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Hirono Leads Effort to Recognize Fred Korematsu Day, Denounce Hate and Discrimination

January 30, 2018, 1:31 PM HST (Updated January 30, 2018, 1:33 PM)
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Senator Mazie K. Hirono led a Senate resolution recognizing Fred Korematsu for his opposition to the illegal incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and work to advance civil rights.

The resolution recognizes Jan. 30, as the “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution” and denounces any effort to discriminate against communities based on national origin or religion.

In 1942, at the age of 23, Fred Korematsu was arrested for refusing to enter the internment camps for Japanese Americans. After his arrest, he appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court, which upheld Executive Order 9066 based on military necessity. After 40 years, on Nov. 10, 1983, Korematsu’s criminal conviction was overturned in a federal court in San Francisco. Korematsu remained a civil rights advocate throughout his life and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Bill Clinton in 1998. He passed away on March 30, 2005, at the age of 86.

“Fred Korematsu stood up for the rights of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II, and continued to fight for decades to expand civil rights and overturn his own false criminal conviction,” said Sen. Hirono. “As we recognize Fred Korematsu Day on what would have been his 99th birthday, Fred’s life serves as a reminder that we all have a responsibility to defend justice and equality.”

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Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) are cosponsors of the resolution.

“My father spent his life advocating for civil rights because he was concerned that what happened to him could happen again,” said Karen Korematsu, executive of director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute. “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution is celebrated in perpetuity in five states. I applaud Senators Hirono and Duckworth’s work to nationally recognize a civil rights icon and to remind us of the fundamentals of our democracy.”

“Sen. Hirono’s resolution honoring civil rights hero Fred Korematsu should remind President Trump of our 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,” said Daniel Schuman, Policy Director of Demand Progress.

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The resolution is supported by 50 organizations, including the Fred T. Korematsu Institute, Demand Progress, and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.

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