Adios to Justice: Japanese Peruvians, National Formations, and the Politics of Legal Redress

ddr densho 106 11 mezzanine 92c28b36b5 a

“I had felt that America was an ideal country that should be taken as a model for the whole world. Why, then, had that country moved to take such unacceptable measures? Where was the spirit of individual rights and justice that had filled the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution? If I termed Peru, even provisionally, a “third rate country,” was not America, in this instance, no different?”

—Seiichi Higashide, Adios to Tear


Rarely discussed, even in the canon of Asian American Studies and Japanese American internment, is the story of the Japanese Latin Americans. The first part of this paper will historicize the Japanese Peruvian ordeal, with a focus on archival materials and primary sources to analyze Japanese Peruvians’ lived experiences in the context of broader themes of geopolitics, politics of fear, and national loyalties. Most detainees had been deported from Peru and were known consequently as Japanese Peruvians in the context of the issue. In a series of transnational decisions hedged upon racial discrimination, rights violations, and populist nationalism, Central and South American countries deported several thousand Japanese diasporic residents and citizens to the United States where they were interned in a fashion similar to Japanese Americans through World War II. After the war, many Japanese Peruvians were repatriated to Japan, a few returned to Peru, and several hundred remained in the United States in immigration limbo as “illegal aliens.” The Japanese Peruvian community remaining in the United States eventually obtained permanent residency and citizenship, later organizing various legal and advocacy campaigns to hold the United States accountable.

Though significant overlap existed between the wartime experiences of Japanese Peruvians and Japanese Americans, two key arbiters of their differences were citizenship and the role of transnational empire. The second part of this paper will examine these twin dynamics of citizenship and transnationalism, and how they excluded the Japanese Peruvians from the Japanese American redress strategy, with consequences across legal strategies, grassroots movements, questions of jurisdiction, and national and historical memory. The transnational nature of the Japanese Peruvian trajectory would also be significant when the Japanese Peruvian strategy turned from domestic to international courts to seek justice.

The Japanese in Peru

From Meiji to Middlemen

 Peru was the earliest Latin American country to receive Japanese immigrants      and in sizable numbers as well. Neither Peru nor Japan was the other’s first choice as destination or source of migrant labor, respectively. But by the time World War II broke out, about 26,000 Japanese lived in Peru. Explaining why this was the case requires the positioning of nationalist aspirations to modernity, whiteness, and political economy. As Ayumi Takenaka notes, Peru arose as a destination for Japanese migrant workers by way of multiple forms of exclusion.[1]

The Japanese government had encouraged emigration since the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Exporting the growing issue of domestic poverty was a tenet of the Meiji government’s “modernization” policy, compounding the dynamics of class, inequality, and a political aspiration to modernity as prescribed by U.S.- and Euro-centric norms. Motivated to look towards the West after centuries of protectionism under the Tokugawa shogunate, Japan was eager to coordinate with emigration companies and governments abroad to sponsor contract migrations to locales like Hawai’i and South America.[2] Because of Japan’s swelling population and limited amount of arable land, the government considered the growing class of impoverished farmers a “problem” which could be addressed by emigrating said poor farmers abroad to be “civilized” and Westernized. Though the Meiji government was motivated in part by population reduction of what it considered to be an undesirable demographic, its view of emigration is best understood in terms of strategic industrialization, Westernization, and imperial expansion. The sizable remittances sent home by Japanese workers helped fund domestic industrialization, consumer spending, and capital investment projects, while the migrant workers themselves were seen as an extension of Japanese soft power, economic expansion, and diplomacy. The Japanese terms imin (“emigrant”) and shokumin (“colonist”) were used interchangeably or combined (“ishokumin”), with the hope that Japanese migrant workers would construct “New Japan” in various locales in the West.[3] When the United States cut off Japanese immigration with the Gentleman’s Agreement of 1907, Japanese emigration was rerouted towards South America. Though South America was a less desirable destination compared to the U.S., due to the latter’s perceived proximity to whiteness [1] [2] and imperial influence, tens of thousands of Japanese workers migrated to countries across South America with hopes of higher wages, owning land, social mobility, and new experiences.[4]

The influx of Japanese workers to Peru was an orchestrated phenomenon due in large part to Peru’s own failure to appeal to White, Eurocentric standards. Peru’s social and political hierarchy was dominated by European colonists, who were introducing an influx of Western European capital to fund the cultivation of cash crops, like cotton. The arbiters of these labor-intensive crops and plantations had relied on several avenues of cheap labor for the harsh working conditions, from slavery to the “coolie” trade to indigenous workers, each of which were abolished or non-viable. But Peru had great difficulty attracting its preferred demographic—workers from the U.S. or Europe—due to being perceived as politically unstable, possessing a sub-par standard of living, and having fewer opportunities for social mobility relative to countries like Brazil and Argentina. All of this was capped by a national labor shortage,  forcing the last alternative of immigration from its second-choice region: Asia. After establishing a diplomatic relationship in 1783, Peru and Japan signed a contract labor agreement.[5]

After the Japanese migrants’ arrival in Peru, their subsequent racialization was inextricable from the evolution of their economic conditions. Japanese migrants who arrived in the late 19th and early 20th century mainly worked in agriculture, where the conditions of their labor are reminiscent of earlier narratives surrounding Chinese and Indian indentured labor and African slavery as Peru transitioned from a slave economy to industrialized capitalism. Advertising campaigns in Japan had depicted a rosy image of life in Peru with high wages, a higher standard of living, rolling mountains, and a firm end date by which they would return to Japan. In reality, the combination of plantation conditions, differences in climates and diets, diseases, and discrimination made laboring conditions so harsh that about one-fifth of the first cohort of immigrants died before their contracts expired and the death rate averaged 7.6% over the next decade.[6] Among Japanese Peruvian communities and their families from home, even among “those who achieved [financial] success […] there was not one who did not experience the loss of a relative or close friend.”[7] Many migrants grew unable to work or rebelled. Though contracts were signed for four-year terms, the overwhelming majority of migrants were unable to return home even after ten years, as low or withheld wages made it difficult for them to save money for their return trip. Lack of property rights and general mobility in the agricultural sector compelled many Japanese migrants to leave the Peruvian agricultural sector and head for urban centers like Lima and Callao.[8]

The rise of Japanese communities near urban centers coincides with the transition of the Japanese economic story from agriculture to small businesses and domestic work. By the mid-20th century, Japanese communities had clustered in Peru, particularly in and near urban areas. Seiichi Higashide later described the mid-century Japanese Peruvian communities as a “nation within a nation,” which was “organically constituted” by exclusion and discrimination from the rest of Peruvian society.[9] Economic life was circumscribed as much as it was fertilized by a sense of kinship among the Japanese Peruvians. Job opportunities were created and transferred within the community, Japanese-owned businesses mostly served Japanese clientele, and a range of informal jobs existed to straddle the domestic and public sphere, such as “working guests.”[10]

Since the Peruvian government excluded non-Europeans from entering dominant industries, Japanese Peruvian economic activity became concentrated in the sectors it was limited to. Not unlike how Chinese migrants were concentrated in laundry work in New York City and San Francisco, Japanese Peruvians in Lima were initially concentrated in the barber shop business.[11] As the community grew in size and capital accumulation, its economic breadth expanded to stores, restaurants, and mechanical shops which dominated much of the small business sector in Lima. [3] [4] The Japanese Peruvian investment in small businesses reflected both short-term turnover—as individuals could easily liquidate or pass on small business ownership should they move, and they were institutionally discouraged by Peru from establishing large businesses—and community longevity, as small businesses thrived off of family labor and patronage based on ethnic solidarity.[12]

But the relative economic success of Japanese Peruvians made them targets, especially given their concentrated visibility near Lima and other cities. Japanese Peruvians grew into a social stratum of “middleman minority,” whereby they exerted a degree of economic influence while being the target of social discrimination.[13] Whereas discrimination against the Japanese Peruvians could previously be summed up as social and economic exclusion based on perceived inferiority, towards the mid-20th century, the mutually enabling processes of racialization and Japanese Peruvian economic success morphed into structurally targeted—and eventually violent—animosity. Japanese Peruvians became viewed as “cunning” and “shrewd     ” with their economic success owed      to dishonesty, aggression, stinginess, and a natural propensity to low standards of living.[14] In a rather apt demonstration of Orientalism, Japanese Peruvians were also dubbed chinos de la esquina, or the “Chinese of the street corner.” These characteristics—which arose from necessity and survival in a discriminatory system—along with high rates of Japanese deaths on plantations were attributed to racial and cultural differences between the Japanese and the rest of Peruvian society, and thus, politicians reasoned, such “an alien race dissimilar in habits, morals and process of thought” ought to return to Japan immediately.[15] Populist anti-Japanese sentiment reached a breaking point in May 1940, as a mob looted and damaged over 600 Japanese residences and businesses in Lima, resulting in dozens of injuries and one Japanese death. Not only was it the “worst rioting in Peruvian history,” but it was also the first to target a racial group.[16]

Whereas the “nation within a nation” dynamic of Japanese Peruvian communities had been an organic defense mechanism allowing for insular growth, the same resistance to assimilation reinforced anti-Japanese sentiment. The rest of Peruvian society criticized them for being “closed and secretive” and speculated baselessly about acts of non-loyalty to Peru—  such as the students swearing allegiance to the Emperor of Japan every day.[17] Newspapers distinguished the affective capacity of Japanese immigrants as well: “Unlike Anglo-Saxon immigrants, not a single Japanese name has endeared itself to Peruvian national feeling and not a Japanese is known but for his mercantile activities.”[18] This is, of course, categorically false: though many issei Japanese Peruvians did have a sense of intending to return to Japan someday, as their roots in Peru grew, so did some affection. In reflecting on his life and time in Peru, even after reckoning with his deportation at the hands of the Peruvian government, Higashide reminisced that, “Deep are my feelings for the Latin country I call my ‘second motherland’.”[19]

In response to rising anti-Japanese sentiment, from the 1910s to the 1930s, Peruvian policymakers actively limited Japanese immigration and discouraged settlement. Peruvian worker protests led to the creation of an Anti-Asian Association in 1917 and the abolition of contract migration in 1923.[20] In 1936, policymakers restricted Japanese reentry, halted Japanese immigration, and forbid additional immigration of “racial groups     ” which was understood to target groups of Asian origin. The Japanese were also seen as a drain on the already depressed and unstable Peruvian economy: the significant amount of remittances sent back to Japan, Japanese Peruvian economic success in niche but visible sectors, and a growing trade imbalance between Japan and Peru all contributed to increasing nationalism and anti-Japanese sentiment which worsened alongside the Peruvian economic situation.[21] In 1932, the government passed the notorious “80 Percent Law ” which required a minimum of 80% of a business’ employees to be Peruvian—a difficult and targeted imposition upon the Japanese Peruvian community      in which most members were either ineligible to naturalize or having their citizenship challenged, another Peruvian governmental exclusionary mechanism. Compounding with first-generation Japanese migrants’ ineligibility to citizenship, legal restrictions arose in 1936 prohibiting the registration of immigrant newborns born before 1936, effectively denying Peruvian-born children citizenship if their parents were Japanese and had not already registered their births.[22] In 1940, an act passed deeming that second-generation immigrants of jus sanguinis (“blood-based citizenship”) who returned to their parent’s homeland for nearly any reason automatically rescinded Peruvian citizenship.[23]

Much of the anti-Japanese Peruvian legislation during this time period employed a similar strategy as the California Alien Land Law or U.S. Immigration Act of 1924 in that the acts were targeting the Japanese diaspora vis-à-vis phrases like “jus sanguinis” as opposed to any explicit mention of the group. It was little coincidence, in fact, that much of Peru’s exclusionary strategies towards Japanese diaspora echoed that of the United States’: the United States had been wary of increasing Imperial Japanese aggression in Asia and the Pacific throughout the 1930s, and had been encouraging Latin American countries to take action by pointing to its own history of consecutive legislation targeting the Japanese immigrants.[24] Many Central and South American countries—including Peru—followed suit, sometimes basing immigration on the exclusion of any “nonwhite race,” as in the case of Paraguay, Guatemala, Venezuela, and Panama, and other times on the basis of set immigration quotas, as in the case of Brazil.[25]

World War II: 1941-1945

As World War II collapsed into trans-Pacific warfare and countries fell on either side of the Axis/Allied division, the U.S. was reinforcing its strategic alliances in the Southern hemisphere. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. extended its investigation and internment operations to Latin America, citing “military necessity.”[26] Many Latin American countries, which had fallen squarely within the U.S.’s sphere of influence by the 1940s as the U.S. took a direct interest in security in Latin America, agreed to varying degrees of cooperation with the U.S. Several countries were afraid that the Imperial Japanese Army would make the strategic leap from Hawai’i and the Pacific theater to the shores of Latin America, with none more terrified than Peru, who had the largest Japanese diasporic community in Latin America.[27]

As a loyal ally of the U.S., Peru annulled diplomatic relations with Japan immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. declared war on Japan—this was the moment when the Japanese in Peru, most of whom were still Japanese citizens, became de facto enemy aliens. Supported by U.S. aid, anti-Japanese sentiment in Peru reached a height, as the Japanese consulate was forced to shut down, Japanese community institutions were disbanded, meetings and publications were criminalized, businesses were expropriated or forcibly sold, bank accounts were frozen, land leases to Japanese were cancelled, and community members were arrested and detained, beginning with those of modest political and business stature.[28] Peru quickly signed a military agreement with the U.S. involving several provisions, such as increased military aid from the U.S., U.S. military outposts in Peruvian territory and an invitation for Peru to deport its Japanese residents to the U.S.[29] The agreement was beneficial to the U.S. since about two-thirds of detainees were Japanese citizens and, the U.S. reasoned, they could be exchanged for American hostages held by Axis powers.[30] The agreement is also remembered by U.S.-based public accounts and academic literature as beneficial to the Peruvian government because it meant ridding a perceived internal threat that had also been the source of social tensions leading up to the war. But the discrepancy between historicized public accounts of the Peruvian government’s response from English-speaking sources and accounts of responses from individual interactions on the ground is worth noting. Whereas historicized accounts cite xenophobia and economic conflict as the driving factors for Peru’s response, Seiichi Higashide remembers a more sympathetic response from local Peruvian officials who cited geopolitical deference to the U.S. to explain the Peruvian response:

I decided to consult with the Ica provincial governor, Commandant Juan Dongo. Governor Dongo received me with great sympathy and kindness. “I am truly sorry about your situation,” he said. “Japan is not at war with Peru, yet you have been placed in such a situation. Peru, however, is in a weak position and cannot oppose the United States.”[31]

It’s likely that manifestations of both attitudes existed throughout the policing and political structure in Peru and at various times. Understanding where Japanese Peruvians occupied the social hierarchy in Peru and how is important—though few were fully integrated into Peruvian society, a number of Japanese Peruvians like Higashide had cultivated business relationships, which led to some degree to political connections and social capital. By the time public sentiment had turned against Japanese Peruvians, some local officials were reluctant to arrest Japanese community members with whom they had cultivated interpersonal relationships      and understood their role in the oppression of Japanese Peruvians as part of a national submission to geopolitics, perhaps to divert feelings of guilt and blame. That some Peruvian officials and politicians were sympathetic to the Japanese Peruvians, but ultimately subservient to a higher nationalist demand based on “internal security     ” complicates the understanding of internal community dynamics and Japanese-Peruvian intimacies. Timing is also relevant in charting the development of oppressive Peruvian policies and understanding who was actively pushing for what policies. Higashide notes a change in police leadership and expansion of police forces in his district of Ica in 1942, after which harassment of Japanese residents increased and deportations began. As the war went on and rumors—which Higashide describes as “completely baseless”—spread about Japanese firms storing infantry rifles and the Imperial Army planning an invasion on northern Peru, upper-level politicians and police across Peru became increasingly privy to violence and intimidation:

In order to enforce the expulsion order, the governor of Ancash Province went out himself, snapping a bullwhip, to force out local Japanese. According to the governor, the forced expulsions were “precautionary measures necessary to prevent resident Japanese from taking actions beneficial to the enemy.”[32]

Detainment and Deportation

The deportation of Japanese Peruvians can be understood as part of a broader transnational strategy to intern Japanese diasporic citizens in Latin America, orchestrated by the U.S. Of those understood to constitute the 2,264 Japanese Latin Americans within context of World War II, about 1,800 had resided in Peru at the time of their detainment and deportation. Panama was the next largest source of detainees, at 250 Japanese, and the rest were assembled across ten other Central and South American countries.[33] In total, twelve Latin American nations coordinated with the U.S. to deport people whom they considered enemy alien internees to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Justice Department’s Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

The primary targets of the deportations were diplomats and consulate officials, and some representatives of businesses based in Japan. However, “community leaders” and persons otherwise considered significant enough to be suspicious were also detained en masse. Peruvian leadership wanted to deport all Japanese and Axis nationals, but was limited by the United States’ recognition that it had “limited need of Latin American Japanese for exchange with Japan,” alongside “limited shipping facilities” and “administrative burden of a full-scale enemy alien deportation program.”[34] Thus, Peru attempted to deport only officials and Japanese nationals “believed to be dangerous,” a catch-all definition to justify circumventing investigating every individual.[35] In a staggered process, some family members joined some of the deported men in the U.S. camps, and were classified as “voluntary internees” under some guise of choice,[36] though many also chose to remain in Peru or were denied passage to the U.S due to limited transportation capacity. Detainment and deportation itself was a logistically messy affair itself, since Peruvian deportations were actually planned with little coordination with the U.S.[37] Those arrested were nearly always men, sometimes Peruvian citizens, who were often detained at random, in front of their family and forcibly separated, or to no one’s knowledge at all.[38] Some of those targeted for deportation attempted to evade arrest for as long as possible, with local law enforcement turning a blind eye out of friendship[39] or bribery.[40] Some deportations were cancelled when transportation could not be arranged, and the geographic targeting of crackdowns appeared to be based on rumors.[41] Accurate information about destinations, deportation processes, or repatriation was rarely shared with the Japanese Peruvians, enabling the frightened spread of rumors, one of which suggested that Japanese Peruvians were being taken inland to be massacred.[42] Thankfully, contrary to the rumors, no Japanese Peruvians would be massacred. Rather, they were either forcibly repatriated to Japan from Peru or deported to be interned in the U.S. Those interned in the U.S. were forced to board ships traveling via the Panama Canal to New Orleans, where they were processed, then shepherded via train to various detention camps.[43] A letter from Raymond Norweb, U.S. Ambassador to Peru from 1940 to 1942, described President Manuel Prado’s long-term goals of wartime mobilization with regards to the Japanese Peruvians:

“The second matter in which the [Peruvian] President is very much interested is the possibility of getting rid of the Japanese in Peru. He would like to settle this problem permanently, which means that he is thinking in terms of repatriating thousands of Japanese. He asked Colonel Lord to let him know about the prospects of additional shipping facilities from the United States. […] Peru would like to be sure that these Japanese would not be returned to Peru later on. The president’s goal apparently is the substantial elimination of the Japanese colony in Peru.”[44]

Notable is the diction used here in Norweb’s interpretation on behalf of President Prado. The Japanese Peruvians are a “problem” to be “[shipped]” out of Peru, like an unexpected leftover export or commodity; the community is a “colony,” insular and unwanted but forced upon the Peruvian landscape as some politicized formation. Japanese Peruvians are reduced to the singular identity of “Japanese,” even as some of the community were already established Peruvian citizens. And of course, the language of permanence persists— “permanently,” “later on,” “substantial elimination”—which scholars and advocates have retroactively applied the term “ethnic cleansing” to describe the upper Peruvian government’s attitude towards the Japanese Peruvian campaign.[45][46] Yet particularly interesting is the usage of “repatriating” in this context: repatriation has been portrayed in primary accounts and U.S. secondary accounts as a voluntary decision that Japanese Latin Americans had a right to make. Worth remembering, however, are the orchestrating political powers who had a vested interest in encouraging repatriation and threats of indefinite internment under which repatriation became such a decision in the first place: in that sense, repatriation can be understood as a mechanism of “ethnic cleansing” under the illusion of liberal choice. For the hundreds of Japanese Peruvians who did choose to repatriate to Japan, it effectively absolved U.S. and Peruvian responsibility for the circumstances of their person, and very few repatriated Japanese Peruvians were able to file for or receive reparations.

Deportees were placed in State Department custody if they were officials, or placed in INS custody if they were private citizens. Deportees had no legal documentation of their status: any passports and papers had been confiscated prior to arrival in the U.S., and the State Department had forbidden American consulates anywhere to give visas to Axis nationals. Thus, deportees were considered to be illegal aliens who had entered U.S. custody, despite the forced circumstances of their arrival. As illegal aliens, they were then eligible for deportation to Japan, in a second, more roundabout avenue back to repatriation. The U.S. was interested in repatriating Japanese Peruvian deportees for American hostages—which they did about 1,100 times by July 1942—especially as they received intelligence that about 3,300 Americans were stuck in Japanese-occupied China. Yet several factors—lagging communications, security risks, limited transportation capacity, and the Justice Department’s rejection of involuntary repatriation—delayed and limited these hostage repatriation exchanges throughout the war.[47]

As Japanese Latin Americans awaited repatriation proceedings or the end of the war, they were held in one of three internment camps—Crystal City, Kenedy, and Santa Fe. Kenedy and Santa Fe were largely reserved for single men, while Crystal City held reunited families. Initial groups of Japanese Peruvian men were originally haphazardly held in camps alongside Japanese Americans, but were eventually transferred to one of the three designated for Japanese Latin Americans. Like the Japanese American internment camps, the Japanese Latin American camps did not subject its detainees to forced labor or regiment:

“Here, we were not under the jurisdiction of the U.S. military, and there were no strict rules or procedures to follow, and we were not made to carry out exhausting work assignments. We were given food and clothing, and all of our basic, survival needs were met. We had more than enough free time and, indeed, passed much of our time aimlessly. All we could do was gather in small groups to engage in foolish conversation, gamble, or participate in sports to keep us from boredom.”[48]

Camp social dynamics were also delineated by acts of rebellion, such as smashing dishware, and perceptions of one’s national loyalties.[49] Work opportunities were available in the form of voluntary hourly wage jobs in the camp, or as farm workers outside the camp at farms with labor shortages, which also came with the promise of being reunited with one’s family. Such opportunities were often viewed with mistrust, and detainees who pursued them were sometimes seen as pro-American traitors.[50]

At War’s End

As the cracks in the Imperial Japanese Army became larger and the war wound to an end, the State Department stopped repatriation proceedings, considering that the remaining Japanese Latin Americans would not want to return to a war-devastated country.[51] For Japanese Latin Americans, the end of the war was characterized by slow, inconsistent negotiations. On one hand, the Justice and State Departments disagreed about what jurisdictions the detainees fell under, and which security measures would be taken to disperse them. On the other hand, the United States and the Latin American countries that had deported them disagreed on whom to deport and how. The United States’ “weak, hastily-written wartime agreements”[52] and logistics that had characterized the deportation processes returned to haunt the post-war negotiations, particularly as Latin American countries had differing requirements with regards to disposition and jurisdiction. Japanese Peruvians in particular lived in a state of limbo and dragging negotiations: Peru, for its part, had not established a firm policy with the United States, and sought to limit the return of Japanese internees to Peru. In contrast, the United States offered Peru the blanket policy of accepting “all non-dangerous internees,” which included Japanese and German internees, or ceding control over deportation to the United States.[53]

The Japanese Latin Americans were torn by a number of considerations: return to Japan, the country they left and which had been devastated by the war? Return to Latin America, where they had lost everything and which had actively rejected them? Or stay in the United States to start a new life, unsure if that was even an option? For the majority of the male detainees, their families and loved ones were still in Latin America—how would they reunite?

About 930 Japanese Peruvians were voluntarily repatriated to Japan from the end of 1945 through 1946. In 1946, Peru decided to allow only Peruvian citizens of Japanese descent and their relatives to return to Peru, which numbered about 100 detainees who returned to Peru. That left about 300 Japanese Peruvians in the United States at the beginning of 1947, some of whom still had family in Peru and wished to return. Peru underwent a coup in the winter of 1948, but continued to refuse non-citizens, exasperating State Department officials. In 1949, seeing no other practical alternative, State Department officials allowed the remaining 300 Japanese Peruvians to stay in the U.S. as “permanent legally admitted immigrants,” a distorting label to apply to those whom had actually been forcibly kidnapped and incarcerated.[54]


The story of Japanese Peruvian redress complicates its precursor of Japanese American redress, and challenges the limits of liberal redress as a transformative impossibility and logic for social justice, particularly within context of the United States. It also complicates understandings of Japanese American redress by highlighting how the latter relied heavily on national and global notions of “progress” towards justice for particular groups for whom the modern legal system was designed to accommodate. It demonstrates how a system that prides itself on multicultural inclusion is just as comfortable with exclusion, and reveals, in Cathleen Kozen’s words, the “opening up of alternative imaginings and praxis of justice located not within the law itself but precisely in its critique and deconstruction.”[55]

Japanese American Redress

To understand the context for the Japanese Peruvian redress movement, it is helpful to first trace the strategies of the Japanese American redress movement. The Japanese American redress movement was successful in its own right as the first successful reparations movement for a marginalized group in the United States, which are not easily won. Japanese American redress has since been cited as precedent and moral inspiration in various other restitution efforts. Yet the success of the Japanese American redress movement needs to be understood in context of its narrow adherence to the limited standards established by U.S. redress norms and how it benefited the nation’s interest in understanding itself as an international harbinger of justice and human rights. Considering how the Japanese American advocacy strategy ultimately excluded justice for Japanese Latin Americans prompts questions of whether Japanese American redress is the universal and progressive model for justice that it has been historicized as, and how it bolstered a self-serving image of U.S. nationalism instead of critiquing its pitfalls.

The Japanese American redress movement began in the 1970s, riding on the momentum of the Civil Rights Movement and after a generation of internal reckoning within the Japanese American community. The Japanese American redress movement was split by ideologies. Two groups—the National Coalition for Redress/Reparations and the National Council for Japanese American Redress—advocated for legal strategies that were inclusive of the Japanese Latin Americans, and opposed strategies based on appeals to nationalism or the perpetuation of a model minority image.[56] But the one that dominated was led by the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) whose redress strategy centered Japanese Americans as innocent citizens who had been racialized despite their best attempts at being patriotic Americans. To appeal to the post-war national sentiment, the JACL emphasized the successes and sacrifices of the 442nd Infantry Regiment, the most decorated unit of the war and consisting entirely of Japanese American soldiers. In response to their loyalty, the U.S. continued to violate their consecrated constitutional liberties: due process, equal protection, property rights, and U.S. citizenship rights. Japanese American redress enjoyed a degree of support in Congress even before the movement gained traction, as evidenced by the creation of the Congressional Commission tasked with investigating internment. Within the Japanese American case, there was also a clear perpetrator (the U.S. government, particularly the Justice and War Department officials), and an easily identifiable group of living victims. Though the exact value of damages was certain, they were limited to the impacted group and a certain period—thus, a reparations payment was a relatively adequate form of redress that paralleled the damages. As Yamamato concludes, the legal pattern of the Japanese American case fit squarely within “the traditional rights/remedies paradigm,” which ultimately “appears to have bolstered rather than hindered the internees’ reparations claim.”[57]

But a convenient and successful redress strategy is not necessarily one that advocates for a holistic definition of justice. Throughout the redress movement, the JACL avoided acknowledging the mutuality of the circumstances and politics of their internment with that of the Japanese Peruvians. By the time Congress was debating the Civil Liberties Act, grassroots Japanese American activists and legislators had largely chosen to omit the Japanese Peruvians from the strategic narrative, choosing instead to highlight the fact that Japanese Americans had had their rights violated, as opposed to the whole Japanese diaspora in the Western hemisphere whose lives had been uprooted by U.S.-orchestrated military intervention and racism. In a congressional hearing on internment redress in 1987, Representative Norman Mineta—a Japanese American legislator who had been interned along with his family in Heart Mountain—perpetuated the distinction between Japanese American and Japanese Peruvian incarceration:

“First of all, this bill is really to benefit US citizens who have been wronged by the actions of their own government. So I would think that this bill would not extend to, let’s say, the act of the Peruvian government which, at that time, sent them to the United States for internment in the camps here. Even to extend that to the children of the Peruvians who were born here, I would think that the bill would not apply to them.”[58]

Representative Mineta distinguishes the applicability of Japanese American and Japanese Peruvian redress by citing national affiliation and perpetuating a revisionist watering down of the United States’ role in the internment of Japanese Latin Americans      and his warped interpretation of national sovereignty implies that nation-states should only be held accountable to their own citizens. In similar yet less explicit fashion, the 1980 report by the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians had focused mostly on the story of the Japanese Americans      and advocated for their redress.[59] Though the report also included an appendix section detailing the deportation and internment of Japanese Latin Americans, mostly from the perspective of U.S. policymaking, the report only suggested “appropriate remedies” for “American citizens of Japanese ancestry and resident Japanese aliens, as well as of the people of the Aleutian Islands [under Alaskan jurisdiction],” intentionally omitting the Japanese Latin Americans on basis of legal status.[60]

The 1980 Civil Liberties Act, which was co-sponsored by Representative Mineta, enshrined Japanese American reparations into law, but followed the narrow recommendations of the 1980 report in excluding Japanese Latin Americans. It defined reparations as a formal apology and $20,000 to each surviving internee, constituting 82,219 redress checks to “United States citizens and permanent resident aliens of Japanese ancestry […] and Aleut ancestry.”[61] In other words, Japanese Americans and Aleutians received reparations because they were considered the nation’s own, easily and strategically legible within the legal and geographical boundaries of the United States. The Civil Liberties Act also contains other interesting clauses outlining the purposes of the Civil Liberties Act, such as those at the end of Section 1:

“(6) discourage the occurrence of similar injustices and violations of civil liberties in the future; and

(7) make more credible and sincere any declaration of concern by the United States over violations of human rights committed by other nations.”[62]

Critical analysis of these clauses shows that Japanese American can also be understood within the strategic national context of wiping clean American wartime racial violence and reproducing a multiracial American moral authority and exceptionalism. Furthermore, the language of “justices and violations of civil liberties in the future” is significant in precluding Congress from taking additional responsibility for injustices present and past. At a moment when Japanese American redress inspired a litany of momentum and lawsuits for Black reparations for slavery and discrimination, the clause reiterated the government’s disavowal of understanding Japanese American redress as precedent for future restitution cases.

Even with strategic exclusion and a well-fitted fact pattern for redress, Japanese American redress was not an easy battle and it took ten years for the movement to end with the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. It’s worth considering that even if the JACL advocated for inclusion of the Japanese Latin Americans into the redress claims, Congress may have omitted the Japanese Latin Americans or refused to address reparations altogether. That said, Japanese American redress ultimately became an American movement, one that demonstrated both domestically and internationally that the United States was a model for addressing injustices everywhere, for if it could hold its own violations accountable, it has the moral authority to hold others accountable as well. Furthermore, the inclusion of Japanese Americans vis-à-vis congressional representation, redress, and the performance of multiracial inclusion further reproduces U.S. exceptionalism in context of liberal democracy, constitutional law, and domestic rejection of the international paradigm of human rights and its associated projects of redress and reconciliation. In this way, Japanese American redress reproduces what Singh names “civic mythology of racial progress,” whereby “no better proof of American universalism is offered than the idea that dominated or excluded groups have struggled against discrimination and inequality in the name of the superior ideas and values of the nation.”[63]

Mochizuki v. United States

Though the Japanese Latin Americans had worked with Japanese Americans leading up to the passing of the Civil Liberties Act, the outcome clearly demonstrated that the former’s work towards redress was unfinished. In 1996, the National Coalition for Redress & Reparations, Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress, and Japanese Peruvian Oral History Project formed the Campaign for Justice: Redress NOW for Japanese Latin Americans to advocate for Japanese Latin American redress via litigation and public education. They worked with five formerly interned Japanese Latin Americans to file Mochizuki, et al. v USA after Carmen Mochizuki been denied redress by the Civil Liberties Act, arguing that doing so was discriminatory denial under constitutional and international law. When the coalition lost in the District Court of the Central District of California, the case was transferred to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Settlement negotiations ensued, resulting in the U.S. government’s “take it or leave it” settlement offer in 1999.[64] The settlement would include an official apology to each internee and reparations of $5000, which was not only drawn from the remainder of the Civil Liberties Act fund, but also paled in comparison to the $20,000 given to surviving Japanese American internees. [65] This is also in spite of the fact that many Japanese Latin Americans believed their wartime experiences had been a greater economic, social, and emotional cost to bear than that of the Japanese Americans.[66] Additionally, any Japanese Latin American internee that accepted the settlement was prohibited from pursuing further internment-related litigation against the U.S. [67]

The outcome of the Mochizuki case reveals a fundamental discrepancy in how Japanese Latin Americans and the U.S. court system perceived their injustices. The United States representatives—who held disproportionate power to set the terms of the settlement—and court viewed the Japanese Latin Americans as an addendum to the Civil Liberties Act, a symptom of the mistake of internment that is easily rectified by the benevolence of the nation-state. In the court opinion, Chief Judge Smith “congratulates both the representatives of the United States and the representatives of the plaintiffs for reaching what the court considers a fair and moral settlement     ” which is “not only a good settlement,” but “reflects well on the moral integrity of our Nation.”[68] Though the court did not need to make a judgment, it clearly prioritizes the “what” of the case more than the “how”—i.e. that redress happens performatively for the sake of reflecting well upon the liberal nation-state’s moral authority, but not critically such that justice and responsibility are holistically considered. The settlement serves as a form of condolence, but does not admit that the United States had violated constitutional or international law by interning Japanese Latin Americans. Implicitly it serves as a continued acknowledgment of the United State’s ability to violate international law and the rights of non-citizens with impunity.

According to the Campaign for Justice, most Japanese Latin Americans reluctantly accepted the settlement “with mixed emotion and concern.”[69] After all, it seemed as though the U.S. would publicly accept its role in their internment, apologize via presidential apology letters, and further litigation would be allowed under specific circumstances.[70] But if the U.S. government’s response to Japanese American redress was the standard by which the Japanese Latin Americans sought, the fact that Japanese Latin Americans’ monetary reparations was settled at one-fourth of that given to Japanese Americans implied that the Japanese Latin Americans were less worthy of the same standard of reparations. This returns to the question of perceived national affiliation, whereby the U.S. did not want to be held fully responsible for injustices done unto non-U.S. citizens nor non-permanent residents, especially injustices which had not been orchestrated by the U.S. alone. From the perspective of precedent, this reasoning is strategic: if the U.S. were to offer equivalent redress to non-U.S. citizens for wartime injustices, it could set a precedent for other lawsuits seeking wartime redress from the U.S. Furthermore, the Japanese Latin Americans’ concerns about the U.S. government’s sincerity would magnify after receiving the apologies due to the shoddy nature of their execution.[71]          

Shibayama et al. v. United States

Snubbed by the outcome of the Mochizuki case, the Japanese Latin American movement continued filing lawsuits against the United States in California District Courts. Because those who accepted the Mochizuki settlement could no longer sue as plaintiffs for future lawsuits, and only seventeen Japanese Latin Americans opted out of the settlement agreement, the Campaign for Justice became severely limited in the number of cases they could bring and in choosing who could serve as the face of a case. In 1998 and 1999, three more lawsuits were filed by Japanese Peruvians on behalf of all Japanese Latin Americans: Koshio Henry Shima v. Reno/Ashcroft (USA); National Coalition for Redress/Reparations & Joe Suzuki v. USA; Kato, Yano & Ogura v. USA; and Shibayama v. Reno (USA).[72] All attempted to expand on some snubbed aspect of the Mochizuki outcome      such as equivalent monetary redress, ongoing discrimination and denial, and equitable redress; all were dismissed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals      who rejected the arguments, upheld that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue, cited the expiration of statute of limitations, and ruled that Japanese Latin Americans were not eligible unless they had retroactively been given permanent residence status. Last but not least, the courts even maintained      that the claims were not within the court’s jurisdiction.[73]

Frustrated by the domestic court system, the Campaign and the Shibayamas turned to international law as their final legal resort, even though they knew the U.S. would be far less accountable to international courts. The 2019 ruling by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on Shibayama, et al. vs. United States was a symbolic victory, seventeen years in the making since the Shibayamas first filed the case in June 2003. For the dwindling number of aging Japanese Peruvian survivors, the Shibayama case has been the most recent case to seek equitable redress for the United States government’s past and ongoing violations of the Shibayamas’ rights under the American Convention on the Rights and Duties of Man.[74]

Three brothers were the plaintiffs in the Shibayama case. They were born in Peru to Japanese parents, rendering them Peruvian citizens. The story of their experiences during World War II were indicative of the general Japanese Peruvian trajectory: they were arrested with their family and deported to the U.S. via ship, stripped of their documents, and imprisoned in the Crystal City camp from March 1944 to September 1946. After Peru refused the Shibayama family the right of return, the Shibayamas stayed “illegal aliens” in the U.S., paying taxes of 30% on unlivable wages      and having their citizenship applications continually denied by both the U.S. and Peru.[75] Isamu Carlos Shibayama remembers being rejected from deployment during the Korean War because the government denied his platoon leader’s citizenship application on Shibayama’s behalf. Eventually, U.S. immigration law allowed them to become permanent residents and eventually citizens—Isamu Carlos Shibayama himself became a citizen in 1970.[76]

The IACHR’s decision is praised by Shibayamas’ allies, litigators, and human rights advocates as a long-awaited “milestone victory,” particularly in context of the decades-long struggle for reparations for Japanese Peruvians.[77] Yet, the report also reveals the decision’s own restraints in pursuing meaningful justice and the limitations of international law as an avenue for transnational reparations within the confines of the contemporary nation-state. The failure of Japanese Peruvian survivors to secure meaningful redress in the United States domestic courts forced them to turn to international law and the IACHR for recourse, even as the United States is less legally compelled by international law than domestic procedures. Broadly, the Shibayamas “[alleged] the international responsibility of the United States of America…for violations of the human rights of” the Shibayama brothers.[78] The IACHR cited the US’s violations of articles II and (equality before the law) and XVIII (fair trial and effective remedy) in concluding the United States’ responsibility in Japanese Peruvians’ internment and detainment during World War II      and denial of their due process rights vis-à-vis the Civil Rights Act of 1988.[79]

Yet the non-binding nature of the IACHR was never more evident than in the United States’ response—or lack thereof—to the Shibayama case, whereby no United States representative was present at the March 21, 2017 hearing for the case[80]      and no response was provided subsequent to Report No. 99/19      which delivered the IACHR’s verdict of in favor of the Shibayamas.[81] In fact, one of the primary defenses argued by the United States was the inadmissibility of the case and the Commission’s “alleged lack of competence to consider the matter     ”—     a clear testament to  American disregard for international jurisdiction.[82] This is particularly ironic given how subjects like the Shibayamas, who were trafficked as hostages and forcibly deprived of and denied citizenship for many years, had been forced by Peru and the United States to defy the nation-states’ own restrictive logics. For most Japanese Peruvians, the process of resecuring citizenship has been an alienating and traumatizing imposition steeped in liberal sovereignty, one that continually forced them into the legal limbo of “illegal alien.”[83] Though Shibayama et al. vs. United States serves as precedent within the regional body of human rights law and institutionalizes a symbolic redress, it does little to provide material redress or to legally bind the United States.

But this was expected given the nature of the United States’ approach to human rights treaties. The Shibayama case falls under a category of international agreements designated as non-self-executing treaties, along with all other human rights agreements which are understood to require additional congressional legislation before United States agencies have the legal authority to carry out the agreement.[84] Per the decisions of lower courts, a treaty provision requiring the power of the purse must be treated as non-self-executing, further rendering reparations agreements reliant on congressional budgetary approval.[85] These stipulations, combined with general US reluctance to ratify human rights treaties to prioritize sovereign jurisdiction, effectively roadblock hopes of the U.S. meaningfully being held accountable by international courts or decisions.

The outcome of the Shibayama case leads to several conclusions about the political and structural implications of redress in context of international law. The case of the Japanese Peruvians and Japanese Latin Americans posits the question: when is “redress” insufficient? When is a figure unredressable? Kozen proposes that the Japanese Peruvians, as “(im)possible redressable subjects, also hold the possibility of radical political critique through their engagement with forms of governmental redress as historical justice.”[86] The Japanese Latin Americans were not an anomalous addendum to an otherwise successful Japanese American redress movement, but rather indicative of the broader issues of U.S. hegemony      where the U.S. can act with impunity to “[fight] its wars for the sake of liberating others” while committing war atrocities that become unredressable. Within the limited paradigm of human rights as the solution to justice in liberal societies, the Shibayama case is a bittersweet response to Lisa Yoneyama’s questions: “Which and whose sufferings are known to us and for whose and which suffering is human rights justice exercised? Which acts of violence are regarded as unjust and deserving of redress while others are rendered invisible?”[87


The Japanese Peruvian story is one of double engagement with U.S. empire, first in their orchestrated deportation from Peru and second in the systemic denial of justice and healing from the United States and Peru. But their story also begs broader questions common to many cases of injustices: what forms can justice and accountability take when faced with a hegemonic perpetrator? How can we understand the role of history and academia in facilitating justice and healing? What does healing look like for victims? Who sets the terms of this healing?

Like many victims of atrocity during World War II, the Japanese Peruvians are aging. Courts of law generally do not allow dead plaintiffs to file a case and for a nation with domestic precedents of defining legal redress in financial compensation and half-hearted apologies, this possibility of “justice” is fading. Not that legal systems are necessarily destined to be the final destinations of justice: oftentimes, justice is forced to be a moving target, where demands and expectations are tempered again and again in face of imperfect systems.

So, what enshrines a movement for justice?  A legacy? Activism, broadly, is the site of discourse that reflects, evolves, and criticizes, so that even though justice becomes a moving target in the face of government denial or civil ignorance, at least the process is constructive. And as for history and writing, which constitute a subset of that activism, perhaps one purpose is to serve as inherently revisionist vehicles to process and reprocess our understandings of justice, to recover narrative margins, and to recognize an increasingly fuller and more nuanced spectrum of accountability.

Correction: Aug. 9, 2022

An earlier version of this article misstated the name of “Isamu Carlos Shibayama” as “Caso Shibayama.”

Works Cited

100th Congress 1st Session, Senate of the United States. Bill S. 1009, “To accept the findings and to implement the recommendation of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians.” 10 April 1987. Accessed at

Alegria, Ciro and Alfredo Saco, “Japanese spearhead in the Americas” Free World 2 (February 1942): 81-84.

Bonacich, Edna. “A theory of middleman minorities.” American Sociological Review, Vol. 38, No. 5 (Oct 1973): 583-594.

Campaign for Justice: Redress Now for Japanese Latin Americans, est. 1996.

Civil Liberties Act of 1988. Senate and House of Representatives. August 10, 1988,

Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, “Estados Unidos: Caso Isamu Carlos

Shibayama,” Audiencia Pública del 161 Período de Sesiones de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH), uploaded March 21, 2017. .

Campaign for Justice: Redress Now for Japanese Latin Americans, est. 1996,

Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. Personal Justice Denied:

Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. Washington, DC: Civil Liberties Public Education Fund and Seattle, University of Washington, 1997.

Connell, Thomas. America’s Japanese hostages: the World War II plan for a Japanese free Latin

America. Westport, Conn: Praeger, 2002.

Civil Liberties Act of 1988. Senate and House of Representatives. August 10, 1988,

Gardiner, Harvey. The Japanese And Peru, 1873-1973. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1975.

Higashide, Seiichi. Adios to Tears: The Memoirs of a Japanese-Peruvian Internee in U.S. Concentration Camps. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2000.

House of Representatives, One Hundredth Congress. Legislation to implement the recommendations of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians: hearing before the Subcommittee on Administrative Law and Governmental Relations of the Committee on the Judiciary. April 29, 1987, Volume 4.

IACHR. Report No. 26/20, Case 12.545, Merits (PUBLICATION), Isamu Carlos Shibayama et al. United States, April 22, 2019.

Irie, Toraji. “History of Japanese migration to Peru.” Hispanic American Historical Review 31 (1951): 437-452.

Kozen, Cathleen Kiyomi. “Justice and Its Others: On the Politics of Redress for Japanese Latin

Americans.” PhD diss. (University of California, San Diego, 2016).Mochizuki v. United States, 97-294 41 Fed. Cl. 54 (Ct of Fed Claims 1998).

Mulligan, Stephen P. “International Law and Agreements: Their Effect upon U.S. Law.” Congressional Research Service, Updated September 19, 2018.

Murray, Alice Yang. “Three Strands Woven into One Fabric,” Historical Memories of the Japanese American internment and the struggle for Redress. Stanford, California: Stanford California Press, 2008.

Normano, J.F. and Antonello Gerbi, The Japanese in South America, New York: John Day Co. 1943.

Norweb, Raymond. “Letter from the American Embassy.” Accessed from Densho Digital

Repository, Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians Collection. July 20, 1942.

Saito, Natsu. “Justice Held Hostage: U.S. Disregard for International Law in the World War II Internment of Japanese Peruvians—A Case Study.” Boston College Third World Law Journal Vol 19, Issue 1 (1998): 275-348.

Singh, Nikhil Pal. Black is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2004.

Soto, Nicolas. “Peruvian Japanese: From undesirables to rightless subjects.” PhD diss. (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2019).

Takenaka, Ayumi. “The Japanese in Peru: History of Immigration, Settlement, and Racialization.” Latin American Perspectives 31, no. 3 (May 2004): 77-98.

Yamamoto, Eric. “What’s next? Japanese American Redress and African American Reparations.” Redress for Historical Injustices in the United States: On Reparations for Slavery, Jim Crow, and Their Legacies, edited by Michael T. Martin and Marilyn Yaquinto, Durham: Duke University Press, 2007, 462. Yoneyama, Lisa. “Politicizing Justice.” Critical Asian Studies Vol


[1] Ayumi Takenaka, “The Japanese in Peru: History of Immigration, Settlement, and Racialization,” Latin American Perspectives 31, no. 3 (May 2004): 78.

[2] Ibid., 81.

[3] Ibid., 79.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 88.

[6] Toraji Irie, “History of Japanese migration to Peru,” Hispanic American Historical Review 31 (1951): 445.

[7] Seiichi Higashide, Adios to Tears: The Memoirs of a Japanese-Peruvian Internee in U.S. Concentration Camps, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2000, 55.

[8] Takenaka, “The Japanese in Peru,” 84.

[9] Higashide, Adios to Tears, 76-77.

[10] “Working guest” arrangements were common in the Japanese Peruvian community, especially among more financially stable households, and can be understood not only as a social security arrangement to support the elderly and the unemployed, but also as a community-oriented extension of the Japanese extended family. Higashide describes “Working guests” as generally older Japanese immigrants or newcomers who lived with one household to the next. They “lived as part of the family,” offering domestic labor in exchange for food and lodging. They were not bound by any contracts or written agreements, but were rather informal exchanges predicated on internally gauged clocks and future arrangements. Ibid., 52-53.

[11] Irie, “History of Japanese migration to Peru,” 452.

[12] Ibid., 458.

[13] Edna Bonacich, “A theory of middleman minorities,” American Sociological Review, Vol. 38, No. 5 (Oct 1973): 585.

[14] Takenaka, “The Japanese in Peru,” 88.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Natsu Saito, “Justice Held Hostage: U.S. Disregard for International Law in the World War II

Internment of Japanese Peruvians—A Case Study,” Boston College Third World Law Journal Vol 19, Issue 1 (1998): 281.

[17] Ciro Alegria and Alfredo Saco, “Japanese spearhead in the Americas” Free World 2 (February 1942): 82.

[18] J.F. Normano and Antonello Gerbi, The Japanese in South America, New York: John Day Co. 1943.

[19] Higashide, Adios to Tears, 7.

[20] Takenaka, “The Japanese in Peru,” 86.

[21] Saito, “Justice Held Hostage,” 281.

[22] Takenaka, “The Japanese in Peru,” 87.

[23] Ibid.

[24] The U.S. banned Japanese immigration with the Gentleman’s Agreement of 1905, made Japanese citizens ineligible to naturalize in 1917, and further reinforced restrictions on Japanese immigration with the National Origins Act of 1924.

[25] Takenaka, “The Japanese in Peru,” 91-92.

[26] Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, Personal Justice Denied: Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, Washington, DC: Civil Liberties Public Education Fund and Seattle, University of Washington, 1997, Appendix 305.

[27] Saito, “Justice Held Hostage,” 282-284.

[28] Takenaka, “The Japanese in Peru,” 92.

[29] Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, Personal Justice Denied, 308.

[30] Ibid., 305

[31] Higashide, Adios to Tears, 121.

[32] Higashide, Adios to Tears, 127.

[33] Harvey Gardiner, The Japanese And Peru, 1873-1973 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1975), 123. Historians estimate that the United States interned nearly 1,800 Japanese from Peru, 250 Japanese from Panama, and significant numbers from Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

[34] Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, Personal Justice Denied: 308.

[35] Saito, “Justice Held Hostage,” 285.

[36] Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, Personal Justice Denied, 305.

[37] Ibid., 308.

[38] Higashide, Adios to Tears, 128.

[39] Ibid., 131.

[40] Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, Personal Justice Denied, 308.

[41] Higashide, Adios to Tears, 126-127.

[42] Ibid., 129.

[43] Ibid., 156.

[44] Raymond Norweb, “Letter from the American Embassy,” accessed from Densho Digital Repository, Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians Collection. July 20, 1942.

[45] Nicolas Soto, “Peruvian Japanese: From undesirables to rightless subjects,” PhD diss. (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2019), 4.

[46] Kozen, “Justice and Its Others,” 332.

[47] Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, Personal Justice Denied, 309.

[48] Higashide, Adios to Tears, 158.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ibid., 159.

[51] Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, Personal Justice Denied, 311.

[52] Ibid., 312.

[53] Saito, “Justice Held Hostage,” 286-289.

[54] Ibid., 314.

[55] Cathleen Kiyomi Kozen, “Justice and Its Others: On the Politics of Redress for Japanese Latin Americans, PhD diss., (University of California, San Diego, 2016), xvii.

[56] Alice Yang Murray, “Three Strands Woven into One Fabric,” Historical Memories of the Japanese American internment and the struggle for Redress, Stanford, California: Stanford California Press, 2008, 283, 297.

[57] Eric Yamamoto, “What’s next? Japanese American Redress and African American Reparations,” Redress for Historical Injustices in the United States: On Reparations for Slavery, Jim Crow, and Their Legacies, edited by Michael T. Martin and Marilyn Yaquinto, Durham: Duke University Press, 2007, 462.

[58] Legislation to implement the recommendations of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians: hearing before the Subcommittee on Administrative Law and Governmental Relations of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundredth Congress, April 29, 1987, Volume 4, 108.

[59] It’s worth noting that the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians had consisted of nine members, eight of which were white male legislators, and one of which was Japanese American.

[60] Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, Personal Justice Denied: Part 2: Recommendations, 2.

[61] 100th Congress 1st Session, Senate of the United States, Bill S. 1009 “To accept the findings and to implement the recommendation of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians,” 10 April 1987, 2.

[62] Civil Liberties Act of 1988. Senate and House of Representatives. August 10, 1988,

[63] Nikhil Pal Singh, Black is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2004, 5, 19.

[64] Campaign for Justice: Redress Now for Japanese Latin Americans, est. 1996,

[65] Mochizuki v. United States, 97-294 41 Fed. Cl. 54 (Ct of Fed Claims 1998).

[66] Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, “Estados Unidos: Caso Isamu Carlos Shibayama,” Audiencia Pública del 161 Período de Sesiones de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH), uploaded March 21, 2017.

[67] Mochizuki v. United States.

[68] Ibid.

[69] Campaign for Justice: Redress Now for Japanese Latin Americans.

[70] Mochizuki v. United States.

[71] Per the JLA Campaign for Justice site: “However, serious concern was raised as to the sincerity of the government’s acknowledgment of wrongdoing and apology after it was received:

  • the apology letter was not on official government letterhead (the JA apology letter had the Presidential seal) and made no mention of “Japanese”, “Latin America” nor the scope and severity of the constitutional and human rights violations;
  • the choice of wording and tone for the Japanese translation of the apology letter;
  • public notification to JLA internees was inadequate (limited to an announcement published in one Japanese and one Peruvian newspaper for only one day);
  • there was no guarantee of compensation payments despite the likelihood that the CLA funds would be depleted before all payments were made;
  • disparity between compensation payments to JLAs ($5000) and JAs ($20,000) was a denial of equitable treatment, and
  • any JLA internees who were unaware of the proceedings but might come forward in the future would be denied their right to redress; and

government refusal to share information about redress applications completed by JLA internees with the attorneys for the JLA internees prevented proper legal representation to ensure claims were being processed fairly by the government.” Campaign for Justice: Redress Now for Japanese Latin Americans.

[72] Thomas Connell, America’s Japanese hostages: the World War II plan for a Japanese free Latin America. Westport, Conn: Praeger, 2002: 242-244.

[73] Ibid.

[74] The American Convention on the Rights and Duties of Man, also known as the Bogota Declaration, is a source of legal obligation for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, to which the United States and Peru belong as member states. The American Convention predates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by several months, having been adopted on May 2, 1948. 

[75] Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, “Estados Unidos: Caso Isamu Carlos Shibayama.”

[76] Ibid.

[77] Campaign for Justice: Redress Now for Japanese Latin Americans, “Litigation,”, retrieved November 13, 2020.

[78] IACHR, Report No. 26/20, Case 12.545, Merits (PUBLICATION), Isamu Carlos Shibayama et al. United States, April 22, 2019, 2.

[79] Ibid.

[80] Ibid.

[81] Ibid., 17.

[82] Ibid., 4.

[83] Ibid., 8.

[84] Stephen P. Mulligan, “International Law and Agreements: Their Effect upon U.S. Law,” Congressional Research Service, Updated September 19, 2018, 15.

[85] Ibid., 16.

[86] Kozen, “Justice and Its Others,” 44.

[87] Lisa Yoneyama, “Politicizing Justice,” Critical Asian Studies Vol. 42 No. 4 (2010): 664.