FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASECR
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 1999(202) 616-2777
WWW.USDOJ.GOVTDD (202) 514-1888
TEN YEAR PROGRAM TO COMPENSATE JAPANESE AMERICANS INTERNED
DURING WORLD WAR II CLOSES ITS DOORS
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After paying out more than $1.6 billion to more than 82,250 persons of Japanese ancestry who were interned during World War II, the Justice Department's Office of Redress Administration has officially closed its doors.
The redress program, which was established by the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, acknowledges, apologizes, and makes restitution for the fundamental injustice of the evacuation, relocation, and internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. The Justice Department's Office of Redress Administration (ORA) was charged with administering the ten year program which, by operation of law, officially closed on February 5, 1999. Final figures were released today.
"This was a tragic chapter in the history of our nation," said Attorney General Janet Reno. "The U.S. Government recognized the injustice of its actions during the war and provided a presidential apology and compensation. It was a time when we took away the liberty of an entire community of Americans."
Since the program's inception, ORA has provided $20,000 in redress to 82,219 eligible claimants, totaling more than $1.6 billion.
In order to have been eligible for restitution, an applicant had to have been alive on August 10, 1988; a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien during the internment period (12/7/41-6/30/46); a person of Japanese ancestry, or the spouse or parent of a person of Japanese ancestry; and, evacuated, relocated, interned, or otherwise deprived of liberty or property as a result of federal government action during the internment period and based solely on their Japanese ancestry.
"This is a great example of a program that worked," said Bill Lann Lee, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "We set out to locate every possible claimant who was interned nearly half a century ago. And through our efforts, we have accounted for almost 99% of them. That's a remarkable accomplishment."
Among the 82,219 individuals paid, were 189 Japanese Latin American claimants eligible for the full $20,000 in redress compensation under the Act because they had the required permanent residency status or U.S. citizenship during the defined war period.
In addition, ORA paid $5,000 to 145 Japanese Latin Americans who were deported from their homes in Latin America during World War II and held in internment camps in the United States. These payments stem from an agreement resolving a 1996 civil suit filed by four Japanese Latin Americans. The agreement, which settles the so-called Mochizuki case, calls for all qualified class members to receive a presidential apology letter and $5,000 in compensation, to the extent that funds were remaining under the Act. Final payments and apologies are to be mailed in February or early March.
ORA directly contacted many Japanese Latin Americans using the ATT Language Line, and also used in-house translators and a translation service to more effectively communicate with class members all over the world. ORA published legal notices in Japan and Peru about the settlement as well. Additional measures, such as having correspondence to the class members translated into their native languages, Japanese and Spanish, proved to be very effective.
The vast majority of Mochizuki claimants have responded so that ORA has successfully resolved almost 600 claims from approximately 710 applications. To the extent funds were remaining under the Act, as required by the settlement, ORA then paid a total of 145 claims to the Japanese Latin American class.
As previously promised by the Administration, ORA is hopeful that additional funding will be obtained through legislation to compensate the remaining eligible Japanese Americans and almost 400 qualified class members. Should Congress enact the legislation for additional funding, the remaining qualified claimants will be eligible for payment at that time.
"The successful conclusion of the program demonstrates the positive actions by the government to right these past wrongs," said DeDe Greene, ORA Administrator. "ORA has done an outstanding job over the past 10 years -- organizing more than 200 community workshops, speaking to hundreds of church, legal and community groups, conducting nationwide historical research and, sending out thousands of letters and applications."
If individuals have questions about their files or payments, they can contact the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, at P.O. Box 66260, Washington, D.C. 20035-6260 or call (202) 219-6900 or (TDD) (202) 219-4710.
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