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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.

Cameron House Tribute Video to Minami Tamaki LLP

Cameron House Tribute Video to Minami Tamaki LLP

Firm partners Minette Kwok and Mark Fong and Karen Korematsu were featured in this video about our firm at Donaldina Cameron House’s annual gala on March 2, 2019. We were humbled and thankful to be one of the honorees of the evening and enjoyed spending time with the wonderful folks of Donaldina Cameron House!

And here’s some photos from the event.

Dale Minami Keynotes APA Law Students Conference at UPenn

Dale Minami Keynotes APA Law Students Conference at UPenn

Minami Tamaki LLP Senior Counsel Dale Minami delivered the keynote on February 16, 2019, at the 18th annual conference of the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA).

Dale talked about his career and how he developed a commitment to social justice. He shared how the legal team he helped lead overturned Fred Korematsu’s 40-year-old conviction for resisting the military orders which banished 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast without a trial, the right to attorneys, or the right to notice of any charge against them. Dale related the Asian American experience to the current administration’s hostility toward immigrants.


Dale Minami at ‘The Impact of Slavery on American Jurisprudence and Activism Public’

Dale Minami at ‘The Impact of Slavery on American Jurisprudence and Activism Public’

Minami Tamaki LLP Senior Counsel Dale Minami (right) with panelists (from left to right) Lisa Holder, Megan Ming Francis, Shauna Marshall, Eva Paterson, and Nusrat J. Choudhury. Photo by Bob Hsiang.

Minami Tamaki LLP Senior Counsel Dale Minami served on a panel at “The Impact of Slavery on American Jurisprudence and Activism Public,” a panel held February 21, 2019, in the Judge Thelton Henderson Ceremonial Courtroom at the Phillip Burton Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in San Francisco.

The event was produced by the Equal Justice Society. EJS President Eva Paterson moderated the panel discussion with Dale,  Nusrat J. Choudhury, Lisa Holder, Shauna Marshall, and Megan Ming Francis.

Panelists explored lawsuits brought by enslaved people, rebellions against the cruelty that was a feature of slavery, activism challenging Jim Crow, changes in American jurisprudence that flowed from their quest for “equal justice under law,” and how the efforts of African Americans shaped the activism of other groups in our country. Panelists explored the origins of racism and ways to minimize its impact.

The panel was the first event in EJS’s “Remembering 1619” year-long observance of the 400th anniversary slavery in the United States. Twenty Africans landed at Jamestown Virginia in August of 1619. “In the 400 years that Africans have been here, their history has been full of struggle, resistance, and the achievement of excellence despite all the barriers erected,” writes EJS.

See photos from the event.


Remarks by Donald Tamaki at San Jose Day of Remembrance 2019

Remarks by Donald Tamaki at San Jose Day of Remembrance 2019

I’m not going to lie to you.  I’m here to implore you—to exhort you—to get active—whether in small or big ways.  Doing nothing is not an option. Here’s why.

We are witnessing history repeat itself.  The incarceration of Japanese Americans— 77 years ago— has become more relevant than ever.  We have 3 branches of government— the Executive—the Legislative—and the Judiciary—each co-equal, and each designed to be a check and balance on the other.  The common thread binding what happened to Japanese Americans —and what’s happening now—is the utter failure by Congress and the Supreme Court— to hold the Executive Branch accountable to the rule of law and the Constitution.         

On June 26, 2018, by a 5-4 majority, the Supreme Court in Trump v. Hawaii upheld Trump’s so-called “Travel Ban,” the thrice-revised executive orders barring entry of people from Muslim-majority nations—and which continues today to separate American families.  

When Trump announced the Travel Ban in 2017, travelers having nothing to do with terrorism were detained,—U.S. residents were stranded abroad, —and families were separated. Thousands of validly issued visas were canceled. Hundreds with such visas were prevented from boarding planes or denied entry on arrival—, including refugees running for their lives—from war and terrorism who had already undergone a stringent vetting process.

Invoking “national security,” —the government claimed that a Homeland Security report justified these actions. However, not only did the government refuse to reveal this report, —but it  asserted that the Court must bow to the will of the President—giving him near-absolute authority to impose—in Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s words—“an exclusionary policy of sweeping proportion.”

Citing Trump’s speeches and tweets —replete with anti-Islamic animus and calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,”—opponents—including Japanese Americans—argued that the Travel Ban has little to do with security—and instead, was the bigoted “Muslim Ban” that Trump had promised on the campaign trail.

Echoes of 1942 when another executive order, 9066, led to the incarceration of almost 120,000 Japanese Americans. Against the challenge of Fred Korematsu, the government exhorted the Court not to “second-guess” the judgment of the military—that locking up these Americans was necessary to the nation’s safety.

Shamefully, the Court reasoned that “if the government tells us the lock-up is a “military necessity” —then who are we to question the government?” The Court abdicated its constitutional role as a check and balance on the Executive Branch,—and the result— was a civil liberties disaster.  

The gravity of the Court’s surrender was underscored in 1983 when secret WWII-era Navy, FBI, and FCC reports and Justice Department memoranda surfaced —admitting that Japanese Americans had committed no wrong—posed no threat—and characterizing the Army’s claims that Japanese Americans were spying as “intentional falsehoods.” These reports were never presented to the Court, having been suppressed, altered or destroyed.

Arguably, the Court’s relegation of itself —to being a mere “rubber stamp”— opened the door for this massive fraud to occur.  It stands to reason that if the courts look the other way when the President invokes “national security”—the temptation for leaders to twist the facts—to engage in falsehoods and fabrications to achieve a political end—is likely to be irresistible.  

The founders of this nation understood this—so they established a system of checks and balances—to thwart the rise of kings—and tyrants.    

Fast forward to the Court’s decision in Trump v. Hawaii —wherein Chief Justice John Roberts declared—“Korematsu was gravely wrong the day it was decided, has been overruled in the court of history, and — to be clear — has no place in law under the Constitution.”

A laudatory statement to be sure, but do these words have any meaning? While repudiating Korematsu, the Court’s affirmation of Trump’s Muslim Ban—ironically reinforced one of Korematsu’s  most dangerous elements—by allowing the government’s invocation of national security—to shield it—from any judicial inquiry verifying whether the Ban has any basis in fact—or reason.

The decision penned by Justice Roberts is reminiscent of Justice Hugo Black’s opinion in Korematsu. Black wrote that racial discrimination is — “odious to a free people,” —and ruled that when the government makes distinctions based upon race, — the Court must subject such distinctions to the “most rigid scrutiny” — to verify that they are based on “imminent threats to public safety.”

However, after making this laudatory pronouncement, Black failed to apply it—, dismissively concluding that putting Japanese Americans in concentration camps—had nothing to do with racial hostility— and finding that the mass round-up was a— “military necessity.” Why? “Because the military tells us so”.  

Justice Roberts makes a —similar—pivot. He pronounces Korematsu “overruled,” —but in the same breath, —dismissively concludes that Korematsu has nothing to do with the Travel Ban.

Worse, despite Trump uttering the most bigoted statements in modern political campaign history since George Wallace declared “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever”— Roberts accepts the President’s word for it —that the ban is necessary to make the country safe—turning a blind eye to all of his racist and anti-Islamic statements— and without requiring the government to disclose the Homeland Security report— claimed to contain the facts justifying the ban.

Sotomayor describes this “blind” court deference to the President as an affront to the Judiciary’s role as the independent third branch in America’s checks-and-balances democracy. “Our Constitution demands… a Judiciary willing to hold the coordinate branches to account when they defy our most sacred commitments.”

Looking back to 1944, Justice Robert Jackson warned in his scathing dissent— that “Korematsu lies around like a loaded weapon ready for the hand of any authority who could bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need.”

The Court’s Travel Ban decision should worry every American—the Court has reloaded this weapon—and essentially imported the Korematsu precedent into a new vessel—Trump versus Hawaii.

The parallels between Korematsu and the Travel Ban are disturbing—both arose out of war, both featured the government invoking “national security” to shield its actions from judicial scrutiny— both had abundant evidence of prejudice expressed by high officials against a targeted minority— both involved hidden intelligence reports that the government refused to disclose— and both ended with the Court failing to question—whether such sweeping deprivations of fundamental freedoms  were necessary for the nation’s safety—or were merely the fulfillment of racist policies and bigoted campaign promises.

Emboldened by the Court’s unwillingness to be a check on the abuse of Presidential power, Trump tweeted — no due process for undocumented immigrants, including those lawfully seeking asylum.  So even Laura Bush is connecting the dots, stating— “Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities… These images are eerily reminiscent of the internment camps for U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent—now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history.”

Why does this matter?

It matters because “Trump sent thousands of soldiers to the border to terrorize a distant caravan of desperate migrants —and announced plans to end — [by executive order] —the constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship”.  He has separated children from their parents, —demonized American-born citizens as “anchor babies”—slashed refugee visas by more than half—and pejoratively labeled family reunification policies as “chain migration.”

Trump promised his base to build a wall. In fact—he promised that Mexico would pay for it. Two days ago—after a 34-day shutdown of the government in which Congress expressly refused to appropriate funds for his wall—Trump has declared the border a “national emergency”, attempting to seize funds by edict—and override Congress’ exclusive constitutional authority— over the purse.

Do you see a pattern here?  When Japanese Americans were locked up— it was done on the basis of a phony claim of “military necessity.” —When Trump fulfilled his campaign promise for a ban on Muslims entering the country— it was based on a phony claim of “national security”. —Now Trump seeks to usurp the constitutional authority of Congress—based on a phony claim of a “national emergency.”

If neither the Congress nor the Court has the will to hold this President accountable to the Rule of Law—and if the public no longer has a common understanding of what “facts” are due to Trump’s lies, deceit, and his assault on the free press as “the enemy of the people”—Folks—this is how dictators get started.

Let me circle back to my personal plea to you.  I know that I don’t have to convince any of you that Trump’s attacks on democratic institutions are unlike anything we have ever seen. I see my purpose here today as reminding you in this room —that you—have something to say about history repeating itself:

  • For Japanese Americans, we’ve experienced this.  —We know the consequences when there is no check and balance—on the unbridled exercise of power by a President.


  • The legal principle that the courts should bow to the will of the Executive Branch when it invokes “national security”—started during the Chinese Exclusion Act cases of 1882—was extended through Korematsu—and has been reaffirmed in Trump v. Hawaii.  This principle will again be before Courts in Trump’s manufactured “crisis” at the border. 
  • A great many Americans in the U.S. today— especially Asian Americans—Chinese, Korean—South Asian—are the direct result of 1960’s reforms in immigration policy that led to the reunification of their families—now pejoratively labeled “chain migration” — which Trump proposes curtailing. 
  • Moreover, —but for the availability of refugee visas for families running for their lives,  Asian Americans of Southeast Asian ancestry—Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, Hmong—would not be here. —Jews and other marginalized groups—certainly understand the importance of refugee visas. 

My point is that if we look back into our own family histories—we are one or two degrees of separation from the immigrants, refugees, and Muslims currently in the cross-hairs.

What are we to do?  Well, speechifying is not going to get the job done.  We need to get involved. I realize that most of us cannot travel to Maine, Colorado, Arizona, the Central Valley, or the Midwest to register voters or do voter education.

But you can support organizations— that are fighting to preserve the Rule of Law.  We can give and raise money. You have $25? Throw a party for you and your friends—ask for $25 each–$5 for the booze, and $20 to support advocacy organizations, citizenship classes, voter registration and education, etc. If you need suggestions of how you can get involved—talk to me.   

Yes, this takes commitment, it takes sacrifice, it takes some pain, and to be sure, it will take some of your time—and money.

But the country is going in a dangerous direction— history is repeating itself—

And know that in making things right— nothing is free.   

Remember the words of Frederick Douglass: — “Power concedes nothing without a demand—it never has and it never will.  You may not get all that you pay for this in this world— but you must certainly pay for all that you get.”

So today— we’re making a down payment for Justice.
No one is above the law—not even a President

We’re going to do what generations have done before us—
Stand together—
March together—
Organize together—

And do the work necessary to change this culture—
Change hearts and minds—
And take our country back.  

There is no time to lose.
Doing nothing is not an option.
Let’s —get —busy.