East Hawaii News

New Law Designates Jan. 30 Civil Liberties Day

June 7, 2013, 6:54 PM HST
* Updated June 7, 6:55 PM
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A new state law encourages awareness of, and commitment to, the preservation of civil liberties.

Senate Bill 856 specifically recognizes the efforts of those who resisted internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and encourages actions which promote equal rights of all citizens.

The bill signed today by Gov. Neil Abercrombie designates Jan. 30 of each year as “Civil Liberties and the Constitution Day.”

The legislation notes President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signing on Feb. 19, 1942 of Executive Order 9066, which led to the forced internment of more than 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry in camps scattered across the nation.

About a month later, the US Congress passed Public Law 77-503, which established penalties for violations of the order.

Several Japanese-Americans were ultimately prosecuted for resisting the order to report to internment camps. Their cases went all the way to the US Supreme Court which ruled that the incarcerations were warranted.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie is accompanied for the bill signing by Karen Korematsu, daughter of the late Fred Korematsu, one of the Japanese-Americans prosecuted for refusing to report to an internment camp.  She is also co-founder the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education.

Joining Gov. Neil Abercrombie for the bill signing is Karen Korematsu, daughter of the late Fred Korematsu, one of the Japanese-Americans prosecuted for refusing to report to an internment camp. She is also co-founder the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education.

The matter was official revisited 40 years later.

In 1983, the US Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians concluded that the internment was the result of “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”

That was followed within several years by courts overturning the convictions of those who had fought during the war years for their constitutional rights.

State Sen. Les Ihara, the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 856, applauded the signing of the bill.

The establishment of Civil Liberties and the Constitution Day will ensure that the courage and actions of individuals who have fought for the constitutional and civil rights of all Americans will not be forgotten,” he said in a statement.

The bill, which was co-sponsored by Big Island Sens. Malama Solomon and Russell Ruderman, was supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, Hawaii Council for the Humanities, Japanese American Citizens League, Japanese Chamber of Commerce, Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education, State Civil Rights Commission and the University of Hawaii.

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