President Joe Biden signed the Norman Y. Mineta Japanese American Confinement Education Act into law.
The bill, authored by US Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and US Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA), will reauthorize funding for the Japanese American Confinement Sites program to preserve internment camps across the country, including the Honouliuli Internment Camp in Hawai‘i.
Run by the U.S. Army and opened in March 1943, Honouliuli was both a civilian internment camp and a prisoner of war camp with a population of approximately 400 internees and 4,000 prisoners of war over the course of its use.
The new law, which was included in the government funding bill last month, also will create a new $10 million federal grant program to promote education of Japanese American internment.
“The internment of Japanese American citizens remains one of the darkest and most shameful periods in our history,” Sen. Schatz said in a press release. “The stories of so many who unjustly lost their freedom, lost property and were forcibly uprooted from their homes should be a constant reminder of our duty to uphold the rights of every American.
“Our new law will ensure that we continue to preserve internment sites and create a new grant program to educate more people about Japanese American confinement.”
In one of the largest violations of civil rights in United States history, the federal government forced approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans from their homes and into internment camps during World War II.
The law is named after Norman Yoshio Mineta, who was a boy when he was imprisoned in an internment camp in Wyoming during WWII. He went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and as the Commerce Secretary under President Bill Clinton . He was the Transportation Secretary under President George W. Bush, who also awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Mineta died on May 3, 2022.
While the United States provided a formal apology and compensation to surviving victims in the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 and created the Japanese American Confinement Sites program in 2006, it is critical to continue efforts to educate the public, preserve these sites, and honor the brave Japanese Americans who were subjected to interment, Sen. Schatz said.