P R E S S  R E L E A S E
Minoru Yasui Day in Denver: September 10, 2015.

 

City and County of Denver Mayor Michael B Hancock has proclaimed September 10, 2015 as “Minoru Yasui Day.” The proclamation will be presented to Robin Yasui, niece of Miinoru Yasui, at the Minoru Yasui American Inn of Court meeting on that evening at 6:00 p.m. at the University Club, 1673 Sherman Street. Judge Kerry Hada, who was instrumental in the naming of the Inn of Court after Yasui, and Derek Okubo, the Mayor’s representative as Executive Director of the Denver Agency for Human Relations and Community Partnerships (AHRCP), will make the presentation.

 

Minoru Yasui, native of the state of Oregon, moved to Denver in September of 1944 after he was cleared for leave from the Minidoka Relocation Camp in Idaho. The first Japanese American attorney in his home state, in 1942 he deliberately violated a curfew and other military orders that lead to the forced removal of all persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast. He spent nine months in solitary confinement in the Multnomah County Jail, awaiting the appeal of his test case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against him.

 

In 1945, Yasui took the Colorado Bar Exam but was denied entry due to “bad moral character” indicated by his criminal conviction of curfew violation. With the help of the ACLU, he appealed that finding to the Colorado Supreme Court and in 1946 won the right to practice law in the state.

In Denver, he continued his lifelong activism with the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), fighting against discriminatory Alien Land Laws, and for naturalization rights for his parents’ generation, immigrants denied U.S. citizenship because of race. He was scoutmaster for a multi-cultural Boy Scout troop #38, and was active in the Denver Public Schools which his three daughters attended.

 

Yasui also helped to found a number of organizations serving diverse communities in Denver: the Urban League (African American), Latin American Research and Service Agency (now called the Colorado Latino Leadership Advocacy, Research and Service Organization); Denver Native Americans United (now called the Denver Indian Center). In 1959 he was appointed commissioner of the Mayor’s Commission on Community Relations, and subsequently served as Vice-Chair and Chair of that commission. In 1967, he was appointed Executive Director of the CCR (now called Agency for Human Rights and Community Partnerships).

 

In that capacity, Yasui initiated and supported a plethora of organizations and programs for the elderly, children & youth, ex-convicts, differently abled, religious minorities, refugees, and low-income people. He was a tireless defender of human and civil rights of all people.

Yasui was also one of the prime movers and leaders of the Japanese American redress movement, which sought an official apology and reparations for the imprisonment of more than 110,000 persons of Japanese ancestry in so-called “Relocation Camps” during World War II. In the mid 1970s, when the idea was percolating within the national Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), Yasui championed the cause and in 1981 became chair of the National JACL Committee for Redress.

 

In 1983, a volunteer legal team was assembled to re-open Yasui’s wartime case with a writ of coram nobis based on evidence uncovered in the National Archives indicating that the U.S. government official had suppressed evidence in 1942-43 that affected the Court’s decision. In that same year Yasui was recognized with various awards by the Oregon State Bar Association, and ACLU chapters in Oregon, Northern California and Colorado. His coram nobis case was heard in 1984, granting a vacating of his conviction but not a full hearing to determine whether the government had knowingly suppressed material evidence and presented false charges of Japanese American disloyalty and espionage.   

 

Minoru Yasui died in 1986, while his case was still on appeal. His wife, True Yasui continued the appeal, but in 1987, the centennial of the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Yasui’s case ruling that the issues were moot based on his death. In 1988, Congress passed and the President signed the Civil Liberties Act, which contained an official apology and reparations of $20,000 for every person who suffered imprisonment in “Relocation Camps” during World War II.

 

The Minoru Yasui Tribute (MYT) committee, an ad-hoc group of family and friends, was formed to honor and reflect upon the contributions of Min Yasui in "making the world a better place."

 

Earlier this year, the MYT Committee worked with U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) to nominate Yasui for the 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom. The submission to the President, included over 115 elected officials, national, state and regional organizations, and notable individuals—including two cabinet officials; nine U.S. Senators and 26 House of Representatives from 11 states; governors, attorneys general, mayors, and state legislators; leading national civil rights organizations, such as the National Urban League, ACLU, NAACP, National Council of La Raza, JACL, American Friends Service Committee, the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, and American Jewish Committee; and 46 regional and state organizations.

 

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is generally awarded in the fall of each year. If awarded, the President would complete the recognition of all three plaintiffs in the Japanese American Internment Cases, which also include Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi who were awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995 and 2014 respectively.

 

The MYT committee is organizing centennial celebrations in various venues in Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado in 2016, the 100th anniversary of Yasui’s birth. These events will include symposia with memorial exhibits, speakers, a documentary film and theatrical presentations.

 

For more information, contact:

 

Derek Okubo, Executive Director of the Agency for Human Rights and Community Partnerships: Derek.Okubo@denvergov.org
Judge Kerry Hada, Minoru Yasui Inn of Court: Kerry.Hada@denvergov.org
Peggy Nagae, Minoru Yasui Tribute project: peggy.nagae@gmail.com
Holly Yasui, Minoru Yasui Tribute project: minyasuitribute@gmail.com