NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Four Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II asked a New York federal district court on July 10 to prevent the government from including a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. Former Secretary of Transportation and Commerce Norman Y. Mineta and three sisters, Sharon Sakamoto, Eileen Yoshiko Sakamoto Okada, and Joy Sakamoto Barker argue that the citizenship question will cause distrust, undermining the Census’ sole and essential purpose of counting every person, regardless of citizenship.
They are joined by the Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at Seattle University School of Law and the Council on American Islamic Relations-New York.
“When I was 10 years old in 1942, my family and I were forcibly taken from our home in San Jose and incarcerated at the Heart Mountain camp in Wyoming, solely because we were Japanese American,” said Mineta. “Years later, we learned the government improperly used Census information to quickly round up and incarcerate 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry. Today, there is unprecedented concern from minority communities on the collection of citizenship information by the Census Bureau.”
In 2001, the Census Bureau itself acknowledged that “the historical record is clear that senior Census Bureau staff proactively cooperated with the internment, and that census tabulations were directly implicated.”
Then earlier this year in March, the Bureau announced that it would include a citizenship question on the 2020 questionnaire, claiming that it is necessary to allow the Bureau to measure the portion of the population eligible to vote.
“President Franklin Roosevelt broke the promise in his presidential Census proclamation that no person can be harmed in any way by furnishing the information required,” said Lorraine K. Bannai, director of the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality. “Trust, once breached, can take decades to rebuild. It is crucial that the Census be conducted free of any improper conduct by government officials charged with ensuring trust in the Census as an institution.”