Jane Yano, right, born a prisoner at Crystal City Texas in 1947, states her case for compensation Thursday, January 6, 2000, while Rep. Xavier Becerra, left, and Doug Kato, son of an internee who was also denied redress listen.

Six Sue U.S. for WWII Reparations

Former internees Jane Yano, Kay Kato and the Ogura family want equitable treatment in receiving compensation from the U.S. Government.



 LOS ANGELES.—A Sansei woman who was born in captivity, an Issei former internee and members of a Japanese Peruvian family abducted from their homes and interned in the United States, filed a joint lawsuit last month in federal court seeking redress from the U.S. government.

Jane Natsue Yano, 52, Kay Sadao Kato, 91, and the four members of the Ogura family are plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles on Dec. 13, 1999, their attorney Paul Mills revealed during a press conference held Thursday.

The six plaintiffs have two things in common: all were imprisoned by the United States during World War II; and all have been refused redress by this country, which, under terms of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, has provided an official apology, education funds and payments of $20,000 each to more than 82,000 other former internees.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit—Kay Sadao Kato, Jane Natsue Yano, Makoto Ogura, Shizue Ogura, Kenjiro Ogura and Yasuo Ogura v. United States of America—served a stamped copy of their federal lawsuit Thursday on the U.S. Attorney's office in downtown Los Angeles. The defendant has 60 days to file an answer denying they did anything wrong.

The claimants, born of Japanese ancestry on three different continents and wrongly imprisoned more than 50 years ago, were refused the official apology and other redress on technical grounds.

Jane Yano

Yano, born Jan. 28, 1947, in a U.S. internment camp at Crystal City, Texas, and held for seven months there with her family, was denied reparations because her birthdate fell after an arbitrary cutoff date of June 30, 1946, imposed by the U.S. government.

Her parents, Hawaii-born Hideo Taira, 83, and Central California native Shigeko Taira, 80, who now live in Fresno, were imprisoned at Tule Lake, where they met and wed.

"My father might have been considered a trouble-maker. That's why he got separated from his family and had to go to Bismarck, North Dakota, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, and finally to Crystal City," the Santa Clara resident related.

Yano's family remained at Crystal City until August 1947, two years after Japan surrendered to end World War II. "We were practically the last family to leave the camp in August 1947," she said.

After Congress passed, and President Reagan signed, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 providing for an official apology and $20,000 in individual payments to former internees, Yano had no reason to doubt she would be eligible for redress when she applied to the Office of Redress Administration. Her father, mother and sister received their apology and reparations.

"I was shocked that I didn't get redress," Yano declared. "The government said I was born after the cutoff date ... I was still born in captivity, beyond barbed wire fences, in a camp.

"It's been a long ordeal trying to get redress and an apology from the government," Yano said. "To me, it's a clear black-and-white situation. But (the government) is making a big fuss over the cutoff date."

Kay Kato

At the time of his internment in May 1942, Kato was a lawfully admitted alien and resident of the United States, doing business on a merchant visa, as he had been doing for years.

He was initially imprisoned at the Stockton Assembly Center in Stockton, then remained incarcerated at Rohwer, Ark., until Aug. 30, 1944, a period of about two years and three months.

Los Angeles resident Kato, who has difficulty walking, did not attend the press conference and was represented by his son, Douglas Kato.


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