As the program continued into 1992, ORA leadership began to identify two looming and interrelated issues that would result in congressional amendments to the Civil Liberties Act. The first of these issues was funding. The redress program, as established by congress in 1988, placed the number of eligible former internees at around 60,000. Through their research and community work, however, the ORA soon realized that the actual number was much larger. Federal funding for the program had been an issue from the beginning. Congress initially provided redress funding through a specified budget appropriation each year—a fluctuating process that placed redress payments on unpredictable footing. In the fiscal year of 1990, for example, the budgetary appropriations for redress totaled $20 million, which was only enough to pay 1,000 people. Senator Daniel Inouye, in coordination with Justice Department staff and others, led the effort to resolve this issue by reclassifying redress as an entitlement program and thus protecting its funding from budgetary shifts. After finding a larger number of eligible recipients than previously estimated, the ORA once again reached out to members of congress. The result of their lobbying was the 1992 Amendments to the Civil Liberties Act. Among the issues addressed in these amendments was an increase in federal funding to meet the needs and mission of the redress program.
The second issue the ORA recognized by 1992 was the existence of groups directly impacted by internment that did not neatly fit within the legislated criteria of the redress program. Classified as "unique cases" by the agency's special verification unit, the existence of these groups bespoke to the extensive outreach efforts of the ORA with the Japanese American community. The bulk of government records, such as camp rosters, made no reference to these groups; nor were their wartime experiences recounted in the history books. One of these special cases was non-Japanese spouses. After Executive Order 9066, these spouses faced the difficult decision to either abandon their families or accompany them into the wartime camps. The 1992 Amendments recognized the plight of these individuals and thus made spouses of non-Japanese descent eligible for redress. Additionally, the Amendments also allowed for an expansive interpretation of the law, authorizing the ORA to give "the benefit of the doubt" to the individual in the redress process. This broadened the evidentiary standard so that the ORA could better address groups and circumstances not initially recognized by the government when the original Civil Liberties Act was passed.
The 1992 Amendments legislated a solution to a number of the unique cases that confronted the ORA. Others required further action by the government and courts, which varied in results. A selection of these cases is discussed below. It should be noted that in the decade-long operation of the ORA, at least half of its time was spent grappling with these special verification cases.
Hawaii represented one of the first unique cases the ORA addressed. Most histories and government reports on wartime internment said little about Hawaii beyond the estimated 1,800 residents of Japanese descent that were evacuated from the islands and incarcerated in camps on the mainland. Through community outreach, however, the ORA learned of hundreds of families who were forced out of their homes at gunpoint and relocated to other parts of the islands. Many of these residents were not interned in camps. Since a large proportion of the population of Hawaii were people of Japanese ancestry, incarceration would have proven extremely difficult. It would have also posed potential repercussions for the local war effort. Yet, the residents did suffer a loss of liberty and property. ORA researchers combed through scores of archives and personal statements in Hawaii and California to document the situation. This research, combined with sworn testimony, allowed the agency to identify over 30 areas on the islands where residents were illegally removed. Those families were then found eligible for redress.
A large group impacted by internment but not initially covered in the Civil Liberties Act were minor children, both those born after their parents' evacuation and those born after their parents had left the camp. Initially, minor children in these categories were ineligible. Several lawsuits, coupled with the community outreach of the ORA, revealed the valid claims such minors had for redress. In Ishida v. United States, the U.S. Court of Appeals agreed, finding that the children had been illegally excluded from their parents' original home and thus suffered a loss of liberty. With that decision, the ORA amended the regulation to make this group of several hundred "Ishida Children," as they became known, eligible for redress.
Railroad & Mining Workers
Another group the ORA worked with was railroad and mining workers. Many laborers of Japanese descent in the West were unjustly fired following America's entry into World War II and the declaration of Executive Order 9066. They may not have been relocated to camps, but claimed federal government actions led to their loss of employment based on race. The case for these claimants, however, was difficult. In the lawsuit, Kaneko v United States, both the lower court and appellate court ruled that the group was ineligible for redress, finding the private companies, rather than the federal government, responsible for their termination. The ORA then conducted extensive research on the case, working with various railroad companies and historical societies. No direct government link was found. But the ORA research did uncover that army security regulations may have had an impact on rehiring protocols. This research combined with the "benefit of the doubt" standard allowed the agency to reverse the previous rulings and grant the group eligibility.
One of the more bizarre and complicated cases the ORA worked on involved Japanese Latin Americans. During the war, the United States government sent a request to the countries of Central and South America to deport residents of Japanese descent to the U.S. These residents were then incarcerated with the intention of being repatriated to Japan in exchange for American POWs. Over 2,000 Japanese Latin Americans, primarily from Peru, were sent to the U.S. The government's plan never materialized, however, as Japan had no interest in the deportees, most of whom neither spoke the language nor claimed any connection to the country. To make matters worse, the vast majority of these deportees were initially found ineligible for redress since they did not have permanent residency status, a requirement for eligibility. The difference in immigration laws (the 1917, 1948, and 1952 laws) made things even more complex. Depending which immigration law they applied under, some might receive retroactive status and be eligible, others would not. The ORA conducted extensive research on behalf of the group. In the end, the agency's hands were tied as they could not change the requirements of the Civil Liberties Act. The group took their claim to court in Mochizuki v United States. The government settled the case and awarded each surviving Japanese Latin American an apology letter and redress payment of $5,000.