Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA

Building upon the legacy of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center

Remembering Korematsu, Fighting for a Better Future

Tuesday, January 30th 2018

By Laboni Hoq, Litigation Director

Today in California, we celebrate Korematsu Day in memory of the fearless civil rights activist Fred Korematsu who challenged and defied an executive order requiring the mass imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Now more than ever, Korematsu’s life and activism serve as a shining example for fighting back against injustice and racism.

I’m proud, as part of the team at Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles, to fight back against injustice every day. This past weekend marks the one year anniversary of the Muslim ban, the xenophobic executive order that tore families apart and continues to wend its way through the courts. Many Advancing Justice-LA staff spent long hours and nights at Los Angeles International Airport in the days after the executive order was issued to ensure that individuals and their families impacted by the ban would have access to attorneys and advocates amidst the confusion and chaos. We, alongside other advocates in Los Angeles and across the country, personally witnessed the mayhem and anguish the ban unleashed on so many immigrants and their families. And over the past year, as families have waited for a final decision by courts, it is heartening to note that the public generally opposes the ban and those impacted by the ban continue to speak out.

But the Muslim ban is just one example of policies targeting immigrant and Muslim communities over the past year. The president has publicly and frequently called for the end of family unification, which forms the cornerstone of our country’s immigration policies; inhumanely terminated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides young immigrants protection from deportation and the ability to work; and ended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for vulnerable immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and other countries.

As I reflect upon Korematsu’s courage and conviction, I think of my own background as a Muslim American and the fear and anxiety I’ve witnessed in my family in the years since 9/11 and more recently after the election. The Trump Administration and many of our local officials are intensifying this anxiety by investing resources in programs such as CVE, otherwise known as Countering Violent Extremism -- a discriminatory, ill-conceived, and ineffective surveillance program that targets Muslim communities through trusted agencies such as law enforcement and health providers and enlists community members to solicit information about each others’ beliefs and activities. Such efforts deepen fear, create divisiveness, and do little to protect families and communities.

I continue to feel hopeful about the activism across the country spotlighting the need for change. And as Fred Korematsu said, “If you have the feeling that something is wrong, don’t be afraid to speak up”. So on this Korematsu day I and my colleagues at Advancing Justice-LA stand firm in our commitment to continue fighting for just and humane policies. I urge you to join us.

For Legal Help

Advancing Justice - LA’s hotlines prioritize assistance to low-income persons in the following areas of law: family, immigration, consumer, public benefits, employment, housing, and civil rights.

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Our mission is to advocate for civil rights, provide legal services and education, and build coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and to create a more equitable and harmonious society.