National Council of Asian Pacific Americans Applauds Presidential Medal of Freedom for Japanese American Leader Minoru Yasui
The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans applauds the announcement today that President Obama will award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Minoru “Min” Yasui, who challenged the forced incarceration of 110,000 Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor.
“Min Yasui wholeheartedly deserves the highest civilian honor in the United States for remaining vigilant and standing up for the rights of American citizens at a time when the Japanese American community faced immeasurable injustice. This is a humble reminder not to forget the leaders of the past as we continue fighting for justice today,” said NCAPA National Director Christopher Kang. “Last year, NCAPA wrote to President Obama in support of this recognition for Yasui, and we thank the President for honoring Yasui’s legacy. We applaud President Obama for awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to more Asian Americans than all presidents in history combined, since the award was established in 1963.”
“We are overjoyed that President Obama recognized and NCAPA supported his legacy of defending the civil rights of all Americans and securing his place in our nation’s history,” said Holly Yasui, daughter of Minoru Yasui.
“The recognition of Minoru Yasui as an American hero is long overdue and we are grateful that President Obama has honored him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” said Peggy Nagae, lead Yasui coram nobis attorney. “Mr. Yasui worked tirelessly his entire life for justice, first by testing the constitutionality of the military curfew imposed upon Japanese Americans, then by helping to found and participate in ethnic and religious minorities, youth and children, senior citizens, and low-income people’s organizations, and finally by seeking redress for Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II. He is an American hero and justly deserves this recognition.”
Born in Oregon in 1916, Yasui became the first Japanese American attorney in Oregon. In 1942, he was arrested for deliberately defying the military curfew that led to the U.S. government’s imprisonment and forced removal of those of Japanese descent. In 1943, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Yasui v. United States that the U.S. government had the right to restrict the lives of American citizens during war. It was not until 1986 that Yasui’s conviction was overturned.
Yasui’s commitment to civil rights did not end after the war. He helped found or served in the early leadership of the Urban League of Metropolitan Denver, the Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy and Research Organization, and the Denver Indian Center. In the 1980s, Yasui chaired the Japanese American Citizens League’s National Committee for Redress, urging the U.S. government to formally apologize for the Japanese American incarceration--a movement which culminated in the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.