The other Japanese internment America still hasn't fully acknowledged


In March 1944, 13-year-old Isamu Carlos Arturo Shibayama, his parents and five siblings were taken from their home in Peru and shipped to New Orleans on an American troop ship. Stripped of their identity papers, the Shibayamas were admitted to the United States as “illegal aliens” and sent to a prison camp in Texas, where they would spend the next 2 1/2 years.

Their only crime was being ethnic Japanese.

Shortly after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order that led to the forced relocation and imprisonment of 120,000 ethnic Japanese in America, two-thirds of them U.S. citizens.

At the same time, the administration was orchestrating another, less well-known human rights travesty: the roundup of innocent men, women and children of Japanese descent from across Latin America. Part of a pact designed to secure America’s southern border, this covert program provided the U.S. government with hostages to exchange for American civilians held by the Japanese.

The United States has never taken full responsibility for this egregious abuse, which also led to the seizure of thousands of Germans and Italians living in Latin America.

On Tuesday, Isamu, who now goes by Art, will get a shot at redressing that injustice. The 86-year-old retired gas station owner and U.S. Army veteran from San Jose is scheduled to appear before the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington. The commission is considering a petition from him and his brothers accusing the U.S. government of violating international law when it seized their family.

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