By Theresa Weber
SEATTLE CHINESE POST
Originally Printed Aug. 20, 1988
The timing was perfect. It was the last day of the Japanese American Citizen’s League’s 30th national convention in Seattle and President Reagan signed the redress bill. Some 50 League members made a mad dash to the airport bound for Washington, D.C. for the live witnessing of the signing ceremony.
Those who remained held a press conference that day, on Aug. 10, at the University of Washington. Priscilla Ouchida, national JACL vice president, called the bill’s passage a “testament to the U.S. admitting when they made a mistake” and a “reaffirmation of this great democracy.”
“It is a moving time and a deeply personal one. The scars, the wounds have started to heal,” she said.
The bill calls for a total $1.2 billion in payments to be made to living survivors of U.S. internment camps during World War II. Half of the 120,000 Japanese Americans that were evacuated have died. That means an estimated 60,000 will each receive a tax-free check for $20,000.
The funds, to be administered by the Justice Department, will likely be limited to $500 million per year.
“It took a great amount of effort, on a grassroots level, to educate Congress and the administration,” Gojio said. “We can learn from this experience. Provisions are in the bill to educate Americans about what happened to Japanese Americans. Unfortunately, it could happen again.”
Ken Hayashi, who was interned at Tule Lake at age 23, said non-Japanese co-workers tend to fixate on the monetary award. “This gives me an opportunity to ask them to step in our shoes. A lot of people are still uninformed.”
The U.S. government apologized in the bill to Americans, including Aleuts, it removed from homes and sent to camps during the war.
“It was somewhat like being raped,” said William Marutani, who was interned at Tule Lake as an 18-year-old. “You know it is wrong, but don’t like to tell people … maybe you were guilty, disloyal.
You know in your heart you weren’t, but do other people know?
“The action of the president confirms my faith in the U.S. system of government,” Marutani added.
“When I see the stars and stripes, I get a chill.” (end)