A Republican President Apologized and Paid Reparations to Japanese-Americans

September 18, 2020

On February 19, 1942, Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which ordered the removal of resident enemy aliens from parts of the West vaguely identified as military areas, according to HISTORY.

Roosevelt’s order was finally executed after months of increasing pressure from the military and his political advisors after the Japanese Empire bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Over 120,000 Japanese—about 70% of them were American citizens—were rounded up and sent to internment camps. Japanese-Americans were given weeks to sell their land, businesses, and various properties or have it seized by the government.

Japanese-Americans were only allowed to take what they could carry and watched as their neighbors looted their houses as they were shipped off. Their bank accounts were frozen and a majority of them lost their entire life savings. Banks were not allowed to foreclose on their properties because the government wanted to seize it instead. This meant that even after the war, Japanese-Americans were unable to reclaim their seized properties.

There were three Democratic presidents after Roosevelt, i.e. Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson, none of them apologized to the Japanese-Americans or even acknowledged Order 9066 happened.

However, on February 19, 1976, Republican President Gerald Ford signed an order prohibiting the executive branch from re-instituting Order 9066.

President Ford. Image via Nisei Veterans Legacy

On August 10, 1988, Republican President Ronald Reagan signed The Civil Liberties Act. A federal law that granted reparations to Japanese-Americans who had been interned by the US government during World War II.

President Reagan signing The Civil Liberties Act. Image via Pacific Standard

Each person received $20,000, a formal apology from Congress acknowledging publicly that the US government had been wrong, and the release of funds to set up an educational foundation for the children of Japanese-American families.

Feature Image via Densho

Slideshow Images via NY Times, Britannica & LA Times

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