January 30, 2023

Duckworth Re-introduces Legislation to Prevent Atrocities Like Mass Japanese American Internment from Happening Again


[WASHINGTON, D.C.]—U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today re-introduced the Korematsu-Takai Civil Liberties Protection Act, 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 continued rising number of anti-Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) 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 happened 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 AANHPI 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 the Korematsu-Takai Civil Liberties Protection Act to reaffirm our commitment to upholding constitutional principles and safeguarding civil liberties, in honor of Fred Korematsu on his 104th birthday and in remembrance of my dear friend and former colleague, Mark Takai.”

The Duckworth 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 would fix this problem once and for all.

The Korematsu-Takai Civil Liberties Protection Act was also co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ed Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Peter Welch (D-VT) and Tim Kaine (D-VA). U.S. Representatives Mark Takano (D-CA-41) and Jill Tokuda (D-HI-02) introduced the House companion version of this legislation.