This morning plaintiffs in Mochizuki vs United States announced settlement of the federal class action lawsuit filed in August 1996 seeking reparations and a formal apology from the United States government for the forcible kidnaping and imprisonment of Japanese Latin Americans during World War II.
Attorneys and representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, the Japanese American Citizens League, and the National Coalition for Redress/Reparations announced the settlement agreement that provides a presidential apology and $5,000 reparation payment to survivors of the ordeal. While acknowledging the significance of the formal apology, former internees are none-the-less disappointed that the settlement does not guarantee redress payment, which is one quarter of the amount given to Japanese Americans who were interned at the same time. In addition, former internees must apply for redress by August 10, 1998.
Named plaintiff Carmen Mochizuki said at a news conference held in Los Angeles this morning, "I am disappointed that we did not receive the same amount of redress that was given to the Japanese Americans, however, I feel that we are victorious for making the United States government finally accept responsibility for its actions against us."
Mochizuki, is one of over 2,000 Latin Americans Japanese taken from their homes and transported to the US for use in a prisoner exchange with Japan during W.W.II. The prisoners were primarily legal residents and citizens of friendly nations who posed no military threat to the US. Forced to come to the US, they were imprisoned in Department of Justice camps and over 800 were exchanged for US citizens during the war.
The lawsuit challenged the denial of redress to Japanese Latin Americans under the Civil Liberties Act, a law passed in 1988 which mandates a government apology and $20,000 reparation to persons of Japanese ancestry who were deprived of liberty by the US government during W.W.II. Under the settlement, the US will provide a letter of apology signed by President Clinton for each former internee or the surviving heirs. Redress payments of $5,000 will be issued with the apology paid from the 1988 Civil Liberties Act fund, until the fund runs out. Figures from the Government indicate that could be soon. Advocates for the Japanese Latin Americans are counting on support from the Clinton Administration and Congress to seek additional funds.
Internees who have not yet applied for the Civil Liberties Act must do so by August 10, 1998. Claims must be postmarked by that date and received by the Office of Redress Administration no later than September 1998. The Department of Justice will contact former internees who have already applied for the redress. The most difficult task lies in locating the additional 400 estimated survivors or their heirs in time for the August 10 deadline. Survivors are concentrated in Japan and Latin America, but could reside anywhere in the world. The government has agreed to publish the settlement agreement in two major newspapers, one in Japan and one in Peru, within 25 days. Campaign for Justice, the coalition supporting Japanese Latin American redress will continue efforts to locate former internees.
After satisfying the remaining eligible claims from Japanese Americans, the Office of Redress Administration, which processes claims under the Civil Liberties Act, expects the funds to drop from 11.4 million to 4.4 million, enough for 880 payments of $5,000. Advocates for Japanese Latin Americans say the monies will not cover the 1200 Japanese Latin American internees who may apply. The Clinton administration has promised to support legislative efforts to ensure the payment to all JLAs who apply and to extend the life of the Civil Liberties Act until December 1998, should the money run out.