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Hirono, Tokuda Introduce Legislative Package Honoring Civil Rights Icon Fred Korematsu

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Representative Jill Tokuda (D-HI) joined their colleagues in introducing a bicameral package of bills honoring civil rights icon Fred Korematsu on the anniversary of his birthday. The bills, also introduced by Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Representative Mark Takano (D-CA), include a resolution establishing a national “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution;” the Fred Korematsu Congressional Gold Medal Act; and the Korematsu-Takai Civil Liberties Protection Act.

“A champion for civil rights, Fred Korematsu spent his life fighting for justice and equality,” said Senator Hirono. “Since 2013, Hawaii has recognized January 30th as Fred Korematsu day, joining several other states in honoring Mr. Korematsu for his bravery and commitment to protecting the constitutional and civil rights of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. His legacy serves as an important reminder that we all have a responsibility to stand up for what’s right. I am proud to join my colleagues once again in recognizing Mr. Korematsu for his dedication to justice and building on his work to defend our fundamental civil liberties.”

“At a time of extreme personal peril, Fred Korematsu stood up for over 120,000 Japanese people forcibly relocated and interned during World War II. He went on to spend his life fighting for justice and equality, ensuring that this shameful episode in our nation’s history would never be forgotten and bettering our nation as a whole,” said Representative Tokuda. “As the great-granddaughter of someone who was sent to internment camps, Korematsu’s work is especially meaningful. He is recognized as a hero in Hawaii, and I am honored to join my colleagues in introducing these three bills to commemorate his legacy.”

Additional information about each bill is included below:

  • The resolution establishing a national “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution” recognizes the importance of establishing a national Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution and encourages all people to reflect on the importance of political leadership and vigilance and on the values of justice and civil rights during times of uncertainty and emergency;
  • The Fred Korematsu Congressional Gold Medal Act would posthumously award 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; and
  • The Korematsu-Takai Civil Liberties Protection Act would prohibit detention or imprisonment based solely on an actual or perceived protected characteristic of an individual.

In 1942, at the age of 23, Fred Korematsu was arrested and convicted for refusing to enter the internment camps for Japanese Americans. After his arrest, he appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court, which upheld his conviction based on military necessity. After 40 years, on November 10, 1983, Korematsu’s criminal conviction was vacated in a federal court in San Francisco. Korematsu remained a civil rights advocate throughout his life and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Bill Clinton in 1998. He passed away on March 30, 2005 at the age of 86. A biography of Fred Korematsu can be found here.

This legislative package is endorsed by the Fred T. Korematsu Institute, Demand Progress, Japanese American Citizens League, Japanese American National Museum, NAACP, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, DENSHO, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, Heart Wyoming Foundation, National Asian American Pacific Bar Association, Anti-Defamation League, and Human Rights Campaign. A full list of endorsing organizations can be here.

Senator Hirono first introduced legislation to award Fred Korematsu with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2019. Since 2018, she has led the effort to recognize January 30 as “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.” Senator Hirono has also supported the Korematsu-Takai Civil Liberties Protection Act since introducing it in 2017.