On Friday, Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed Senate Bill (SB) 856 into law, designating January 30 of each year as “Civil Liberties and the Constitution Day.”
“I applaud Governor Neil Abercrombie for signing this important measure into law,” said Senator Les Ihara, Jr., who was the primary introducer of the bill. “The establishment of Civil Liberties and the Constitution Day will ensure that the courage and actions of individuals who have fought for the constitutional and civil rights of all Americans will not be forgotten.”
0n February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal of any or all individuals from military areas as deemed necessary and desirable and mandating the forced interment of Americans of Japanese ancestry. The order led to the relocation of more than one hundred ten thousand Americans of Japanese ancestry to remote internment camps built by the United States military in scattered locations around the nation.
One month later, on March 21, 1942, the United States Congress passed Public Law 77-503, which established penalties for violations of Executive Order 9066. Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi, Min Yasui, and Mitsuye Endo were among Americans to challenge Public Law 77-503.
In 1980, the actions of the United States government, including the internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II, were reviewed by the United States Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. The Commission concluded in June 1983 that the decision to remove persons of Japanese ancestry to United States prison camps occurred because of “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”
“Hawaii served as an important backdrop of key World War II sites, including Pearl Harbor, Operation Forager, as well as a host to five internment camps for Japanese Americans,” said Representative Mark Takai. “A starker time in our Nation’s history, it remains incumbent upon us to recognize the individuals before us, whose commitment to freedom, in times of hysteria, helped make us all stronger.”
The enactment of SB 856 recognizes these and other individuals’ bravery and dedication through establishing “Civil Liberties and the Constitution Day,” tocelebrate, honor, and encourage public education and awareness of the commitment of individuals to preserving civil liberties for Americans of Japanese ancestry and actions to promote equal rights for all citizens.