Arizona Honors Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution

News Release

January 29, 2022

PHOENIX – Governor Doug Ducey declared Sunday, January 30 Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution in honor of the World War Two internment camp survivor and his tireless commitment to equal justice under the law.

Governor Ducey last year signed legislation which calls for the observance of “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution” each year on January 30, Korematsu’s birthday. The legislation was sponsored by Senator Sonny Borrelli and passed unanimously in both legislative chambers. 

“Almost 40 years after his name was cleared, Fred Korematsu’s case remains an important lesson in perseverance, hope and liberty,” said Governor Ducey. “Here in our country, everyone has a right to equal justice under the law, and Fred Korematsu fought for it even when the cards were stacked against him. This law builds on the pillars of Arizona’s civics education by formally recognizing Korematsu and all that he and his case represent. Thank you to Senator Borrelli for sponsoring this bill and leading on this issue.”

President Franklin Roosevelt in 1942 issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized the U.S. military to remove over 120,000 people of Japanese descent from their homes and force them into American internment camps throughout the country.

Fred Korematsu was just 23 years old when on May 30, 1942, he was arrested and convicted in federal court for ignoring the order. The court issued him five years of probation, and he was later sent to an internment camp in Topaz, Utah. Korematsu appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the court ruled against him, citing that the internment was made out of “military necessity.”

A pro bono legal team in 1983 reopened Korematsu’s case, which resulted in a federal judge overturning Korematsu’s conviction and clearing his name. 

“Fred Korematsu’s story is inspiring, and it deserves statewide recognition,” said Senator Borrelli. “I’m grateful to my colleagues in the Legislature for coming together to unanimously pass this legislation that recognizes this injustice never happened again, and I thank the Governor for signing this into law and continuing to promote civics education in Arizona.”

Ten other states across the nation have established a day recognizing Korematsu. He passed away on March 30, 2005.

BACKGROUND

On January 25, Governor Ducey met with Dr. Karen Korematsu, Fred Korematsu’s daughter, to celebrate the legacy of her father and present her with a proclamation recognizing Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.

In March 2020, Governor Ducey signed legislation establishing Sandra Day O’Connor Civics Celebration Day, a day in which a majority of classroom instruction is devoted to civics education.

On September 23, 2021, Governor Ducey hosted a fireside chat to discuss the importance of civics education in recognition of Sandra Day O’Connor Civics Celebration Day.

The same month, the Governor announced plans to work with educators and lawmakers to make the teaching of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks mandatory in schools.

In August 2021, Governor Ducey signed legislation to strengthen education about the Holocaust and other genocides in Arizona’s schools.

In 2018, Governor Ducey signed legislation creating the State Seal of Civics Literacy Program to recognize and reward students for achieving a high level of proficiency in American civics. The same year, he signed legislation creating the American Civics Education Pilot Program for grades 9-12. Students in the program take at least one semester of an American civics course and take an assessment at the end.

In 2015, Governor Ducey signed the American Civics Act to ensure all Arizona students understand American civics, requiring the passage of a civics test before graduating high school. It was the first bill he signed as Governor, making Arizona the first state in the nation to enact such a law.

 

View a PDF of the proclamation here.

Text of the proclamation can be viewed below.

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WHEREAS, Fred T. Korematsu was an American citizen born on January 30, 1919 and raised in Oakland, California; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Korematsu was one of approximately 120,000 innocent people of Japanese descent, two-thirds of whom were American citizens, who were subject to Executive Order 9066, issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, that required Japanese Americans be removed from their homes and placed in internment camps; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Korematsu refused to comply with this order, was arrested, convicted in Federal Court, and was placed in an internment camp along with his family members; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Korematsu courageously appealed his conviction to the United States Supreme Court, which, in the landmark case of Korematsu v. United States, voted 6–3 that the forced internment was justified based on “military necessity;” and

WHEREAS, the conviction of Mr. Korematsu was overturned in 1983, and he continued his quest to assure civil liberties for all Americans; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Korematsu used his story to teach the next generation, “protest, but not with violence, and don’t be afraid to speak up. One person can make a difference, even if it takes 40 years;” and

WHEREAS, Arizona stands strong in our commitment to equal justice under the law; and

WHEREAS, Governor Ducey in April 2021 signed legislation to honor WWII internment camp survivor Fred Korematsu with the observance of “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution” each year on January 30.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Douglas A. Ducey, Governor of the State of Arizona, do hereby proclaim January 30, 2020, as

 FRED T. KOREMATSU DAY

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused to be affixed the Great Seal of the State of Arizona 

GOVERNOR

DONE at the Capitol in Phoenix on this twenty-third day of January in the year Two Thousand and Twenty and of the Independence of the United States of America the Two Hundred and Forty-Fourth.

ATTEST:   

 SECRETARY OF STATE

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