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Don Tamaki Leads Tour of ‘Then They Came for Us’ Exhibit

Don Tamaki Leads Tour of ‘Then They Came for Us’ Exhibit

Minami Tamaki LLP Partner Don Tamaki led a special guided tour (photos) on May 25, 2019, of the “Then they Came For Me” exhibit at The Presidio in San Francisco, organized by the Civil Rights Committee of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA). Don is one of the leaders of the Stop Repeating History campaign.

Then They Came for Me: Incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII and the Demise of Civil Liberties” examines the terrifying period in U.S. history when the government scapegoated and imprisoned thousands of people of Japanese ancestry.

This multimedia exhibition draws parallels to tactics chillingly resurgent today featuring imagery by noted American photographers Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams, alongside works by incarcerated Japanese American artists Toyo Miyatake and Miné Okubo.

Presented by the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation in partnership with the National Japanese American Historical Society and J-Sei, the exhibition tells the story of the forced removal of 120,000 Japanese American citizens and legal residents from their homes on the West Coast during World War II without due process or other constitutional protections to which they were entitled.

Visit to learn more about the exhibit, which runs through September 1, 2019.

Thank you to Lisa P. Mak for sharing this information.

Let’s Break Down the Perpetual Foreigner Stereotype

Let’s Break Down the Perpetual Foreigner Stereotype

This post by Partner Olivia Serene Lee was originally published on, a website of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, as part of the site’s Diversity and Inclusion Blog Post Series.

May marks Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. You are forgiven if you’re not quite sure whose month exactly this is! Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) is a rather broad term and encompasses more than 50 ethnic groups from Asia and the Pacific Islands who live in the United States.

While the AAPI communities have roots that span the globe, our success stories are uniquely American.  May is a significant month in Asian American history, as it includes the first entry of an immigrant from Japan to the U.S. (May 7, 1843), the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad (May 10, 1869) in which the majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants, as well as a dark time in our nation’s history with the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act (May 6, 1882).

In fact, Asian American history dates back to the 16th century with the first recorded presence of Filipinos in what is now the U.S. to October 1587 around Morro Bay, California, with the first permanent settlement in Saint Malo, Louisiana, in 1763.  Less than fifteen years later, in 1778, Chinese immigrants settled in Hawaii.  From ancient, to more recent, the impact of Asian Americans on U.S. history is undeniable.

But, despite our long history in the U.S., there is still a stereotype that we are the “perpetual foreigner”, with many of us being asked the dreaded question “Where are you from?”, which is then normally followed by the question “No, where are you really from?”, or the variant “Where are your parents from?”

“Where are you really from?” is a tough question to answer, even for me. Until only a few years ago, I thought my family had just immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s.  However, through interviews with people from the Chinese American community, including AILA member Helen Hui, I learned that my family had a much more significant and lengthier history in the U.S.

In fact, I have a paternal great-great-grandfather who lived and settled in Chicago.  His son, my great-grandfather, lived in Chicago for some time before moving to San Francisco.  On my maternal side, my great-grandmother came to the U.S. as an aide to her daughters, who were acclaimed Cantonese opera singers and recruited to perform in San Francisco Chinatown theaters.  One of these singers had a life partner who was the first Chinese woman attorney in California – Emma Lum.  Her father, Walter U. Lum, was a renowned civil rights advocate and has a street named after him in San Francisco Chinatown.

Walter U. Lum was one of the founders of the Native Sons of the Golden State (renamed the Chinese American Citizens Alliance in 1915) which advocated for Chinese American rights and opposed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was finally overturned in 1943 with the Magnuson Act.  However, while the Magnuson Act overturned the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1924 only allowed a national quota of 105 Chinese immigrants per year. This extremely small quota impacted families, as it was difficult for American citizen men to bring their Chinese citizen wives and children to the U.S. This was, in fact, the case with my family, where several generations of husbands and sons were separated from their wives and children.

Walter U. Lum and the Chinese American Citizens Alliance (CACA) continued advocating to change the U.S. quota system so that Chinese families could be together.  In fact, many of our clients today benefit from the legacy of Walter U. Lum’s work, especially with our current definition of immediate relatives.

In 1936, the CACA successfully campaigned for a partial alleviation of the inhumane separation of American citizens from their wives. Through continued advocacy work, including repeatedly appearing before Congressional immigration committees, CACA succeeded in getting Congress to pass a law granting non-quota status to Chinese wives of American citizens on August 9, 1946.

The pen which President Harry S. Truman used to sign this law is housed at the CACA lodge in San Francisco, and this pen has been shown at events with the local AILA Northern California Chapter at the CACA lodge.  The passage of the 1946 act served as a basis for the definition of immediate relatives, and the CACA members on October 15, 1952 appeared before President Harry Truman’s Commission on Immigration and Naturalization to continue advocating.  Finally, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 gave us our current definition of “immediate relatives” and also abolished the national-origins quota, which limited Chinese immigration to only 105 per year.

When I look back at my Chinese American heritage, I am grateful to the Chinese American community members (including above-mentioned AILA member Helen Hui) for giving me more context to the history of my family in the U.S., for continually advocating for immigrant rights, and for teaching me our significant and long history in the U.S.  I am also grateful and proud that my own family played a part in  overturning the Chinese Exclusion Act and contributing to the concept of immediate relatives.

While the Chinese Exclusion Act no longer keeps families apart, as we know, these days there are other policies in place that do. The Muslim ban, the Remain in Mexico policy, even delays in processing at USCIS are keeping families apart and benefit no one; there have also been legislative changes proposed that would prevent families from reunifying. We’ve been down that road before and it harmed generations of children, in my case resulting in ignorance about my family’s history until very recently.  We must use the lessons of the past to halt current policies that exclude and separate immigrant families.

With confidence, I can say that my family has been here at least five generations, but due to the racist and anti-Chinese sentiments which gave rise to the Chinese Exclusion Act and national origins quota, my family was separated for generations between two continents. I don’t feel like a perpetual foreigner anymore. Now, if only people would stop asking me that question…

Don Tamaki, Dale Minami at ‘Alternative Facts’ Documentary Screening at CAAMFest 2019

Don Tamaki, Dale Minami at ‘Alternative Facts’ Documentary Screening at CAAMFest 2019

Partner Don Tamaki and Senior Counsel Dale Minami in their roles as leaders of the Stop Repeating History campaign were featured speakers in a discussion following the screening of Jon Osaki’s “Alternative Facts: The Lies of Executive Order 9066” at CAAMFest on May 18 at the Roxie Theater.

Sierra Lee of CAAM writes: “Osaki traces the fraught racist history of the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans and untangles the intergenerational trauma of the decades-long redress movement.

“(The film) offers damning proof that the signing of Executive Order 9066 was the result of political pressure and fabricated evidence of espionage by Japanese Americans. Interviews with the family members of prominent political officials and unsung heroes of redress like Aiko Herzig Yoshinaga illuminate the racism, xenophobia and backhanded political maneuvering led to the forcible internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans.”

Read more: “Documentary Exposes Fear and Lies Behind Japanese American Incarceration, Draws Parallels to Current Anti-Muslim Rhetoric” by Akemi Tamanaha on AsAmNews.

Visit the film’s website:

Alternative Facts The Lies of Executive Order 9066 collage

Video: Remarks by Dale Minami at 50th Manzanar Pilgrimage

Video: Remarks by Dale Minami at 50th Manzanar Pilgrimage

Minami Tamaki LLP Senior Counsel Dale Minami was one of the featured speakers at the 50th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, which was held the weekend of April 27, 2019, at the Manzanar National Historic Site, approximately 230 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

Manzanar was the first of the American concentration camps in which more than 120,000 Japanese Americans and their immigrant parents were unjustly incarcerated during World War II. Each year, more than 1,000 people attend the Manzanar Pilgrimage, including students, teachers, community members, clergy and former incarcerees.

The program was emceed by former California State Assemblymember Warren Furutani, one of the founders of the Manzanar Pilgrimage and the Manzanar Committee, and also featured Karen Korematsu and writer/artist traci-kato kiriyama.

From the Manzanar Committee’s Feb. 2019 announcement of the speakers: “We’re so pleased Dale Minami and Karen Korematsu will be speaking this year,” said Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey. “Dale and Karen have played key roles in the long struggle for redress and reparations, as well as the current efforts to challenge the Trump Administration’s Muslim ban and xenophobic anti-immigration policies. Their experience, their message, is what our country needs to hear right now.”

“Let’s remember that 2019 is the 75th anniversary of Korematsu v. United States,” added Embrey. “Let’s remember that not that long ago, our government, the government of the United States, prosecuted and convicted a young man by withholding, altering and falsifying key evidence and then incarcerated him for no other reason than his ancestry. Fred took a stand against the unconstitutional and illegal incarceration of his family, of his community. But even though the law was on his side, a racist and undemocratic ruling prevailed. Let us not forget what can happen when hysterical, unfounded appeals to national security gain sway in our body politic.”

“What we want to project at this year’s Pilgrimage is that our history, our experience, is a cautionary story that our country must take to heart. We cannot stand by and allow this administration’s undemocratic, racist immigration policies to go unchallenged and that is exactly what Karen and Dale have been doing by fighting in the courts and in the realm of public opinion. They are two of the most effective leaders linking our community’s experience with the struggles against the anti-immigrant hysteria and Islamophobia of the Trump Administration, so really, we couldn’t ask for better speakers.”

Photos and video by Manzanar Committee (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Video filmed by Cory Shiozaki.

Minami Tamaki Participates in National Conference Advancing the Hmong American Community

Minami Tamaki Participates in National Conference Advancing the Hmong American Community

Top Photo: Kaa Bao Yang (left) and Donald K. Tamaki (middle) of Minami Tamaki LLP with Bao Vang, President/CEO of Hmong American Partnership.

Minami Tamaki LLP participated in the 19th Hmong National Development Conference, held April 19-21, 2019, in San Jose. Associate Kaa Bao Yang in our Personal Injury practice served on the conference planning committee and Partner Don Tamaki was the conference keynote on April 20.

The conference is a biennial gathering organized by Hmong National Development, Inc., a national nonprofit founded in 1993 as a national policy advocacy organization for the Hmong American community. For the past 20 years, the organization has provided Hmong nonprofits capacity building and technical assistance tools, advocated in Washington D.C. for legislation which impacts the Hmong community, and cultivated leadership in youth through internship programs and youth empowerment programming models.

Minami Tamaki LLP attorneys Kaa Bao Yang (left) and Seema Bhatt staffing our booth.

“As a member of the Impact Award and Entertainment Subcommittees, I had the pleasure of introducing two of the Impact Award Winners during the conference banquet on Saturday evening,” said Kaa Bao, “Leesai Yang, Deputy Sheriff with the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department and Director of East Bay Asian Youth Center, and Neng Thao, a graduate of Harvard and world traveler, videographer, and blogger in English, Hmong and Spanish with about 45,000 Facebook followers.”

In his keynote, Don spoke about the #StopRepeatingHistory campaign and efforts to educate the public on the dangers of unchecked presidential power, drawing parallels between the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and the current administration’s policies targeting minority groups based on race or religion.

“Don delivered a powerful keynote speech,” said Kaa Bao. “Everyone loved it and Don was quite a celebrity. There was a very long line after his speech to shake his hand and take pictures with him. Our Minami Tamaki tote bags became quite popular afterwards!”

Minami Tamaki LLP Partner Donald K. Tamaki delivering the keynote on April 20.

Kaa Bao also had the opportunity to meet a number of inspiring women, including Elizabeth Yang, the founder of Hmong Women Take on the World, and Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Kashoua Kristy Yang, the first Hmong American judge elected without appointment and the first Hmong American female judge in the nation.

Kaa Bao Yang (left) of Minami Tamaki LLP and Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Kristy Yang.

Kaa Bao Yang is Minami Tamaki’s first Hmong American attorney. As one of the few bilingual Hmong attorneys in California, she aspires to provide the best support and legal services to the Hmong community and to all of our firm’s clients.

She was born in a refugee camp in northern Thailand and immigrated to the United States, where her family resettled in St. Paul, Minnesota. The fifth of eleven children and the first in her family to graduate from college and graduate school, she earned her B.A. in Sociology of Law, Criminology, and Deviance with honors, as well as a minor in Political Science from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

Kaa Bao graduated with honors from Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco.

Video: Dale Minami Impact Award, Presented by the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area

Video: Dale Minami Impact Award, Presented by the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area

The Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area presented the first ever Dale Minami Impact Award at its annual gala on March 6, 2019, in San Francisco.

AABA created this award in Dale’s name to honor his legacy by celebrating those who have made a positive impact on the Asian Pacific American community.

The inaugural recipient of the Dale Minami Impact Award was Stewart Kwoh, the founder of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles.

In this short video, Karen Korematsu, Don Tamaki, Michael GW Lee, and Minette Kwok discuss Dale Minami’s impact on the Asian-American community, civil rights, and the face of the legal profession.

Rafu: ‘Gardena Day of Remembrance Addresses Today’s Immigration Issues’

Rafu: ‘Gardena Day of Remembrance Addresses Today’s Immigration Issues’

J.K. Yamamoto with the Rafu Shimpo reported on the 2019 Day of Remembrance program held February 23, 2019, at the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute. Jon Osaki’s documentary “Alternative Facts: The Lies of Executive Order 9066” was screened, followed by a panel discussion with Minami Tamaki LLP Senior Counsel Dale Minami and others.


Panelist Dale Minami, who appears in the film, hails from Gardena, is a partner in the San Francisco law firm of Minami Tamaki LLP and was the lead attorney in the reopening of Fred Korematsu’s Supreme Court case in the 1980s. He liked the way that the film “really connects our experiences as Japanese Americans to other communities of color, and that’s critical for us to have the kind of coalition we need to change this country.”

Although Minami is well-versed on the subject, he was impressed that Osaki tracked down and interviewed descendants of wartime officials such as Edward Ennis, director of the Department of Justice’s Alien Enemy Control Unit, who said at the time that the incarceration was wrong, but was overruled.

“My parents didn’t talk about the incarceration, like most Nisei,” said Minami. “They went to Rohwer, Ark. as well. So we didn’t learn much about it from our parents. I had one paragraph in high school, I had a page in college, and it wasn’t until almost exactly 50 years ago, when a momentous event occurred, and that was the Third World Strike at San Francisco State. It was an outgrowth of the civil rights movement that was led by African Americans …

“And when we got to understand our own history, we started to learn about what happened in these prisons and the incarceration of our own parents. Then I finally read the Korematsu, Hirabayashi and Yasui decisions in law school and they were treated as abstract principles. There wasn’t anything that had the human drama or the loss of lives, broken homes, lost dreams, any of those.

“So I thought the decision was a travesty and it impelled me, along with the inspiration we got from the Third World Strike in the development of ethnic studies … to really learn about the depth and breadth of this whole terrible dark page in American history.”

Minami cited the legal precedent of bans on Chinese and Japanese immigration in the 19th and 20th centuries. “The massive racial profiling of Muslims as evil and its simple connections are this. These actions are taken against some marginalized group that is not well understood, that are people of color and are generally politically powerless.

“So when you combine that with the racist rant of a president who’s anti-immigrant … and talks about using national security as a phony basis for … a wall that goes nowhere … what we’re seeing is … an echo of history. If we keep allowing this to go on … those are the first steps in the establishment of a dictatorship and the loss of our rights.”

The film included a quote from Col. Karl Bendetsen, one of the architects of the incarceration, who claimed that Nikkei were not behind fences and could go wherever they wanted.

“That’s an outright lie,” Minami said. “You have pictures, they’re all over the place, showing fences. So it’s exactly what the president is doing right now. They’re telling outright lies and they’re saying that there’s this huge security threat at the border when immigration has been reduced over the years … A security threat about drugs being transported across borders when they’re really coming in through ports of entry … Essentially this whole foundation of national security is built today on lies, just like it was against Japanese Americans.”

Minami added that checks and balances between the branches of government are threatened. “In Korematsu vs. United States … the judiciary, the Supreme Court, abdicated its role and did not even look at the president’s declaration that Japanese Americans were dangerous. It’s doing the same thing in Trump vs. Hawaii. It refused to look beyond the president’s declaration and examine whether there was any rational basis, any factual basis for keeping the Muslims out … essentially deferring completely to the president.”

Another echo of history is talk about changing the 14th Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil, Minami said, noting that Earl Warren, as governor of California, advocated stripping Nisei of their U.S. citizenship.

Daily Trojan: Korematsu lawyer discusses Japanese American incarceration, Trump

Daily Trojan: Korematsu lawyer discusses Japanese American incarceration, Trump

Minami Tamaki LLP Senior Counsel Dale Minami spoke at the University of Southern California on March 5, 2019. Below is an excerpt from an article in the Daily Trojan, the USC campus newspaper.

Famed civil rights attorney and USC alumnus Dale Minami joined nearly 100 students for a discussion about the history of Japanese American internment and civil rights Tuesday.

Minami, who notably overturned the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Korematsu v. United States, which justified the internment of approximately 110,000 Japanese Americans, was invited by professor Alison Dundes Renteln to speak in her “Human Rights” course.

“He has been one of the great legal minds in our time,” Dundes said as she introduced him. “[He is] certainly a hero of mine. I’ve admired him for many years.”

Minami attended UC Berkeley’s School of Law, which was previously named the Boalt School of Law after John Boalt, now known for being an anti-Chinese racist. Dundes Renteln said Minami played a role in changing the school’s name after backlash from students. She drew a parallel to the controversy surrounding the Von KleinSmid Center on USC’s campus, which was named after former University president and eugenicist Rufus Von KleinSmid. (Read More)

Dale Minami at Day of Remembrance in Gardena

Dale Minami at Day of Remembrance in Gardena

Minami Tamaki LLP Senior Counsel Dale Minami spoke at the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute’s 8th annual Day of Remembrance on February 23. The program examined the parallels between what happened in America 77 years ago and the threats to civil rights happening today and featured the premiere of Jon Osaki’s “Alternative Facts: The Lies of Executive Order 9066.”

Day of Remembrance commemorates the Feb. 19, 1942 signing of Executive Order 9066, which forcibly removed over 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans from the West Coast and sent them to concentration camps across the nation.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion featuring Dale, Jon Osaki, Nicole Oshima of UCLA Nikkei Student Union, and others.

“Alternative Facts” is a one-hour documentary feature film about the false information and political influences that led to the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans. It sheds light on the people and politics that influenced the signing of the infamous Executive Order 9066. The film exposes the lies used to justify the decision and the cover-up that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. It also examines the parallels to the current climate of fear, attitudes towards immigrant communities, and similar attempts to abuse the powers of the government.

Photo: Dale Minami with Warren Furutani by JK Yamamoto.