The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 was an outcome of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC), which issued its report in 1982 and recommendations the following year. The CWRIC's fifth recommendation was for Congress to appropriate $1.5 billion “to provide personal redress to those who were excluded” as well as to fund “research and public educational activities” to inform Americans of the wartime Japanese American experience and of “similar events.” The sole CWRIC member to dissent from the personal redress recommendation was Daniel Lundgren, the commission's cochair.
It took more than five years for the Congress to enact the Civil Liberties Act, which began as a bill submitted by Congressman Norman Mineta, a Japanese American from San Jose, California, and Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming. A majority of Democrats voted for the bill, while a majority of Republicans voted against it. President Ronald Reagan signed the act into law on August 10, 1988.
The Civil Liberties Act agreed that the mass removal and confinement of Japanese Americans during the war was based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.” The act provided for payments of $20,000 to Japanese Americans who were held in government detention camps during World War II. The act also made restitution to Aleut residents of the Pribilof and Aleutian Islands for injustices suffered and unreasonable hardships endured as a result of the military's expulsion of them from their homes, and for personal and community property destroyed by U.S. forces during the war.
The act did not compensate Japanese mainly from Peru but also from Mexico, Central America, Latin America, and the Caribbean who were held in U.S. detention camps. In 1996, Carmen Mochizuki filed a lawsuit, and won a settlement of $5,000 per person from the remaining funds of the Civil Liberties Act. Some 145 Japanese from Latin America received $5,000 each as a result. In 1999, the attorney general approved additional monies to pay reparations to other claimants.
Gary Y. Okihiro