Voices are growing louder for the only woman to challenge the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
A constitutional law professor from UC Berkeley this month penned an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee calling for Sacramento native Mitsuye Endo to be recognized.
Four Japanese Americans each challenged the constitutionality of the order. The other three– Gordon Hirabayashi, Minoru Yasui and Fred Korematsu– are all men and each has been recognized with the Presidential Medal.
Endo is still waiting.
When the evacuation orders came, Endo was fired from her job at the California Department of Motor Vehicles and she was sent with her family to the incarceration camp at Tule Lake. Her case was the only one to reach the U.S.Supreme Court. The justices sidestepped a ruling on the constitutionality of the order, but ruled unanimously that the government could not continue to detain citizens who were loyal to the United States.
The announcement of the ruling was delayed until after President Roosevelt lifted the order.
At one point, Endo was offered release from incarceration if she dropped her case. She refused and spent an additional two years behind barbed wire.
Last year the California Assembly added its voice by passing a resolution calling for Endo to be recognized with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Democratic Senator Brian Schatz also sent a letter to President Obama to offer his support.
Just a few months remain for the the first African American president of the United States to do so. If not, if the election goes Hillary Clinton’s way, that honor could go to the country’s first women president.
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