83 Organizations Join Demand Progress Action and the Fred T. Korematsu Institute to Support Passage of Legislative Package Honoring World War II-Era Civil Rights Hero Fred Korematsu Who Fought Against US Concentration Camps

Demand Progress Action and the Fred T. Korematsu Institute led a coalition of 85 civil society organizations to call on Congress to support a new bicameral legislative package introduced today by Senators Hirono and Duckworth and Reps. Takano and Tokuda that recognizes civil rights hero Fred Korematsu for his activism against US incarceration of American citizens and residents of Japanese ancestry in concentration camps during World War II. 

“The legislation introduced by Senators Hirono and Duckworth and Reps. Takano and Tokuda honors the legacy of civil rights hero Fred Korematsu, who bravely challenged our government’s policy of forcing Americans and residents of Japanese ancestry into concentration camps during World War II,” said Hajar Hammado policy advisor of Demand Progress. “As xenophobia, racism, and anti-Asian violence surge in America, it’s critically important to elevate this grim history for all Americans to learn from it and to affirm the liberties that we must always be on guard to protect, just as Fred Korematsu did.”

Specifically, the broad coalition sent a letter to Senators Hirono and Duckworth and Reps. Takano and Tokuda endorsing: 

  1. Korematsu-Takai Civil Liberties Protection Act, which would prohibit detention or imprisonment based solely on an actual or perceived protected characteristic of an individual.
  2. Recognizing the importance of establishing a national “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution,” which will help to ensure that Fred Korematsu’s legacy is remembered and honored, and that the lessons of the incarceration are not forgotten.
  3. Fred Korematsu Congressional Gold Medal Act, which will honor Fred Korematsu for his decades-long fight for justice, and will serve as a powerful reminder of the importance of protecting civil liberties for all Americans.

Today’s legislative package honoring civil rights hero Fred Korematsu serves as an important reminder of our nation’s past mistakes during WWII to categorically detain and remove Americans and residents of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast to concentration camps in the middle of the country — a mistake for which the US government eventually apologized and that we should not make again.

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the forced relocation and incarceration of Japanese Americans. In all, more than 120,000 Japanese Americans were detained and forcefully removed from their homes without charges or due process for years. 

Fred Korematsu, an American citizen of Japanese descent, fought the implementation of that order through a lawsuit that challenged the mass violation of civil liberties on the basis of race. But our institutions failed him. Even the Supreme Court, intended as a bulwark against Executive power run amok, affirmed Korematsu’s detention in Korematsu v. United States in 1944, with a 6-3 majority. However, the dissent by Justice Frank Murphy spoke the truth that the United States, grudgingly and slowly, would come to recognize through executive, judicial, and legislative action. Justice Murphy declared the order to detain Japanese Americans the “legalization of racism.”

The organizations that joined Demand Progress Action and the Fred T. Korematsu Institute to urge Congress to pass legislation honoring Korematsu include:

80-20 Initiative
Advocacy For Principled Action In Government
American Humanist Association
American Muslim Bar Association
American Muslim Empowerment Network (AMEN)
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
APA Justice Task Force
Arab American Institute
Asian American Federal Employees for Nondiscrimination (AAFEN)
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)
Asian American Scholar Forum
Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC)
Asian Counseling and Referral Service
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO
Asian Pacific Islander Trustee Association of the Community College League of California
Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Association
Broward for Progress
Campaign For Justice: Redress NOW for Japanese Latin Americans!
Center for Common Ground
Center for Democracy & Technology
Center for Popular Democracy
Center for Victims of Torture
Central Valley Islamic Council
Columbia Law School
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Daily Kos
Defending Rights & Dissent
Des Moines Catholic Worker
Due Process Institute
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Equal Justice Society
Fight for the Future
Fix the Court
Free Government Information (FGI)
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation
Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters, USA-JPIC
Human Rights First
Immigrant Legal Resource Center
Institute for Policy Studies, New Internationalism Project
J Street
Japanese American Citizens League
Japanese American Citizens League – Contra Costa Chapter
Japanese American Citizens League – Dayton Chapter
Japanese American Citizens League – DC Chapter
Japanese American Citizens League – Puyallup Valley Chapter
Japanese American Citizens League – Seattle Chapter
Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaiʻi
Japanese Peruvian Oral History Project
Jewish World Watch
Muslim Counterpublics Lab
Muslim Justice League
Muslims for Just Futures
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Jewish Women
National Japanese American Memorial Foundation (NJAMF)
National Organization for Women
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
No More Guantanamos
Nonviolence International
Ohio Chinese American Association (OCAA)
One America
Organization for Identity and Cultural Development
Our Revolution
Peace Action
Project On Government Oversight
Public Citizen
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Team
Surveillance Technology Oversight Project
The Calyx Institute
Tule Lake Committee
UltraViolet Action
Voices for Progress
Western States Legal Foundation
Women’s Empowerment Coalition of NYC
World BEYOND War