Governor Ducey Signs Legislation To Honor Civil Justice Activist Fred Korematsu

News Release

April 15, 2021

PHOENIX — Governor Doug Ducey signed legislation to honor WWII internment camp survivor Fred Korematsu and his tireless commitment to equal justice under the law. 

Senate Bill (SB) 1800 calls for the observance of “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution” each year on January 30. It was sponsored by Senator Sonny Borrelli and passed unanimously in both legislative chambers.

“Fred Korematsu’s bravery and dedication to gaining justice for himself and others is admirable, and reflects the character of our nation,” said Governor Ducey. “The American internment camps established in the 1940s are a scar in U.S. history, and I’m proud to honor those who spoke out against them and fought for justice.”

Fred Korematsu, whose parents were Japanese immigrants, was born in America in 1919. On May 30, 1942, Fred Korematsu was arrested and then convicted in federal court for violating military orders requiring the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent living in the United States during WWII. Korematsu was then placed on a five-year probation in an American internment camp set up in Utah. 

Korematsu appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against him in 1944. His case was reopened approximately 40 years later, and on November 10, 1983 a federal judge overturned Korematsu’s conviction for defying incarceration.

SB 1800 honors Korematsu’s commitment to equal justice under the law, and recognizes hardships faced by Japanese-American citizens in the internment camps. Under the bill, Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution, or Fred Korematsu Day, will be observed on his birthday every year. 

“It’s important that our state and nation remembers and honors Fred Korematsu’s perseverance and bravery,” said Senator Borrelli. “Fred Korematsu Day honors his dedication to justice, and those who experienced civil rights violations due to the prisoner camps. I am proud to sponsor this bill and I thank Governor Ducey for his support.”

Japanese internment camps were established during WWII between 1942 and 1945. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 to relocate people of Japanese descent into temporary isolation camps to prevent espionage. Over 120,000 people were removed from their homes and forced into the camps through the United States. The internment camps of the 1940s are now considered a heinous violation of American civil rights.

Additionally, Governor Ducey will issue a proclamation recognizing May 2021 as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month to recognize the military service, civil service, educational contributions and community leadership of Arizonans of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage. 

“My thanks to Senator Borrelli for leading on this important legislation,” Governor Ducey said.

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