Arizona laws fetes civil rights icon Fred Korematsu

PHOENIX (AP) – Arizona honors the late civil rights icon, Fred Korematsu, whose battle against Japanese-American internment went to the US Supreme Court.

Governor Doug Ducey signed a law on Thursday January 30th, the birthday of Korematsu, introducing Fred Korematsu Civil Liberties and Constitution Day.

“Fred Korematsu’s bravery and commitment to achieving justice for himself and others are admirable and reflect the character of our nation,” Ducey said in a statement.

Republican State Senator Sonny Borrelli supported the bill, which legislators passed unanimously in both houses.

Korematsu, who was born in Oakland, California, was convicted in 1942 of disobeying military orders to remove Japanese Americans from their homes. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II, the federal government set up internment camps, including two in Arizona, to forcibly detain those of Japanese descent.

Korematsu was sent to a detention center in Utah.

In 1944, his appeal against his conviction was filed in the US Supreme Court and denied. In 1983 a federal judge overturned the decision.

Korematsu devoted himself to civil rights until his death in 2005.

Legislation comes as the nation continues to see a surge in anti-Asian crimes that started with the pandemic. Among them were the March 16 shootings in Atlanta that killed eight people, including six Asian-American women.

A coalition of local Asian-American groups, including the Arizona chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, sent a letter to Ducey’s office last week asking him to raise the issue.

“We ask you to summon the breadth of your executive powers to speak out against anti-Asian hatred,” the letter said.

The groups call on the Republican governor to formally and publicly condemn anti-Asian violence and rhetoric. They also want him to recognize Asian Americans and Pacific islanders as “an integral part of the American family” and devote more resources to the safety of Asian Americans.

Ducey officials did not immediately return a message on Thursday asking them to comment on the letter.

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