WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Justice Department announced today that Japanese American railroad and mine workers who were fired from companies during World War II, and their family members, are potentially eligible for redress payments under the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. The Department's Office of Redress Administration (ORA) has determined that at least 15 workers who applied for redress were fired because of an unjustified perception that they posed a security risk solely because of their Japanese ancestry. ORA further found that the federal government played a role in the firings by various companies. This decision is based on years of research conducted in cooperation with community organizations which provided historical documents and individuals' statements. The Civil Liberties Act, signed into law in August 1988, acknowledges, apologizes, and makes restitution for the fundamental injustice of the evacuation, relocation, and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. "I am pleased that the federal government could come through for these individuals who suffered these hardships," said Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Bill Lann Lee. "I hope that this will finally end a tragic period in American history for these workers and their families." Hundreds of Japanese immigrants moved to the western states at the turn of the century and were employed in mines and worked for the railroads. At least a few hundred persons still worked for the railroad and mining industries in the late 30's and early 40's. They were employed by a number of companies, including Union Pacific Railroad and Southern Pacific Railroad, and Kenilworth Mines and Copper Consolidated Mining Company. Generally, in February 1942, the companies fired all Japanese American workers. The family members of a dismissed employee are also eligible under the law as a result of their "constructive relocation." Generally, the nature of the work in the railroad and mining industries required that these workers, and their families, move to, and reside in, locations solely dictated by their employers' needs. As a result, when the railroad or mine worker was terminated, job prospects, in what often was a company town, were nonexistent, and the family was forced to relocate elsewhere to survive. At least 15 former employees and 155 family members may be eligible for redress.

In the next few weeks, ORA will be contacting individuals affected by this decision to request any additional information which may be necessary to finalize their case. If the proper documentation is submitted on a timely basis, ORA expects to pay these individuals over the next two to four months. Since the program's inception, ORA has provided $20,000 in redress to 81,278 eligible claimants. Historical research suggests that an additional 2,200 individuals may be eligible. ORA has organized community workshops, spoken to community groups, and sent out thousands of letters and applications to locate the remaining redress candidates. The program has paid out nearly $1.65 billion in reparations and has approximately $19 million remaining to compensate additional claimants. On February 12 Attorney General Janet Reno urged any Japanese Americans who were interned during World War II to file claims to seek compensation. The redress program is scheduled to end on August 10, 1998. Last week, Bill Lann Lee visited the site of the former Topaz Internment Camp outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, and gave the keynote speech at the state's first "Day of Remembrance" program. To contact ORA with information on potential claimants, call 1-888-219-6900; write the Office of Redress Administration at P.O. Box 66260, Washington, D.C. 20035-6260; or visit the web site at # # #