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Statement About Signing a Bill Providing for Relief of Certain Prewar Japanese Bank Claimants

October 04, 1972

I HAVE great pleasure in signing into law H.R. 8215, for the relief of certain prewar Japanese bank claimants. This act will permit Japanese-Americans who were interned or paroled during the Second World War under the Alien Enemy Act to file claims, and to be reimbursed, for funds deposited by them in certain branches of the Yokohama Specie Bank Ltd., Japan.

The signing of this act, in a very much larger sense, symbolized how far we have finally come in our human relationships in this country since World War II. After Pearl Harbor, more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans were uprooted from their homes and moved into evacuation centers, whether they were citizens or aliens. Even during the war, there was considerable sentiment that we had overreacted. President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "Americanism is a matter of mind and heart; Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry."

Japanese-Americans were recruited for the United States Armed Forces, and their 442d Regimental Combat Team became famous as the "Go For Broke" outfit that was one of the most highly decorated units in the United States Army in World War II.

Not until the enactment of the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1952, however, were lawfully admitted alien Japanese permitted to become naturalized citizens of the United States. And not for many years were the Congress and the courts able to redress one particularly unfair aspect of the treatment of the Japanese-Americans. Only gradually were more than 15,000 Japanese-Americans who had been evacuated, but not interned or paroled, permitted to recover their money which had been deposited in United States branches of Japanese banks. The assets of these banks had been seized along with all other Japanese assets under the Trading with the Enemy Act during the war.

Now, this act finally permits between 1,000 and 2,000 Japanese-American depositors who were interned or paroled during the war, or their heirs, to file claim for their assets--31 years after Pearl Harbor.

The House Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee has stated: "... It is the opinion of the committee that the predominant legal and moral right to these funds belongs to the Americans of Japanese ancestry who are the beneficiaries of this legislation."

I agree--and I now take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the contributions Japanese-Americans have made, and make today, to our country of which we say, E Pluribus Unurn, one out of many.

Note: As enacted, H.R. 8215, approved October 3, 1972, is Public Law 92-458 (86 Stat. 763).

Richard Nixon, Statement About Signing a Bill Providing for Relief of Certain Prewar Japanese Bank Claimants Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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