The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) has been fighting against discrimination since its inception in 1929. The JACL has fought for and achieved many significant victories in its fight for civil liberties. Most significant among them was the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.  This legislation  provided for the issuing of a Presidential apology along with reparations for all persons of Japanese ancestry who were interned during World War II. The JACL has also fought or brought to public recognition atrocities that have been inflicted on many other ethnic groups including Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and other persons of Asian ancestry.

Portland JACLAlthough discrimination is not always as overt today as it was during the 1920s – 1940s, it remains a fact of life for many minority communities and must be challenged in every instance.

Portland JACL is the Portland, Oregon chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League continuing to fight against discrimination and other intrusions upon people’s civil rights.

Incarceration - The Day of Remembrance

The Portland JACL hosts an annual Day of Remembrance event to commemorate the incarceration of over 120,000 people of Japanese Ancestry during World War I; many of them Amcerican Citizens.

  • There is no admission cost to attend; donations are welcomed

  • The event venue has historically been at Portland State University’s Hoffman Hall

Date: Early to Mid February
Location: Portland State University,
Hoffmann Hall, 1833 SW 11th Ave.

The Day of Remembrance is an annual commemoration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing of Executive Order 9066 which sent over 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry to American Concentration Camps.

2013 was the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 providing a Presidential apology and symbolic payment, or redress for lost liberty and property.

Japanese American Incarceration During World War II Timeline:


War with Japan
The US declared war on Japan after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in which 2,300 American soldiers and sailors were killed and 1,200 wounded.

A blanket presidential warrant authorized U.S. Attorney General Francis Biddle to have the FBI arrest a predetermined number of "dangerous enemy aliens," including German, Italian, and Japanese nationals. 737 Japanese Americans were arrested by the end of the day.

Portland JACL Day of Remembrance JAPS Keep Moving
The FBI detained 1370 Japanese Americans classified as "Dangerous Enemy Aliens."


Japanese American selective service registrants were classified as enemy aliens. Many Japanese American soldiers were discharged or assigned to menial labor.
The California State Personnel Board voted to bar from all civil service positions, all "descendants of natives with whom the United States [is] at war." The ruling was only enforced against Japanese Americans.
The US Army established 12 "restricted areas" placing enemy aliens on a 9 pm to 6 am curfew and allowing travel only to and from work.
General De Witt, commander of the Western Defense during WWII, submitted a memorandum to War Department recommending the mass evacuation of the Japanese.
Executive Order No. 9066, authorized by FDR, permitted the War Department to prescribe Military Areas for Japanese relocation, to evacuate any or all persons from these areas, and to relocate them in internment camps. The only significant opposition came from the Quakers and the American Civil Liberties Union. Portland JACL Day of Remembrance Japanese Internment Camps
March March Executive Order. Established the War Relocation Authority (WRA), a civilian agency to administer the military evacuation and internment. On March 24, General De Witt issued the first of 108 separate orders moving all persons of Japanese ancestry to the prescribed Military Areas, and prohibiting them from refusing to move or to leave the areas.
Minoru Yasui, an Oregon lawyer deliberately broke the military implemented curfew in Portland, by walking around the downtown area and then presenting himself at a police station after 11:00 pm in order to test the curfew’s constitutionality.
A routine search for contraband at the Santa Anita "Assembly Center" turns into a "riot." Eager military personnel had become overzealous and abusive which, along with the failure of several attempts to reach the camp's internal security chief, triggers mass unrest, crowd formation, and the harassing of the searchers. Military police with tanks and machine guns quickly end the incident. The "overzealous" military personnel are later replaced.
All persons of Japanese ancestry had been removed to internment camps, approximately 120,000 people from California, Oregon, and Washington.

Click on the map for a larger view of Japanese American Internment Camps west of the Mississippi.

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was formed, consisting entirely of Asian Americans. By the war's end, it was one of the most decorated units in US military history - about 14,000 men served, ultimately earning 9,486 Purple Hearts, 21 Medals of Honor, and an unprecedented eight Presidential Unit Citations.

Portland JACL Day of Remembrance Japanese Internment Camps
The first inmates arrive at Minidoka, Idaho.
The first 292 inmates arrive at Heart Mountain, Wyoming.
The first inmates arrive at Granada, or Amache, Colorado.
The first inmates arrive at Central Utah, or Topaz.
The first inmates arrive at Rohwer, Arkansas.


The 442nd Regimental Combat Team is activated.
A Jap's a Jap. There is no way to determine their loyalty... This coast is too vulnerable. No Jap should come back to this coast except on a permit from my office." General John L. DeWitt, head, Western Defense Command; before the House Naval Affairs Subcommittee.
Hirabayashi v. US. Gordon Hirabayashi, a senior at the University of Washington, challenged military evacuation and curfew orders and was arrested, convicted and jailed. Hirabayashi argued that the orders were an unconstitutional delegation of power and that to them only against citizens of Japanese ancestry amounted to a constitutionally prohibited discrimination solely on account of race. Supreme Court upheld the curfew order as a legitimate exercise of governmentís power to take steps necessary to prevent espionage and sabotage in an area threatened by Japanese attack.

Yasui v. U.S. In late 1942, Minoru Yasui, an Oregon lawyer, was arrested for violating curfew orders. His lawyers argued the government's restrictions were unconstitutional because they were based upon racial prejudice, not military necessity. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled the government could restrict the lives of civilian citizens during wartime. After spending 9 months in solitary confinement, Yasui was released to an internment camp at Minidoka.


Secretary of War Stimson announced that Japanese Americans were eligible for the draft.
In Cheyenne, Wyoming, a federal district court convicted 63 men from Heart Mountain internment camp of draft resistance and sentenced them to 3 years in federal penitentiary. Seven other leaders and newspaper editor James Omura were arrested for conspiracy to encourage draft resistance.
James Omura was acquitted, but the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee leaders were sentenced to three years imprisonment for conspiracy. In January 1945, the Court of Appeals reversed the conspiracy convictions of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee leaders on technical grounds, but they remained in prison until March, 1946.
Federal judge dismissed indictments against 26 Tule Lake draft resisters, declaring "It is shocking... that an American citizen be confined on the ground of disloyalty, and then... be compelled to serve in the armed forces, or be prosecuted for not."
Korematsu v. US. The Supreme Court considered only the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066, which ordered Japanese Americans into internment camps during World War II. In a 6-3 decision, the Court ruled that the exclusion order was constitutional and that the need to protect against espionage outweighed Fred Korematsu's individual rights, and the rights of Americans of Japanese descent.
In Ex Parte Mitsuye Endo the US Supreme Court found that regardless of whether the US government had the right to exclude people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast during the war (as had been decided days earlier in Korematsu v. U.S.), they could not continue to detain a citizen that the government admitted was loyal to the United States. Thus, Endo could no longer be retained in a relocation center and should immediately "be given her liberty." Writing for the unanimous Court, Justice Murphy declared: "I am of the view that detention in Relocation Centers of persons of Japanese ancestry regardless of loyalty is not only unauthorized by Congress or the Executive, but is another example of the unconstitutional resort to racism inherent in the entire evacuation program...racial discrimination of this nature bears no reasonable relation to military necessity and is utterly foreign to the ideals and traditions of the American people." Within 48 hours, the government announced that all mass exclusion orders would be revoked and effective January 2, 1945, at which time the Japanese Americans could go home.


The exclusion order was rescinded entirely. The internees then began to leave the camps to rebuild their lives at home, although the relocation camps remained open for residents who were not ready to make the move back. The freed internees were given $25 and a train ticket to their former homes.


In Oyama v. California, the Supreme Court struck down the Alien Land Laws as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The United States Supreme Court decided that specific provisions of the 1913 and 1920 California Alien Land Laws abridged the rights and privileges guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to Fred Oyama, a citizen of the United States in whose name his father, who held Japanese citizenship, had purchased land.


The McCarran-Walter Immigration and Naturalization Act ended racially-based naturalization ban and nullified the 1790 Naturalization Act which required that anyone who was to become a naturalized citizen of the US had to be a "free white person." The Act was amended, "The right of a person to become a naturalized citizen...shall not be denied or abridged because of race or sex or because such person is married."


The Japanese American Citizen's League formed a Redress Committee which proposed that the U.S. government acknowledge their mistake and asked for $25,000 redress for each internee.


President Gerald Ford rescinded Executive Order No. 9066.


Congress approved and President Jimmy Carter signed Public Law 96-317 that established the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians.


Report of the Commission of Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians - Personal Justice Denied - concluded that exclusion, expulsion and incarceration were not justified by military necessity; such decisions were based on racial prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership. The Commission recommended monetary compensation to each surviving internee of $20,000.
The Hirabayashi, Yasui, and Korematsu (right) cases were reopened in 1983 by a group of mostly Japanese American attorneys on the basis of newly uncovered documents showing that the government knew Japanese Americans did not pose a security threat but hid that information from the court. The convictions were overturned by the Federal District Court of San Francisco with the court finding that the government was guilty of misconduct during the trial by intentionally withholding documents from multiple federal intelligence agencies clearly acknowledging that Japanese Americans posed no military threat to the U.S. Portland JACL Day of Remembrance Hirabayashi Yasui Korematsu


The Civil Liberties Act called for the U.S. government to issue individual apologies for all violations of civil liberties and constitutional rights and too issue $20,000 tax-free payments to each internment survivor. Congress allocated $1.2 billion. Signed into law in 1989 by President Bush.


Already passed by the Senate and now approved by the House, 249 to 166, the bill provides for $20,000 to be paid to each of the estimated 60,000 surviving internees over a three-year period. The first $500 million will be available to the oldest internees next October, the start of the 1991 fiscal year.

Eventually 60,000 survivors received payments


Manzanar was designated as a National Historic Site. The 23rd Annual Pilgrimage to Manzanar, held on April 25, 1992, brought more than 2,200 participants to celebrate the designation.


During a White House Ceremony, President Bill Clinton honored Fred Korematsu for pursuing his plea of innocence for 56 years by presenting him with the Medal of Freedom Portland JACL Day of Remembrance Korematsu Clinton Medal of Freedom


President Bill Clinton presenting 21 Medals of Honor in 2000. Twenty of these medals went to American soldiers of Japanese descent of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team that served in the European Theater of Operations during World War II.

One of these Medal of Honor recipients was Senator from Hawaii, Daniel Inouye , a former U.S. Infantry officer.


In June, a national monument was unveiled in Washington, D.C. and dedicated to Japanese American veterans of WWII and to people of Japanese descent who were forced into internment camps.


As a result of legislation sponsored by California Assemblywoman Sally Lieber and passed in 2004 allowing high school districts to give diplomas to internees, 400 total people had received their diplomas, some of them posthumously.
California passed the Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties bill, creating the first day in U.S. history to be named after an Asian American. Starting on Jan. 30, 2011 of each year, schools are encouraged to teach Korematsu's story and why it remains so relevant today.


Acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal issued an official Confession of Error, admitting that the office was wrong in defending the country's war-time internment policy in the two U.S. Supreme Court decisions involving Gordon Hirabayashi and Fred Korematsu

Portland JACL Mission Statement

The mission of the Portland Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League is to celebrate our Japanese American culture and use lessons from our unique American experience to promote and protect human and civil rights for all. 

Download Current Portland JACL Constitution:  PortlandJACL-Constitution-Adopted15Oct2015

Download Current Portland JACL Bylaws:  PortlandJACL-Bylaws-Adopted15Oct2015-S


JACL Creed

JACL_About_Nagae_YasuiThe JACL Creed was adopted from “The Japanese American Creed” by Mike M. Masaoka, as read in the United States Senate Chamber by Senator Elbert D. Thomas of Utah and printed in the Congressional Record on May 9, 1941.

The Japanese American Creed

by Mike M. Masaoka

I am proud that I am an American citizen of Japanese ancestry, for my very background makes me appreciate more fully the wonderful advantage of this nation.

I believe in her institutions, ideals, and traditions; I glory in her heritage; I boast of her history; I trust in her future.

She has granted me liberties and opportunities such as no individual enjoys in this world today.

She has given me an education befitting kings. She has entrusted me with the responsibilities of the franchise.

She has permitted me to build a home, to earn a livelihood, to worship, think, speak, and act as I please – as a free man equal to every other man.

Although some individuals may discriminate against me, I shall never become bitter or lose faith, for I know that such persons are not representative of the majority of the American people.

True; I shall do all in my power to discourage such practices; but I shall do it in the American way, above board, in the open, through courts of law, by education, by proving myself to be worthy of equal treatment and consideration.

I am firm in my belief that American sportsmanship and attitude of fair play will judge citizenship on the basis of action and achievement and not on the basis of physical characteristics.

Because I believe in America, and I trust she believes in me, and because I have received innumerable benefits from her, I pledge myself to do honor to her at all times and in all places, to support her Constitution, to obey her laws, to respect her Flag, to defend her against all enemies foreign or domestic and to actively assume my duties and obligations as a citizen, cheerfully and without any reservation whatsoever, in the hope that I may become a better American in a greater America.

JACL and Civil Rights

The Portland Chapter of JACL is involved with many Civil Rights issues.

Here are a few that we’ve supported:

JACL Civil Rights Activities

    • We were involved in encouraging the City of Portland to withdraw from the Joint Terrorism Task Force because of concerns about lack of local oversight.


    • When a local reporter brought up concerns that the City of Gresham would be honoring a former mayor who was very involved in a racist group to keep the Japanese Americans from returning to Oregon after internment camps, both Portland JACL and Gresham-Troutdale chapters testified before the Gresham City Council, and a very embarrassed City Council rescinded the planned statue and thanked both chapters for bringing this very unfortunate episode in local history to their attention.


    • Our board works with and supports the local ACLU chapter and other Asian civil rights groups, including the Chinese American Citizens Alliance and APANO, as well as all of the local Japanese American organizations.
      Through our Day of Remembrance we reach out to other minority groups, including the Muslim and Hispanic communities, and present forums to discuss our shared concerns.


  • We will continue to reach out and be involved in our community and welcome input from our members.
JACL and our Community

Portland JACL also sponsors/supports numerous community activities promoting fellowship and celebrating Japanese American culture including:


Mochitsuki Festival (January)

Eating smooth, round rice cakes is the traditional Japanese way to welcome the New Year, and the Mochitsuki Festival has become the quintessential way the Portland area Japanese American community invites the public to join in this lively celebration. This event is in its 14th year. It’s a cultural preservation effort that combines a professional stage show with community booths in a festival environment and adds a community stage where local groups can demonstrate their singing, martial arts, and, oh, yes, the art of pounding rice into those New Year’s rice cakes.


Day of Remembrance (February)

Every year Portland JACL takes time out to remember the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and to bring light to contemporary issues affecting human civil liberties. In 2010, we collaborated with the Hispanic community to highlight The Ralph Lazo story by showing the film Stand Up for Justice which depicts the true story of an Hispanic young man who decides to join his Nikkei friends at the assembly center and to voluntarily stay with them as they all were sent to concentration camp. We partnered with Portland State University, Oregon State Bar Affirmative Action Program, and the Hispanic Community to discuss shared experiences and civil rights struggles within the Japanese American and Hispanic communities.


Graduation Banquet (May)

Every year in May, the Portland Chapter co-sponsors a community-wide banquet to honor graduating high school seniors from the greater Portland area. The evening’s program includes a keynote address by a distinguished Japanese American, usually with local “roots,” who never fails to inspire the young graduates to strive and achieve the greatness that is within them. Scholarships amounting to over $35,000 these past two years were awarded to deserving seniors who are headed for distinguished institutions of higher learning in various professional and technical vocations. Invitations are sent to graduating high school seniors in all high schools within the greater Portland area.


Nikkei Picnic (August)

In mid-August the Nikkei community comes together for an afternoon of food and drink, taiko drumming performance, bingo, raffles, and amusement rides for the kids. The annual event is held at Oaks Park in the south end of the picnic area, under the “Nikkei Community Picnic” banner. This is truly a special time to see old friends or make new friends; share a special dish or enjoy someone’s signature dish; play bingo and win a prize; buy a raffle ticket to further the mission of Portland JACL; cheer on the young drummers and try out Taiko yourself; or just connect with the larger Nikkei community.

Portland Chapter Officers and Board
Marleen Wallingford
Susan Leedham
Heidi Tolentino
Setsy Larouche
Jean Yamamoto
Jeff Selby
Verne Naito Christopher Lee
Sachi Kaneki Ryan Nakano
Lynn Longfellow Dr. Connie Masuoka
Rich Iwasaki

Portland Chapter Past Presidents
1928 Charles Yoshii 1965 George Hara 1988 - 89 Joseph Wahl
1931-34 Roy Yokota 1966 Walter Fuchigami 1990 - 91 Scott Sakamoto
1937-38 Mamao Wakasugi 1967 Albert Oyama 1992 - 93 June Arima
1939-40 Howard Nomura 1968 Nobi Tsuboi 1994 - 95 Connie Masuoka
1941 Newton Uyesugi 1969 Hiroshi Sumida 1996 - 97 Lynn Nakamoto &
Ben Yabu
1942-45 Inactive 1970 James Tsujimura 1998 - 99 Sharon Takahashi
1946 Toshi Kuge 1971 Donald Hayashi 2000 - 01 Scott Sakamoto
1947 George Azumano 1972 Donald Hayashi &
James Tsujimura
2002 - 03 Chip &
Setsy Larouche
1948 Makoto Iwashita,
Toshi Kuge &
Mary Minamoto
1973 Homer Yasui 2003 - 04 Rich Iwasaki &
Chip Larouche
1949 No Officers 1974 Albert Abe 2005 Rich Iwasaki
1950 Hiram Hachiya &
Mary Minamoto
1975 Harold Onishi 2006 - 07 John Kodachi
1951 Mamaro Wakasugi 1976 Al Shimoguchi 2008 - 09 Jeff Selby
1952 Matthew Masuoka 1976 - 77 William Koida 2010 - 11 Jeff Selby &
Jim Kennedy
1953 John Hada &
Martha Osaki
1978 William Sugahiro 2012 - 13 Susan Leedham &
Jean Yamamoto
1954 Mitsuo Nakata 1979 Sho Dozono 2014 - 15 Kirk Tambara
1955 Nobi Sumida 1980 Herbert Okamoto 2016 - Marleen Wallingford
1956 Shigeru Hongo 1980 - 81 Homer &
Miyuki Yasui
1957 Nobi Sumida 1982 Walter Sakai
1958-59 Kimie Tambara 1983 Robert Shimabukuro
1960 George Gokami 1984 Terry Akwai
1961-62 John Hada 1985 Terry Yamada
1963 Emi Somekama 1986 Michael Irinaga &
Terry Yamada
1964 Akira Iwasaki 1987 - 89 Chisao Hata