JACL Affirms Right to Reproductive Freedom

In 1973, the Supreme Court made the landmark decision that ruled access to abortion and one’s right to choose as protected under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. Roe v. Wade has been one of the most contested and debated Supreme Court decisions in recent history. Since the court made its decision, it has come under attack by numerous state and local organizations. Unfortunately, his year has been no different. In the first half of 2021 alone, more than 90 laws restricting abortion access have passed in several state legislatures. Tuesday, Texas enacted the most restrictive abortion law to date; banning abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. On Wednesday, a narrow majority of the Supreme Court ignored 48 years of precedent in allowing the Texas law to stand.

This six-week number is based on early cardiac activity, which also coincides most often when a doctor is able to confirm someone is pregnant. This means it is not nearly enough time for someone to not only confirm they are pregnant but to also schedule an appointment. The law also includes provisions to “reward” bystanders for tipping off the local government to anyone who is attempting to aid in an “illegal” abortion. This could include not only doctors but also family and friends of someone who is attempting to seek an appointment.

The JACL unequivocally supports the right to decide whether and when to become a parent. The National Council officially adopted a resolution, titled Family Choice, at the 1992 convention supporting a person’s right “to choose and determine the course of their lives.”

JACL Executive Director, David Inoue stated “This law serves as a dangerous precedent for not only the State of Texas but many others that are currently looking to enact similar laws. While the law should be unable to withstand court challenge, that the Supreme Court has declined to block its enactment is not encouraging. This signifies a clear shift of the court away from upholding what has been considered the settled law of the land and allowing the creation of new and dangerous policies infringing upon individual rights and encouraging reckless vigilantism.”


JACL Supports Afghan Refugees

The scenes that have come out of Afghanistan in the last few days are all too familiar to many within the Asian American community, with many people noting the eerie similarity to images from the Fall of Saigon in 1975. Then, just as now, the United States has a duty to help those scared and vulnerable civilians who are attempting to evacuate in order to protect themselves and their families. The time for debate about the war and its impacts will continue to happen, but now the priority must be to protect those who are at risk and give them refuge.

When the United States left Vietnam in 1975, over 130,000 civilians and refugees were evacuated as part of the withdrawal process, albeit by supposed “rogue” civilian and military personnel. Currently, under a special visa program for Afghan citizens, less than 2,000, of 20,000 who applied, have been evacuated. Many more still have not had the chance to apply and are still searching for a way out. The top priority for evacuation should be given to those most at-risk members of Afghan society such as women and girls who are targeted by the Taliban, the LGBTQ community, the disabled community, interpreters, and others who supported the United States in Afghanistan.

The JACL has long supported the immigration of refugees seeking asylum in the United States. Four different administrations have been in power during the War in Afghanistan, and now it is on the current administration and Congress to ensure that our Afghan allies that have stood by us throughout the conflict are not abandoned. We call on the Biden administration and Congress to accept as many refugees as possible; through expanding the resettlement limit, increasing the number of Special Immigrant Visas and Priority 2 status refugees, as well as designate Afghanistan as Temporary Protected Status. It should also ensure that there are sufficient transportation sites for refugees seeking to leave the country.

The US should ensure that there is adequate assistance in areas such as housing, healthcare, and other basic necessities and that these immigrant communities are not targeted for deportation in the same fashion that many other post-war immigrant communities were treated. We are still seeing the struggle of Vietnamese, Hmong, and Cambodian refugees who came in the wake of the Vietnam War and who are now at risk of being deported and are incarcerated at higher rates than many other Asian American communities. We cannot allow any incoming refugees to suffer this same fate in the future.


Interested in finding out more about Japan

Slots for the 2021 Kakehashi trip remain available. Applications will be accepted until Sunday, June 13 at 11:59 HST or until slots are full. Applications will be accepted on a first come first accepted basis.

Each year, between 100 and 200 participants are selected to participate in the JACL Kakehashi Program, coordinated by the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) and the Japan International Cooperation Center (JICE), and supported by funding from the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These participants travel to Japan in the spirit of cross country and cultural exchange, with the added component of connecting Japanese American young adults with their Japanese family’s heritage.

Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, this year’s program will consist of a smaller Virtual Exchange of 92 participants with Japanese college students from the prefectures of Gifu, Okinawa, and Wakayama. If conditions permit, and a trip to Japan becomes possible during this current funding year, participants accepted to the virtual program will be automatically eligible to participate in the physical trip.

There is no guarantee of a physical trip and participants in a virtual-only program this year will remain eligible to apply to a future Kakehashi trip or similar program sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For answers to these questions, please refer to the Kakehashi Program information page and FAQs linked HERE.

Submit your application as early as possible but no later than Sunday, June 13 at 11:59pm Hawaiian Standard Time for acceptance to the 2021 Kakehashi Program.


Portland JACL General Meeting

June 13, 2 p.m.

Join us for a screening of Lauren Yanase’s film about exploring her family’s past. She reflects upon how she decided to develop this documentary.

Shikata Ga Nai: An Inconvenient American, started out as a hint of an idea in the back of my mind almost four years ago. Since first grade, I have been a Girl Scout and had always wanted to get my Gold Award, the highest honor a Girl Scout can receive. Most Scouts who earn this award do so with very hands-on, tangible service projects, refurbishing a church, founding a STEM robotics club for girls, etc. I figured I, too, would do something of a similar nature. However, in my junior year of high school, I was faced with an uncomfortable reality. What I took for granted–an innate knowledge of the horrors my Japanese American family faced during World War II–others (intelligent, empathetic people) were ignorant to or didn’t appreciate the full consequence. So began the most ambitious, emotionally grueling project I had ever attempted: making a documentary.


JACL Statement on the Derek Chauvin Trial

On Tuesday, April 20, Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three charges related to the killing of George Floyd. Mr. Chauvin in being found guilty, and now awaiting sentencing, received the due process he denied George Floyd last year.

However, the verdict should not be seen as justice. Justice is measured in real transformation; something that our country has yet to truly see. Instead, this verdict is about accountability, and accountability is one step on that path towards justice. Change needs to occur on all levels, in our communities, in our police force, in our justice system, and in our Congress, if we want to see true justice served.

At the end of the day, George Floyd is still dead, his family has been given a bittersweet victory, but they will never see their partner, father, and brother again. In the months since that fateful day, countless more people of color have been killed at the hands of the police. Iremamber Sykap, Adam Toledo, Daunte Wright, Christian Hall, and Angelo Quinto, just to name a few. Others still have been subjected to continued use of unnecessary and excessive force, as they feared for their lives and the very real possibility that their name may be added to the list above.

Let this small victory invigorate us and remind us of the work we do in making change for the better. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is a step in the right direction towards re-envisioning what law enforcement ought to look like in support of the communities with which it has too often been at odds. The systemic racism that led to George Floyd’s death must be rooted out from law enforcement just as we must seek to end its grip on our education, health care, and financial systems.

George Floyd should be alive today. As we continue to say his name, and the names of all those lost to excessive use of force at the hands of the police, we will remember them, remember this moment in our history, and continue forward to create a more just and equitable world.


JACL Mourns Loss

On Tuesday evening at least eight people were killed and one wounded in a series of mass shootings that took place at three spas in Atlanta, Georgia. While the shootings, which occurred within hours of one another, have not as of the time of this statement been affirmatively linked, it appears likely that there is a correlation between these acts of violence. With one suspect having been apprehended, the motives behind the shootings remain unclear. What is clear is that authorities have reported that many of the victims appear to be women of Asian descent and that the businesses targeted appear to be Asian owned and operated.

Whether these murders were intended to target the victims because of their work, gender, or their Asian ethnicity, they come at a time when our community is already feeling exposed and vulnerable. The impacts of the discrimination and outright racism that have been brought to the forefront by the Covid-19 pandemic have continued to wear us down, and while the motives behind this most recent attack still remain unknown, the implications are harrowing.

We call upon all Americans to do what they can to stop these acts of violence; this must end now. Hate crimes and incidents of bias need to be deplored in all walks of life, through discussions in our families, schools, places of employment, houses of worship, and beyond. We cannot continue to tear one another down for our race, gender, profession, etc. When will enough be enough?

The JACL mourns the loss of lives and condemns these acts of violence. Regardless of whether these actions were racially motivated, we recognize that these events have shaken the Asian American community. We must continue to stand together in solidarity and support one another as we navigate these difficult times. It is our hope that some light is shed on these events and that justice is sought for those who were harmed.


Support the John Lewis Voting Rights Act

It’s time to put an end to voter suppression. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would begin to root out racially-driven voting barriers. Tell your representative to act now.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act responds to current conditions in voting today by restoring the full protections of the original, bipartisan Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was last reauthorized by Congress in 2006, but gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013.
• Following the Shelby County decision seven years ago, several states passed sweeping voter suppression laws that disproportionately prevent minorities, the elderly, and the youth from voting.
• The bill provides the tools to address these discriminatory practices and seeks to protect all Americans’ right to vote.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act creates a new coverage formula that applies to all states and hinges on a finding of repeated voting rights violations in the preceding 25 years.
• Significantly, the 25-year period “rolls,” or continuously moves, to keep up with “current conditions,” so that only states that have a recent record of racial discrimination in voting are covered.
• States that have repeated and persistent violations will be covered for a period of 10 years, but if they establish a clean record moving forward, they can come out of coverage.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act establishes a targeted process for reviewing voting changes in jurisdictions nationwide, focused on measures that have historically been used to discriminate against voters.
• The process for reviewing changes in voting is limited to a set of measures, such as the institution of a voter ID law or the reduction of multilingual voting materials – practices that have historically been found to have the greatest discriminatory impact.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act also –
• Allows a federal court to order states or jurisdictions to be covered for results-based violations, where the effect of a particular voting measure (including voter ID laws) is to lead to racial discrimination in voting and to deny citizens their right to vote;
• Increases transparency by requiring reasonable public notice for voting changes;
• Allows the Attorney General authority to request federal observers be present anywhere
in the country where there is a serious threat of racial discrimination in voting;
• Revises and tailors the preliminary injunction standard for voting rights actions to
recognize that there will be cases where there is a need for immediate preliminary relief.
• Increases accessibility and protections for Native American and Alaska Native voters.


Support Reparations for Black Americans by Amanda Shannahan

As a Japanese American, I am familiar with the concept of reparations. After my grandmother passed, I inherited the framed letter of apology acknowledging the injustices done to her and 120,000 others of Japanese ancestry during World War II. She also received $20,000 as a survivor of the Tule Lake concentration camp. While in no way did this money make up for the trauma and loss of dignity she experienced, it was still a meaningful step toward healing for her, our family and our community. Black Americans, however, still have not received any form of reparations for 250 years of slavery and continuing systemic racism. It is past due for meaningful action to address the generations of oppression experienced by Black people in the U.S.

Recently, the Japanese American community reaffirmed our support for House Resolution 40, which would create a commission to study the effects of slavery and make recommendations to Congress for reparations. Our community is familiar with a similar body, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, which was established in 1980 and facilitated Japanese Americans achieving redress and reparations. As a nation, we cannot truly begin to heal until we have reckoned with our past and provided compensation for people affected by injustices. The apology and financial compensation received by Japanese Americans like my grandmother was just a first step. Now is the time to support the call for reparations for Black Americans and for our country to continue down the path toward reconciliation.


Graduating High School Students Scholarship Applications Due March 5

Students who are members or have parents who are members of one of the sponsoring Nikkei organizations by November 14, 2020 are eligible to apply for a 2021 scholarship: Buddhist Henjyogi Temple, Epworth United Methodist Church, Gresham-Troutdale JACL, Japanese Ancestral Society, Japanese Woman’s Society, Nichiren Buddhist Temple, Oregon Nisei Vets, Portland JACL, Shokookai or Veleda. Each organization has its own membership criteria. More than 10 scholarships are awarded annually. Scholarship applications are reviewed by a committee from the Japanese Ancestral Society that includes members from other organizations offering scholarships. Thank you to the organizations, donors and families who make these scholarships possible.

Students or have parents who are members of one of the sponsoring organizations are also eligible to apply for the Henjyogi Temple Art Award, which is a separate application, is due March 5.

In addition, students who are members of the JACL are eligible to apply for the National JACL Scholarship. Entering freshman applications are due on-line on March 1. Application for undergraduate, graduate, law, art and performing arts and financial aid is due April 1.


Support HR 40 by writing a letter of support to tsuru

What is HR 40?

House Resolution 40, or Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, is federal legislation currently in the House of Representatives. This piece of legislation is a study commission, like the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. If passed, the legislation would form a commission to study slavery and discrimination against African Americans from 1619 (when 20 enslaved Africans arrived in the English colony of Virginia) until today. The commission would also recommend appropriate remedies for the federal government to take. The commission would be tasked to:

Look at the role that federal and state government played in supporting slavery
Look at discrimination against slaves and their descendants
Look at the ongoing negative effects of slavery on African Americans and society today
You can click here to read the full text of the legislation.

The ACLU has put together more information on HR 40, you can click here to learn more.

Why are we collecting testimony from Japanese Americans?

In mid-February, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties is going to have a hearing about HR 40. Congressional members and supporting organizations, led by the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), have asked for Japanese Americans — especially survivors of incarceration and those who were involved in the Redress Movement — to write testimony in support of HR40 to 1) inform representatives as they prepare for this hearing and 2) to enter into the official Congressional record, which will be reprinted and preserved for historical purposes.

“What I’m talking about is more than recompense for past injustices—more than a handout, a payoff, hush money, or a reluctant bribe. What I’m talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal.” – Ta-Nehisi Coates

You can click here to read “The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Japanese American community is a diverse and multiracial community. There are many Black-Nikkei individuals and families who are descendants of enslaved people and who have experienced the ongoing negative effects of U.S. slavery and its aftermath embedded in the racism, anti-Blackness, and structural inequities of U.S. society.

You can click here to read a Washington Post story about a Black-Nikkei family’s thoughts on this topic here.

As the only ethnic group to have received an apology and reparations from the federal government for wrongs committed against us, Japanese Americans have a moral imperative to support the Black people seeking a similar path for a structural remedy. We also have moral authority to stand in solidarity with other communities: especially a community targeted by historic racism seeking accountability and a process for redress and reparations. The violence of slavery, Jim Crow, and ongoing anti-Blackness is so central to the history of the United States that we must all participate in the process of repair.

There are lots of questions that are still unanswered about reparations for the African American community, just as there were lots of questions that faced the Japanese American community during redress. HR 40 deserves our support because it creates a legislative process — one much like the one our community successfully pushed for — that will consider many voices and clarify a path forward for repair and the healing that needs to take place.

What should you include in your testimony?

Your written testimony is a statement that will be entered into the U.S. Congressional record as part of the mid-February hearing on HR 40.

It can be of any length, but we recommend keeping it to three pages or less. We hope that it will express your strong belief in support of the creation of a Commission to explore redress and reparations for Black Americans and that you will draw upon your personal and family history as moral authority to make your statement.

Please include the following:

Your name
Your city and zip code
An explicit statement that you support HR 40. (This can be as simple as saying, “I support HR 40.”)
An explanation of why you, as a Japanese American, support HR 40. We suggest you include responses to the following questions:
Tell the congressional committee about yourself! Were you incarcerated in one of the World War II WRA/DOJ camps? Were other members of your family? Which camp(s)? Where do you live now?
What were the short and long term consequences of incarceration for you and your family?
Tell the congressional committee about your connection to the Redress Movement!
Did you or your family participate in a CWRIC hearing? What was the impact of hearing those testimonies?
Why was redress important to you and your family? This can include the apology, the individual payments, or other federal funding like the JACS grant program.
How did the Redress Movement impact the healing of you, your family, the Japanese American community, or the country as a whole?
Why do you support HR 40?
For example, you may want to explain how slavery, Jim Crow, and anti-Blackness have inflicted intergenerational harms on African Americans. You may want to connect reparations for African Americans to your own history as a Japanese American. Or you may want to explain this in terms of our duty to speak out as Japanese Americans. It’s up to you!
Include your signature.
Logistical Questions

Please email your testimony to by Friday, February 12th at 12pm PST. In your email, please include your name, address, and other contact information so it can be shared with congressional staff if needed.

For more information, please go to