01.30.19

Rep. Mark Takano and Senator Mazie Hirono Introduce the Fred Korematsu Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2019

Washington, D.C. – Today, as California celebrates “Korematsu Day” to honor civil rights icon Fred Korematsu, Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) along with Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), introduced the Fred Korematsu Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2019 to recognize his legacy.

“Nearly 75 years after the Supreme Court delivered a devastating blow to the civil liberties of Japanese Americans in the landmark Korematsu v. United States decision, we are witnessing and experiencing the progress we have made as a country. Progress that was made possible due to the tireless advocacy of civil rights icons like Fred Korematsu,” said Rep. Mark Takano. “Mr. Korematsu was an outspoken activist, a fighter for justice, and a hero to many – including myself. As a son of Japanese Americans who lived through Japanese internment during World War II, I find Mr. Korematsu’s legacy to be a guiding light for the work that I do in Congress. His life’s work placed civil rights at the forefront, and it has been one of the cornerstones in the movement to build an America where everyone can be treated equally under the law. That is why I am honored to introduce legislation, along with Senator Hirono, that would posthumously award the Congressional Gold Medal to Fred Korematsu to honor his life-long fight in defense of the rights of all people.”

“Fred Korematsu stood up for the rights of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II, and continued his fight for decades to expand civil rights and overturn his own false criminal conviction,” Senator Hirono said. “Awarding the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’ highest civilian honor, to Fred Korematsu is a fitting tribute to his lifelong pursuit of justice and equality.”

“My father, Fred T. Korematsu, was born in Oakland, California 100 years ago today. A civil rights pioneer, he dedicated his life to ‘stand up for what is right,’ and he worked to ensure what happened to him and other Japanese Americans will never happen again to any other minority group,” said Karen Korematsu, founder and executive director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute and daughter of Fred Korematsu. “I thank Representative Mark Takano and Senator Mazie K. Hirono for their introduction of the Fred Korematsu Congressional Gold Medal Act. Through this bill, it is a reminder that we must Stop Repeating History and, like my father, continue to champion civil liberties and the Constitution for all.”

On January 30, 1919 Fred Korematsu was born in Oakland, California, to Japanese immigrants. In 1942, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the United States Army issued a curfew order against Americans of Japanese descent on the West Coast, who were considered to pose a threat to national security, under the authority of Executive Order 9066. At the young age of 23, Fred Korematsu refused to abide by the government’s order. He was convicted of violating the order but appealed his case, taking it to the Supreme Court. On December 18, 1944, in Korematsu v. United States the Supreme Court affirmed Korematsu’s conviction and ruled that the exclusion and detention of Japanese Americans was constitutionally protected under the war powers of Congress and the President of the United States.

Nearly 40 years after the landmark Korematsu decision, Professor Peter Irons and Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga discovered secret documents that revealed that the government had hidden facts from the Supreme Court. The documents discovered indicated that the ordering of the internment of Japanese Americans in the name of national security was based on a lie. This new development allowed Fred Korematsu to appeal his case in 1983 – a case which he won.

Congress, led by Rep. Mark Takano and Senator Mazie Hirono, seeks to award posthumously a Congressional Gold Medal to Fred Korematsu, in recognition of his contributions to civil rights, his loyalty and patriotism to the Nation, and his dedication to justice and equality. A Congressional Gold Medal would honor Fred Korematsu’s lifelong fight and dedication to defending the rights of all citizens.

Fred Korematsu’s tireless efforts were significant in the struggle for civil rights for all people, earning him a Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton. In 2010, California marked January 30th as “Korematsu Day” in his honor. 

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