Fight Back! News

News and Views from the People's Struggle

Justice for Japanese Latin Americans!

By Masao Suzuki

Art Shibayama

San José, CA – On June 24, more than 75 people gathered at the Japanese American Museum of San Jose (JAMsj) in San José’s Japantown for a program on the struggle for justice by Japanese Latin Americans.

The program began with the film Hidden Internment: The Art Shibayama Story. The film explained how Art Shibayama, a Japanese Peruvian, and more than 2000 other Japanese who immigrated to Latin America or were born there were taken by the U.S. government during World War II. They were held in Department of Justice internment camps along with thousands of Japanese, German and Italian immigrants to the U.S. who had been arrested in the days after the U.S. declared war on Japan, Germany and Italy. The U.S. government planned to use the Japanese Latin Americans as hostages to be exchanged for Americans held by the Japanese government.

At the end of World War II, the U.S. government classified the Japanese Latin Americans who they had taken by force as ‘illegal immigrants.’ 40 years later, the U.S. government denied Japanese Latin Americans equal reparations with Japanese Americans who had been put in concentration camps during World War II. In March of 2017, after more than 20 years of seeking justice from the U.S. government, Art Shibayama and others testified to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), to seek a ruling against what the U.S. government had done and to call for full redress for Japanese Latin Americans.

After the film, Art Shibayama’s daughter, Bekki, spoke about how the internment had affected her family. Grace Shimizu of the Campaign for Justice spoke the audience about how they could help the campaign. She urged supporters to sign a petition to the IACHR in support of the Shibayamas and other Japanese Latin Americans (see below for a link).

At a potluck dinner after the program, Joyce Oyama said that she had first heard of the Japanese Latin Americans at a Day of Remembrance, and that “it just wasn’t right” that they were denied the same reparations that Japanese Americans had received. [Day of Remembrance is an annual commemoration in Japanese American communities of Executive Order 9066, which was issued on February 19, 1942, and led to concentration camps for 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II]

Readers of Fight Back! can support the struggle by signing the petition at:

#SanJoséCA #AsianNationalities #ExecutiveOrder9066 #Antiracism #JapaneseAmericanMuseumOfSanJoseJAMsj