,

Japanese Latin American Commission Bill Passes House Judiciary Committee
LOS ANGELES, CA - Yesterday, a bipartisan majority of members of the House Judiciary Committee voted to favorably report the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Latin Americans of Japanese Descent Act (H.R. 42). Now that the legislation passed the full Committee, it is ready for passage in the House of Representatives.

"I commend chairman John Conyers and the members of the Judiciary Committee for recognizing the importance and timeliness of this legislation," said Christine Oh, Legislative Director of Campaign For Justice. "Yesterday's result is a testament to the fact that our national leaders and representatives are moving this country in the right direction. I urge the leadership of the House of Representatives to expedite the bill to floor vote while there are former internees still left to tell their stories."

If passed by House of Representatives and Senate and signed into law, the JLA Commission bill would establish a commission to investigate and determine the facts surrounding the wartime deportation, internment and relocation of Latin Americans of Japanese descent by the U.S. government and recommend any appropriate remedies based on its findings.

Former internees, their families, and members of the campaign are extremely grateful to our friends and supporters for their encouragement and partnership on this very timely and important bill. We ask that our supporters spread the word to their contacts to push for passage of the bill in the House of Representatives.

The House Judiciary Committee also favorably reported H.R. 1425, the "Wartime Treatment Act," which would establish two fact-finding commissions, one to study the internments and restrictions imposed by the U.S. government on certain European Americans and European Latin Americans during World War II, and the other to study government policies limiting the ability of Jewish refugees to come to the United States before and during the war.

For more information, please contact Christine Oh, CFJ Legislative Director, at (213) 500-9346 or Visit the CFJ website at

Japanese Latin American Redress - Richard Katsuda


HR 1425: Wartime Treatment Study Act can be read HERE

HR 42, Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Latin Americans of Japanese Descent Act can be read HERE

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