Civil Liberties Act of 1988

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Civil Liberties Act of 1988
Great Seal of the United States (obverse).svg
Enacted bythe 100th United States Congress
Public law Pub.L.   100–383
Statutes at Large 102  Stat.   904
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the Houseas "Civil Liberties Act of 1987" (H.R. 442) by Tom Foley (D-WA) on January 6, 1987
  • Committee consideration by House Judiciary, Senate Governmental
  • Passed the House on September 17, 1987 (243–141)
  • Passed the Senate on April 20, 1988 (69–27, in lieu of S. 1009)
  • Reported by the joint conference committee on July 26, 1988; agreed to by the Senate on July 27, 1988 (voice vote) and by the House on August 4, 1988 (257–156)
  • Signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on August 10, 1988

The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 (Pub.L.   100–383, title I, August 10, 1988, 102  Stat.   904, 50a U.S.C.   § 1989b et seq.) is a United States federal law that granted reparations to Japanese Americans who had been interned by the United States government during World War II. The act was sponsored by California's Democratic Congressman Norman Mineta, an internee as a child, and Wyoming's Republican Senator Alan K. Simpson, who first met Mineta while visiting an internment camp. The third co-sponsor was California Senator Pete Wilson. The bill was supported by the majority of Democrats in Congress, while the majority of Republicans voted against it. The act was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.

An Act of Congress is a statute enacted by the United States Congress. It can either be a Public Law, relating to the general public, or a Private Law, relating to specific institutions or individuals.

<i>United States Statutes at Large</i>

The United States Statutes at Large, commonly referred to as the Statutes at Large and abbreviated Stat., are an official record of Acts of Congress and concurrent resolutions passed by the United States Congress. Each act and resolution of Congress is originally published as a slip law, which is classified as either public law or private law (Pvt.L.), and designated and numbered accordingly. At the end of a Congressional session, the statutes enacted during that session are compiled into bound books, known as "session law" publications. The session law publication for U.S. Federal statutes is called the United States Statutes at Large. In that publication, the public laws and private laws are numbered and organized in chronological order. U.S. Federal statutes are published in a three-part process, consisting of slip laws, session laws, and codification.

In jurisprudence, reparation is replenishment of a previously inflicted loss by the criminal to the victim. Monetary restitution is a common form of reparation.


The act granted each surviving internee about US$20,000 in compensation (or, $40,000 after inflation-adjustment in 2016 dollars), with payments beginning in 1990. The legislation stated that government actions were based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership" as opposed to legitimate security reasons. [1] A total of 82,219 received redress checks. [2]

Because the law was restricted to American citizens, or legal permanent residents, the ethnic Japanese that had been taken from their homes in Latin America (mostly from Peru), were not covered in the reparations, and regardless of whether they remained in the United States, returned to Latin America, or were deported to Japan after the war. In 1996, Carmen Mochizuki filed a class-action lawsuit, [3] and won a settlement of around $5,000 per person to those eligible from what was left of the funds from the CLA. One hundred forty-five of those affected were able to receive the $5,000 settlement before the funds ran out. In 1999, funds were approved for the attorney general to pay out to the rest of the claimants. [4]


Internment of Japanese Americans

The internment of Japanese Americans was the forced removal and confinement of approximately 120,000 [5] Japanese Americans (62% of whom were United States citizens) [6] [7] from the West Coast of the United States during World War II. Some 5,500 Japanese American men arrested by the FBI immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor were sent directly to internment camps run by the Department of Justice, [8] and approximately 5,000 were able to "voluntarily" relocate to other parts of the country before forced evacuations began. [9] The remainder — roughly 110,000 men, women and children — were sent to "relocation centers," hastily constructed camps in remote portions of the nation's interior, run by the War Relocation Authority (WRA).

Japanese Americans ethnic group

Japanese Americans are Americans who are fully or partially of Japanese descent, especially those who identify with that ancestry, along with their cultural characteristics. Japanese Americans were among the three largest Asian American ethnic communities during the 20th century; but, according to the 2000 census, they have declined in number to constitute the sixth largest Asian American group at around 1.4 million, including those of partial ancestry. According to the 2010 census, the largest Japanese American communities were found in California with 272,528, Hawaii with 185,502, New York with 37,780, Washington with 35,008, Illinois with 17,542, and Ohio with 16,995. Southern California has the largest Japanese American population in North America and the city of Torrance holds the densest Japanese American population in the 48 contiguous states.

West Coast of the United States Coastline

The West Coast or Pacific Coast is the coastline along which the continental Western United States meets the North Pacific Ocean. As a region, this term most often refers to the coastal states of California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. More specifically, it refers to an area defined on the east by the Alaska Range, Cascade Range, Sierra Nevada, and Mojave Desert, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. The United States Census groups the five states of California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii together as the Pacific States division.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the internment with Executive Order 9066, which allowed local military commanders to designate "military areas" from which "any or all persons may be excluded." This power was used to declare that all people of Japanese ancestry were excluded from the entire Pacific coast region, including all of California and parts of Oregon, Washington, and Arizona, except for those in government custody. [10] In 1944, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the exclusion, removal, and detention, arguing that it is permissible to curtail the civil rights of a racial group when there is a "pressing public necessity." [11]

President of the United States Head of state and of government of the United States

President of the United States (POTUS) is the title for the head of state and head of government of the United States of America. The president directs the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces.

Franklin D. Roosevelt 32nd president of the United States

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, often referred to by his initials FDR, was an American statesman and political leader who served as the 32nd president of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945. A Democrat, he won a record four presidential elections and became a central figure in world events during the first half of the 20th century. Roosevelt directed the federal government during most of the Great Depression, implementing his New Deal domestic agenda in response to the worst economic crisis in U.S. history. As a dominant leader of his party, he built the New Deal Coalition, which realigned American politics into the Fifth Party System and defined American liberalism throughout the middle third of the 20th century. His third and fourth terms were dominated by World War II. Roosevelt is widely considered to be one of the most important figures in American history, as well as among the most influential figures of the 20th century. Though he has also been subject to much criticism, he is generally rated by scholars as one of the three greatest U.S. presidents, along with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Executive Order 9066 Authorizing the Secretary of War to Prescribe Military Areas

Executive Order 9066 was a United States presidential executive order signed and issued during World War II by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942. This order authorized the Secretary of War to prescribe certain areas as military zones, clearing the way for the incarceration of Japanese Americans, German Americans, and Italian Americans in U.S. concentration camps.

Redress and reparations

Some compensation for property losses was paid in 1948, but most internees were unable to fully recover their losses. [7] In the 1960s and 1970s, a renewed movement formed within the Japanese American community to obtain redress for the wartime incarceration. The Japanese American Citizens League introduced a resolution to seek individual reparations at its 1970 conference and soon after began working with community activists and political leaders to lobby for legislative action. In 1979, the National Council for Japanese American Redress filed a class action lawsuit against the federal government on behalf of former camp inmates, and in 1980, after a push from Senator Daniel Inouye and Congressmen Robert Matsui, Spark Matsunaga and Norman Mineta, Congress appointed a committee to study the effects of the incarceration and the potential for redress. The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians held investigative hearings in eleven U.S. cities, at which over 750 individuals gave testimony of their experiences during and after the war. In 1983, the Commission published its findings in the report Personal Justice Denied, writing that the displacement of Japanese Americans during the war had been the result of "race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership" and recommending monetary reparations be made to former internees. Although the bill to issue a formal apology and implement the CWRIC's recommendations, introduced in 1987, faced heavy resistance from President Reagan and Senate Republicans opposed to increased federal spending, it was signed into law on August 10, 1988. [2]

Japanese American Citizens League organization

The Japanese American Citizens League is an Asian American civil rights charity, headquartered in San Francisco, with regional offices across the United States.

Daniel Inouye United States Senator from Hawaii (1963–2012)

Daniel Ken Inouye was an American politician who served as a United States Senator from Hawaii from 1963 until his death in 2012. A member of the Democratic Party, he was President pro tempore of the United States Senate from 2010 until his death, making him the highest-ranking Asian-American politician in US history. Inouye also chaired various Senate Committees, including those on Intelligence, Commerce and Appropriations.

Spark Matsunaga American senator and representative for Hawaii

Spark Masayuki Matsunaga was a United States Senator from Hawaii, serving from 1977 until his death in 1990. He was an American Democrat whose legislation in the United States Senate led to the creation of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians and the United States Institute of Peace.

On October 9, 1990, a ceremony was held to present the first reparations checks. Nine elderly Issei received $20,000 each and a formal apology signed by President George H. W. Bush. United States Attorney General Dick Thornburgh presented the checks to the attendees, dropping to his knees to reach those in wheelchairs. [12]

Payments to surviving internees or their heirs continued until 1993, overseen by the Office of Redress Administration, one of two government agencies created to carry out the 1988 act's implementation. [2] The other, the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund, was established in order to meet the redress bill's provision to educate the public about the incarceration. $50 million was authorized "to sponsor research and public educational activities" in 1988, but anti-spending lobbying put the education program on hold until 1994 and reduced the final amount to $5 million. President Bill Clinton appointed an advisory board in 1996, and the CLPEF was used to fund various educational programs and grants from 1997 to 1998. [13]

Civil Liberties Act of 1988

President Reagan signs the bill in an official ceremony. Left to right: Hawaii Sen. Spark Matsunaga, California Rep. Norman Mineta, Hawaii Rep. Pat Saiki, California Sen. Pete Wilson, Alaska Rep. Don Young, California Rep. Bob Matsui, California Rep. Bill Lowery, and JACL President Harry Kajihara. Ronald Reagan signing Japanese reparations bill.jpg
President Reagan signs the bill in an official ceremony. Left to right: Hawaii Sen. Spark Matsunaga, California Rep. Norman Mineta, Hawaii Rep. Pat Saiki, California Sen. Pete Wilson, Alaska Rep. Don Young, California Rep. Bob Matsui, California Rep. Bill Lowery, and JACL President Harry Kajihara.
Video of event

The Civil Liberties Act of 1988, Restitution for World War II internment of Japanese-Americans and Aleuts, states that it is intended to: [14]

  • acknowledge the fundamental injustice of the evacuation, relocation, and internment of United States citizens and permanent resident aliens of Japanese ancestry during World War II;
  • apologize on behalf of the people of the United States for the evacuation, relocation, and internment of such citizens and permanent resident aliens;
  • provide for a public education fund to finance efforts to inform the public about the internment of such individuals so as to prevent the recurrence of any similar event;
  • make restitution to those individuals of Japanese ancestry who were interned;
  • make restitution to Aleut residents of the Pribilof Islands and the Aleutian Islands west of Unimak Island, in settlement of United States obligations in equity and at law, for –
  • injustices suffered and unreasonable hardships endured while those Aleut residents were under United States control during World War II;
  • personal property taken or destroyed by United States forces during World War II;
  • community property, including community church property, taken or destroyed by United States forces during World War II; and
  • traditional village lands on Attu Island not rehabilitated after World War II for Aleut occupation or other productive use;
  • discourage the occurrence of similar injustices and violations of civil liberties in the future; and
  • make more credible and sincere any declaration of concern by the United States over violations of human rights committed by other nations.

Congressional support and opposition

While the majority of Democrats in Congress voted for the bill, the majority of Republicans voted against it. On September 17, 1987, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 243 to 141, with 38 members not voting. The majority of Democrats in the House voted for the bill (180 in favor vs. 43 opposed) while a majority of Republicans voted against it (63 in favor vs. 98 opposed). [15] On April 20, 1988, the U.S. Senate passed the bill by a vote of 69 to 27, with 4 members not voting. A large majority of Democrats voted for the bill (44 in favor vs. 7 opposed), while a more narrow majority of Senate Republicans also voted for the bill (25 in favor vs. 20 opposed). [16]

See also

References and notes

  1. 100th Congress, S. 1009, reproduced at; accessed September 19, 2006.
  2. 1 2 3 Sharon Yamato. "Civil Liberties Act of 1988," Densho Encyclopedia (accessed July 16, 2014).
  3. Court TV Library: Civil Rights Cases – Japanese WWII Internment Archived September 16, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  4. "Campaign for Justice". Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress. Retrieved March 12, 2007.
  5. Various primary and secondary sources list counts between 110,000 and 120,000 persons.
  6. Semiannual Report of the War Relocation Authority, for the period January 1 to June 30, 1946, not dated. Papers of Dillon S. Myer. Scanned image at Accessed September 18, 2006.
  7. 1 2 "The War Relocation Authority and The Incarceration of Japanese Americans During World War II: 1948 Chronology," Web page Archived November 5, 2015, at the Wayback Machine at, accessed September 11, 2006
  8. Densho. "About the Incarceration" (accessed April 3, 2014).
  9. Brian Niiya. "Voluntary evacuation," Densho Encyclopedia (accessed April 3, 2014).
  10. Korematsu v. United States dissent by Justice Owen Josephus Roberts, reproduced at, accessed September 12, 2006
  11. Korematsu v. United States majority opinion by Justice Hugo Black, reproduced at, accessed September 11, 2006
  12. Isikoff, Michael (October 10, 1990), "Delayed Reparations and an Apology", The Washington Post
  13. Sharon Yamato. "Civil Liberties Public Education Fund," Densho Encyclopedia (accessed July 17, 2014).
  14. "Chapter 52—Restitution For World War II Internment of Japanese-Americans and Aleuts" . Retrieved August 8, 2018.
  15. House Vote #304 (September 17, 1987) from roll call records, accessed August 21, 2010
  16. Senate Vote #525 (Apr 20, 1988) from roll call records, accessed August 21, 2010

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