Bill to establish ‘Fred Korematsu Day’ passes Assembly Education Committee

HONORING CIVIL RIGHTS ICON — Karen Korematsu-Haigh, Assemblymember Warren T. Furutani (D–Long Beach) and Ling Woo Liu, director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute of Civil Rights and Education at the Asian Law Caucus. The hearing date for AB 1775 on the floor has not been set, but it will be before June 4. photo by Yong Eo

SACRAMENTO — Legislation that would recognize Jan. 30 as “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution” passed the California state Assembly Education Committee on May 5. Jan. 30 is the birthday of the late civil rights icon, who passed away in 2005.

Assembly Bill 1775, presented by Assemblymember Warren Furutani (D-Long Beach), will be voted on by the full Assembly at a later date to be determined.

This legislation “recognizes the importance of preserving civil liberties and the Constitution no matter the extenuating circumstances,” said a statement from Furutani’s office.

The wrongful conviction of Fred Korematsu, which was overturned 40 years after Korematsu was convicted and his appeal denied, is the substance and the context of the bill, according to Furutani’s office.

“AB 1775 serves as a vehicle to remind us of the importance of actively preserving civil liberties and the guarantees of the United States Constitution,” said Furutani in a statement. “The incarceration of Americans of Japanese descent did not happen in ancient history; it happened less than 70 years ago. The decision to overturn his conviction in 1983 is a milestone for modern civil rights because it sends a message that even during times of real or perceived crisis, we must protect our fundamental civil liberties.”

Testifying in support of the legislation were Korematsu’s daughter, Karen Korematsu-Haigh, and Ling Woo Liu, director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute of Civil Rights and Education at the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco.

AB 1775 also enjoys the support of a diverse array of groups including, but not limited to: the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Japanese American Citizens League, the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

“My father’s experiences around the unconstitutional incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and his subsequent redemption shape how we discuss civil liberties today,” said Korematsu-Haigh. “Honoring my father on Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution on his birthday keeps his legacy alive.”

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