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February 2017

eTorch

Lively Discussion for "The Lasting Legacy of Korematsu"

Dale Minami
The Japanese American WWII incarceration experience is becoming more relevant as the possibility of creating a Muslim registry system is being suggested by the new administration. The mass incarceration of Japanese Americans and restriction of their civil liberties was an event in American history that should never be repeated. Korematsu v. United States concerned the constitutionality of the mass incarceration of approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. Korematsu's conviction was overturned by a writ of coram nobis in 1983, and numerous recent news articles have cited the Korematsu case as legal precedent. That topic was the subject of an informative and timely public program featuring attorneys Dale Minami and Paul Hoffman and hosted by GFBNEC on January 22.

The program started with video clips of Nisei veterans from GFBNEC's Hanashi Oral History Collection. "I just feel that all people regardless of their race, their background, religion, [and] education should all be treated equally, and that's subject to the United States Constitution," said Peter Nakahara of the Military Intelligence Service. The words and actions of Nisei veterans like Nakahara were the inspiration for the program.

After a welcome from GFBNEC's President Mitch Maki, Dale Minami, lead counsel for the Korematsu coram nobis case in the 1980s, was introduced. In speaking about the case, he concluded it does not matter if Korematsu is a legal precedent, but what's more important now is the court of public opinion. Just because the United States has committed serious errors in the past, including slavery and genocide of Native Americans, does not mean we have a legal precedent to repeat these actions. "Is it [the legal precedent] for promoting social justice, moving people forward, or is it for suppressing people and oppressing them?" said Minami. He asked the public to act with courage and speak out against injustice to ensure history does not repeat itself.

Paul Hoffman, former legal director of the Southern California American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) specializing in constitutional and civil rights litigation, added, "Every generation faces almost exactly the same civil liberties and civil rights challenges." Hoffman explained that in spite of remarkable strides, it is up to everyone to continue the momentum. Should the administration go forward with a Muslim registry, his suggestion was for everyone to register as Muslim. "I know it would help if everyone said ‘I'm a Muslim,'" concluded Hoffman.

The message that came through clearly is that it is important to continue to be vigilant and act with courage to promote equality.

The entire program is available to be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/jf2l2cg.

Coming Up on March 26:
GFBNEC's next program entitled, "Restoring America's Promise: The Impact of Nisei Veterans in the Fight for Redress," will be on Sunday, March 26, 2017, at 2 p.m. in the Tateuchi Center for Democracy. Dr. Mitch Maki will be the featured speaker.


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