March 26, 2021

Duckworth, Hirono Re-introduce Legislation to Prevent Atrocities Like Mass Japanese American Internment from Happening Again


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] — U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) yesterday introduced the Korematsu-Takai Civil Liberties Protection Act of 2021, a bill that would establish a clear legal prohibition against un-American policies that seek to imprison individuals solely on the basis of race, religion, nationality, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity or disability. With the rising number of anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) hate crimes and violence, passing this bill would be a first step toward safeguarding vital freedoms that are supposed to protect all Americans against arbitrary imprisonment or detention with no due process, as happed to Japanese Americans during World War II.

“Our nation must never forget or repeat the horrors thousands of innocent Japanese Americans experienced as prisoners within our own borders,” Duckworth said. “The disturbing spike in hate crimes, violence and bigotry targeting the AAPI community are a grave reminder of our responsibility to take action to prevent such a national travesty from ever happening again. I’m proud to introduce this bill with Senator Hirono affirming our commitment to upholding constitutional principles and safeguarding civil liberties, in honor of Fred Korematsu and in remembrance of my dear friend and former colleague, Mark Takai.”

“No person should ever be singled out and detained because of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability,” Hirono said. “The Korematsu-Takai Civil Liberties Protection Act makes sure that no one will experience a horrific internment like the one suffered by Japanese Americans during World War II. This is a fitting tribute that honors Fred Korematsu and Mark Takai’s work to protect the civil liberties of all people.”


The Duckworth-Hirono legislation is named in honor of the late U.S. Congressman Mark Takai from Hawai‘i for his long-time leadership on this issue prior to his passing, and Fred Korematsu, who bravely challenged the Civilian Executive Order in the Supreme Court that directed all people of Japanese ancestry be removed from designated areas on the West Coast.

In 1942, the Lieutenant General of the Western Command of the Army issued Civilian Exclusion Order 34, which directed that all people of Japanese ancestry be removed from designated areas of the West Coast because they were considered to pose a threat to national security. Fred Korematsu challenged that Civilian Exclusion Order. However, on December 18, 1944, the Supreme Court affirmed his conviction in Korematsu v. United States. The Non-Detention Act of 1971 sought to remedy this problem by repudiating the legal framework allowing the government to detain U.S. citizens by deeming them national security risks. However, the Non-Detention Act did not specifically bar detentions or imprisonment based on characteristics such as race or religion. The Korematsu-Takai Civil Liberties Protection Act of 2021 would fix this problem once and for all.

The Korematsu-Takai Civil Liberties Protection Act of 2021 was also co-sponsored by U.S. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). Congressman Mark Takano (D-CA-41) introduced the House companion version of this legislation in February 2021.