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Civil Liberties Act (1988)

civil Liberties Act (1988)

Eric K. Yamamoto and Liann Y. Ebesugawa


Excerpt from the Civil Liberties Act

With regard to individuals of Japanese ancestry. The Congress recognizes that, as described by the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, a grave injustice was done to both citizens and permanent resident aliens of Japanese ancestry by the evacuation, relocation, and internment of civilians during World War II. As the Commission documents, these actions were carried out without adequate security reasons and without any acts of espionage or sabotage documented by the Commission, and were motivated largely by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership. The excluded individuals of Japanese ancestry suffered enormous damages, both material and intangible, and there were incalculable losses in education and job training, all of which resulted in significant human suffering for which appropriate compensation has not been made. For these fundamental violations of the basic civil liberties and constitutional rights of these individuals of Japanese ancestry, the Congress apologizes on behalf of the Nation.


The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 (P.L. 100-383), stands as a landmark. Through the act, Congress for the first time authorized a presidential apology to an entire group of Americans: Japanese Americans imprisoned by the United States because of their race during World War II without charges, trial, or evidence of necessity. Congress also mandated $1.2 billion in reparations (payment to compensate for damages) to these Japanese Americans and an additional amount to Aleut and Pribilof Islanders who had also been unlawfully imprisoned.

THE INTERNMENTS

Following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, U.S. government suspicions and public sentiment turned against Japanese Americans. Business leaders, the media, and government officials questioned the loyalty of Japanese Americans even though they were solid American citizens. Most were born, educated, and employed in the United States. Nevertheless, West Coast military commander General John DeWitt asserted that Japanese Americans were disloyal simply because of their Japanese heritage and he claimed they posed a threatened to national security, even though no Japanese American had engaged in any act of espionage or sabotage. DeWitt further stated that "a Jap is a Jap ... and [despite American birth, education, and citizenship] the racial strains are undiluted." With a fearful public clamoring for a scapegoat, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. The order directed the military to impose a curfew and then forcibly to exclude from the western coastal areas and ultimately detain persons of Japanese ancestry, including American citizens. The order, which did not apply to persons of German or Italian ancestry, had popular support.

The government's racial exclusion and internment (imprisonment during wartime) actions undermined the Constitution. The Constitution's Fifth Amendment ensures U.S. citizens protection against the federal government's taking of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. It is also interpreted to guarantee equal protection of all citizens under the law. Without charges, hearings, or evidence of individual or racial group disloyalty, the government, with armed military standing by, removed 120,000 Japanese Americans from their homes, forcing them to abandon businesses, jobs, and belongings. They were first detained in makeshift assembly centers, with many sleeping in horse stalls at race tracks. From there, the government dispersed them to nine desolate internment prisons, encircled by barbed wire, in the western interior. Specifically, the internment prisons were located in California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, and Arkansas. The camps were located in desert areas except for the two camps in Arkansas which were located in swamplands. Japanese Americans left their homes not knowing where they were going, for how long, on what grounds, or whether they would survive. More than 1,800 people did not survive, and those who did suffered deep, lasting psychological wounds, along with financial devastation.

THE REPARATIONS MOVEMENT

The wounds were so deep that the Japanese American community refused to discuss the internment for many years. In the late 1960s during the heyday of the Civil Rights movement, a reparations movement emerged. Yet it was still another two decades before Japanese Americans took legal action, in two different kinds of lawsuits, to support the reparations movement.

The first type of lawsuit, in 1983, was coram nobis litigation, a rare legal procedure allowing the reopening of old cases of current importance. It was initiated by Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi, and Min Yasui, who had been convicted during World War II for refusing to be interned. The Supreme Court had said at the time that the internment was constitutional because military necessity justified it. Forty years later, the coram nobis proceedings sought reversal of their convictions based on startling government World War II documents found in dust-covered boxes in 1981. Those documents revealed the following:

  1. before the internment all government intelligence services involved in the issue at the time had determined that West Coast Japanese Americans as a group posed no serious danger and that there was no basis for mass internment;
  2. the military based its internment decision on invidious racial stereotypes about Japanese Americans; and
  3. the military, the Department of Justice, and the Department of War concealed and destroyed key evidence, deliberately misled the Supreme Court, and fabricated the military necessity justification for the internment.

Based on this evidence the federal courts in the coram nobis cases found "manifest injustice," overturned the convictions of Korematsu, Hirabayashi, and Yasui, and thereby laid the legal foundation for reparations.

The second suit was a class action damages lawsuit, Hohri v. United States, filed by former internees to obtain compensation for the material and psychological harms of the internment. Although the courts ultimately dismissed that case because it was filed too long after the events, the suit led to greater public awareness of and education about the real internment story.

The reparations movement gained moral force from former internees and Asian American organizations together with a wide range of groups, including civil liberties groups, the NAACP, churches, veterans and labor associations, and even local governments. This support helped Asian American members of Congress from California and Hawaii to push through legislation creating the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. The commission's 1983 report, Personal Justice Denied, concluded that the causes of the internment were race prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.

THE ACT

In response to a variety of reparations effortsthe lawsuits, the commission's hearings and report, extensive lobbying by diverse groups, and persistent media reportingCongress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.

Most important for many Japanese Americans, the act called for a formal presidential apology. It also authorized reparations of $20,000 for each surviving internee who was a U.S. citizen or legal resident immigrant at the time of internment. A 1992 amendment to the 1988 act remedied difficult questions of eligibility (for instance, for those barred from their homes but not incarcerated) and key problems with funding (it eliminated the need for yearly appropriations of money by establishing a fund from which reparations could be drawn).

IMPLEMENTATION

The Office of Redress Administration (ORA), created by the act, implemented the reparations program. The act authorized the ORA to identify, register, verify, and administer reparation payments to eligible individuals within a ten-year period. The ORA worked effectively with the National Coalition for Redress/Reparations (NCRR) and the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) to provide information about reparations through Japanese American newspapers, community meetings, and newsletters. Former internees submitted over 60,000 reparations applications as a result of these collective efforts.

The 1988 act also established the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund to "sponsor research and public educational activities, and to publish and distribute the hearings, findings, and recommendations of the Commission." Public education became a major dimension of redress. Projects sponsored by the Education Fund produced high school, college, and law school curricula on the internment and civil liberties; documentaries on internment camp life; oral histories of survivors; and new research on the accommodation of national security and civil liberties.

The redress of wrongs committed against Japanese Americans was about much more than money. The Civil Liberties Act recognized the United States's grave injustice against its own citizens on account of their race, and it acknowledged the need to repair lasting wounds, both to Japanese Americans and to the Constitution.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Maki, Mitchell T., Harry H. L. Kitano, and S. Megan Berthold. Achieving the Impossible Dream: How Japanese Americans Obtained Redress. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1999.

Yamamoto, Eric K. "Friend or Foe or Something Else: Social Meanings of Redress and Reparations." Denver Journal of International Law and Policy 223 (1992).

Yamamoto, Eric K., et al. Race, Rights and Reparation: Law and the Japanese American Internment. New York: Aspen Publishers, 2001.

Japanese American Evacuation Claims Act of 1948

Eric K. Yamamoto and Liann Y. Ebesugawa

The Japanese American Evacuation Claims Act of 1948 provided for initial compensation to remedy damages. It fell far short, however, of the actual economic damages incurred. The act only compensated well-documented property losses, and did not even begin to measure the pain and suffering entailed. The process of making claims was slow, and because compensation was made on the basis of prewar prices, applicants received on average no more than ten cents on the dollar. The program, although well intentioned, was not designed to offer reparations for all wrongs suffered by Japanese Americans during the war. Additionally, the law was not flexible enough to cover the full range of situations and did not take into account intangible lossesthe cost of human anguish and the damage to reputation, the missed opportunities, and the years of captivity lost forever.

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Civil Rights Acts

CIVIL RIGHTS ACTS

Federal legislation enacted by Congress over the course of a century beginning with the post-Civil War era that implemented and extended the fundamental guarantees of the Constitution to all citizens of the United States, regardless of their race, color, age, or religion.

The Civil Rights Acts of 1866 (14 Stat. 27) and 1870 (16 Stat. 140) were enacted to give newly freed slaves the same rights under federal law as those afforded to non-slaves. Such rights were the rights to sue and be sued, the rights to own real and personal property, and the rights to testify and present evidence in legal proceedings. Serious questions existed, however, as to the constitutionality of the 1866 act and to whether Congress actually had authority to enact such a measure. Subsequent to the passage of the fourteenth amendment in 1868, Congress reenacted the act pursuant to its power under the amendment to enforce the amendment through appropriate legislation. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was, therefore, superseded by the civil rights Act of 1870.

In 1875 Congress passed a third Civil Rights Act (18 Stat. 336) in response to the refusal of many whites who owned public establishments, inns, railroads, and other facilities to make them equally available to blacks. The Civil Rights Act of 1875 prohibited racial discrimination in such places and guaranteed "full and equal enjoyment" of such places.

Violations of this act abounded and criminal prosecutions ensued. A number of convictions were appealed to the supreme court of the united states which in 1883 declared the act unconstitutional in the civil rights cases, 109 U.S. 3, 3 S. Ct. 18, 27 L. Ed. 835. The Court reasoned that the social rights that the act safeguarded were not civil rights and, therefore, Congress was powerless to legislate on the social conduct of private individuals. Following this decision, states began enacting segregation into various laws, the most notorious of which were the jim crow laws. It took more than eighty years before Congress would again attempt to legislate in this area.

The Civil Rights Acts of 1957 represented congressional recognition that the federal government had to bring about an end to racial discrimination. The civil rights commission was established and the laws guaranteed qualified voters the right to vote, regardless of their color. In the years 1964 to 1968 Congress enacted extensive and far-reaching legislation affording blacks equal status under the law, ranging from full and free enjoyment of public accommodations and facilities to the prohibition of racial discrimination in employment as well as transactions affecting housing in the United States.

The Civil Rights Act of 1991 granted to victims of unlawful discrimination the right to seek money damages, jury trials, and back pay.

cross-references

Civil Rights; "Civil Rights Act of 1964" (Appendix, Primary Document); Ku Klux Klan Act; "Voting Rights Act of 1965" (Appendix, Primary Document).

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Force Act of 1871

Force Act of 1871

Ross Rosenfeld

The Force Act of 1871 provided for federal scrutiny of congressional elections. The act, passed during the Ulysses S. Grant administration, was intended to prevent election fraud in Southern states during the Reconstruction era. The Force Act was sandwiched between the Enforcement Act of 1870, which established criminal penalties for interfering with an election, and the Enforcement Act of 1871, which permitted the suspension of habeas corpus. Intended to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment, the Force Act of 1871 was described as "an Act to enforce the rights of citizens of the United States to vote in the several states of this union." If a town or city had "upward of twenty thousand inhabitants," any two citizens of that town who wished to have an election "guarded and scrutinized" could request the regional U.S. Circuit Court to oversee it. In such cases the court was instructed to choose two bipartisan supervisors, who, under the court's protection, could regulate the election. The three acts are sometimes referred to collectively as the Enforcement Acts or the Force Acts.

Southern bigots responded to the Force Act with a wave of discriminatory actions, known as Jim Crow. Such policies as literacy tests and poll taxes (taxes for voting) still kept many blacks from voting. Some Southern states included measures prohibiting voting by blacks in their new constitutions. The Supreme Court did little to reverse this. In Giles v. Harris (1903) and Giles v. Teasley (1904), a black citizen challenged provisions such as these in the Alabama state constitution. The Supreme Court, however, ruled that it could not do anything about the provisions because they represented a "political question." It would take the Civil Rights movement, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act to put these matters to rest.

See also: Civil Rights Act of 1964; Voting Rights Act of 1965.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Hakim, Joy. A History of U.S. Reconstruction and Reform. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

The Force Acts of 18701871. Northern Virginia Community College. <http://www.nvcc.edu/home/nvsageh/Hist122/Part1/ForceActsEx.htm>.

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Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987

CIVIL RIGHTS RESTORATION ACT OF 1987

CIVIL RIGHTS RESTORATION ACT OF 1987 expanded the coverage of previously enacted federal statutes prohibiting discrimination in employment and other areas. By passing the Restoration Act, Congress overrode a presidential veto and overturned the 1984 Supreme Court decision in Grove City College v. Bell. In Grove City College, the Court had effectively gutted Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, and by implication other antidiscrimination statutes, by holding that only those college programs directly receiving federal financial assistance, and not the college as a whole, had an obligation to not discriminate on the basis of sex. The purpose of the Restoration Act was to make clear that when any program or activity of an organization or entity—such as a college, medical center, or private contractor—receives federal funding, the entire organization or entity must comply with laws outlawing discriminatory practices based upon race, religion, color, national origin, gender, age, or disability. Thus, for example, if a college library receives a government grant to enable it to computerize, the entire college is required to comply with all federal civil rights laws. Similarly, a manufacturing company that makes airplane parts for the federal government must practice nondiscrimination in all of its other manufacturing operations as well. The Restoration Act effectively closed a number of significant loopholes in earlier civil rights statutes.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

"The Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987—A Defeat for Judicial Conservatism." National Black Law Journal 12 (Spring 1990): 61–72.

Graham, Hugh Davis. "The Storm Over Grove City College: Civil Rights Regulation, Higher Education, and the Reagan Administration." History of Education Quarterly 38, no. 4 (winter 1998): 407–429.

JackHandler/c. p.

See alsoCivil Rights Act of 1964 ; Civil Rights and Liberties ; Civil Rights Movement .

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Civil Rights Acts

Civil Rights Acts (1866, 1870, 1875, 1957, 1960, 1964, 1968) US legislation. The Civil Rights Act (1866) gave African-Americans citizenship and extended civil rights to all persons born in the USA (except Native Americans). The 1870 Act was passed to re-enact the previous measure, which was considered to be of dubious constitutionality. In 1883, the US Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the 1870 law. The 1875 Act was passed to outlaw discrimination in public places because of race or previous servitude. The act was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (1883–85), which stated that the 14th Amendment, the constitutional basis of the act, protected individual rights against infringement by the states, not by other individuals. The 1957 Act established the Civil Rights Commission to investigate violations of the 15th Amendment. The 1960 Act enabled court-appointed federal officials to protect black voting rights. An act of violence to obstruct a court order became a federal offence. The 1964 Act established as law equal rights for all citizens in voting, education, public accommodations and in federally assisted programmes. The 1968 Act guaranteed equal treatment in housing and real estate to all citizens.

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