Fred Korematsu Day Celebration 2014 – Congressman Mike Honda & Jose Antonio Vargas

To view and access the video index of the program, view the video directly online at YouTube here (in the About section).

Stand_up_for_Whats_RightLast month, I had the honor to attend the annual Korematsu Day Celebration organized by The Korematsu Institute held on the campus of San Jose State University in San Jose, California. I’ve tried to attend the past few years, having attended the inaugural event back in February 2011 with Jessie Jackson at Berkeley, and last year in San Francisco with Danny Glover.

As a reminder, Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution is observed every January 30th in California (as well as in other states). Korematsu stood against the mass internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

This year, the two standout speakers were Congressman Mike Honda, who represents parts of San Jose, as well as Pulitzer prize winning journalist and undocumented activist Jose Antonio Vargas.

Congressman Honda started off with the somewhat controversial sounding statement that “immigration is legalized discrimination.” Native Americans didn’t have an immigration system and let the Pilgrims into the United States without documents. The first immigration law was passed in 1790 and  limited naturalization to immigrants who were “free white persons” of “good character. Of course, there has been historic discrimination against Asian Americans in American history, most notably, the Chinese Exclusions Act and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, which of course, is what Korematsu fought against all the way to the Supreme Court.

Jose Antonio Vargas first screened a trailer for his documentary “Documented,” which is about his experience as an immigrant, and founder of the nonprofit group Define American. Vargas is most known for outing himself as an undocumented immigrant, as he was surprised to learn himself while growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area (Mountain View, California), that he was not a U.S. citizen.

What is interesting about Vargas is that he is an undocumented Asian American who is a major voice for the undocumented, since the debate is usually around Latinos. Vargas is a Spanish last name, where Vargas is Filipino – so he said often there is a cognitive distance when people see and hear him speak. Vargas spent quite a bit of time to speak as well as a Q&A session to discuss the issues around being undocumented and how that is relevant to today’s fight for civil rights in the legacy of Fred Korematsu. Obviously, immigration reform is a major issue of our day that still needs to be addressed by our dysfunctional Congress. I hope you have a chance to watch the video, even if it is only parts of it.

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About John

I'm a Taiwanese-American and was born & raised in Western Massachusetts, went to college in upstate New York, worked in Connecticut, went to grad school in North Carolina and then moved out to the Bay Area in 1999 and have been living here ever since - love the weather and almost everything about the area (except the high cost of housing...)
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