In 1988, Congress Ordered Restitution for Internment Camp Survivors
In 1948, internees were given some compensation for the loss of their property due to internment but it was never enough to completely cover what they had lost. Therefore, campaigns began in the 1960s and 1970s to seek reparations for the way Japanese Americans had been treated during the war. The Japanese American Citizens League put forth a resolution that sought individual reparations at its conference in 1970. In 1979, the National Council for Japanese American Redress filed a class action lawsuit against the United States federal government on behalf of former camp inmates.
More progress was made in 1980 when Congress appointed a committee to study the effects internment and whether or not redress was necessary. The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians heard testimony from over 750 individuals regarding their experiences during and after the war. In 1983, the Commission recommended that reparations be made. Four years later in 1987, a bill that issued a formal apology and provided reparations made it Congress. It faced heavy opposition both from congressional Republicans and the President Ronald Reagan but with a Democratic majority it was able to pass.
On August 10th, 1988, the bill was signed into law. It would take two years for the first reparations checked to be dispersed. On October 9th, 1990, the first nine checks were dispersed as part of a formal ceremony. President George H. W. Bush presented each of the nine former internees with a check for $20,000 and a signed letter of apology. Payments continued through the Office of Redress Administration until 1993.
A second part of the Civil Liberties Act called for an effort to educate the public about the internment to ensure it does not happen again. Initially the amount put forth for the education program was $50 million but it was put on hold until 1994. When the money was finally released and allowed to be used to fund education programs, the amount had been reduced to $5 million.