Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Henry Miyatake Interview VI
Narrator: Henry Miyatake
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 28, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-mhenry-06-0016

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: Well, let's actually segue into that because in 1979, two bills were introduced, the commission bill that was supported by national JACL, and then Mike Lowry introduced a bill. And they're both introduced. Only one actually got through, but why don't you talk about the Lowry bill in particular because Mike actually fulfilled his promise, his promise back in '76, when he was elected, to actually introduce a bill.

HM: Yeah. '78. Yeah. Okay. Mike's legislative aide asked us for a draft of the bill. And so Shosuke took it upon himself to draft all the attributes of the Seattle Plan into a draft bill. And he did his homework. He got documents about how to write a bill [Laughs] in Congress and all the rudimentary stuff, what entails a bill to be drafted. And he went to a lot of homework doing this. And he did put a draft together, which encompassed all the things that we wanted to do. And this was given to Mike Lowry's aide. And in turn it went to Washington, D.C., and then, whoever took that first bill and put their own language in it, it became incomprehensible. I couldn't even understand what the heck they were talking about. They did such a horrible job. And it went from a very easy-to-read, understandable, coherent write-up, to one that was written by somebody that was trying to put his own label on the fact that they were writing the bill.

TI: And this was through Lowry's office that all this happened?

HM: Yeah. And it went to a number of different interfaces, so I don't know what the heck happened. But when we got it back, I said to Shosuke, "I can't understand what this bill is about, the way it's written. Let's throw the original draft back at 'em." And that's what we did. We threw it back at 'em. But they still feel, felt inclined to change it, even though it fulfilled all the requirements for a bill in Congress. There are some attributes you have to maintain, but nonetheless... after that, I had my other problems, so I wasn't paying too much attention to it. But the way it was drafted originally, it did encompass everything that we wanted, Aleuts, the Latin American Japanese, the Germans and the Italians. And it was a very comprehensive bill. But it was altered before it was dropped into the hopper. And it went to the judicial subcommittee. And at that point, Mineta and Matsui both voted against it. So they killed it, essentially.

TI: So it died in committee...

HM: Yeah.

TI: ...the commission bill...

HM: But it had a longer history than that, because when Mineta eventually got to the point of sponsoring a bill, the first bill he wanted to look at, he called the, his legislative aide called Mike Lowry, and then they got Ruthann, and Ruthann said, "Well, here's the draft of what we used initially." And that was starting to be used as the draft of Mineta's bill.

TI: So Mineta didn't want, he wanted to see, in addition to the bill Lowry introduced, he also wanted to see the original draft that Shosuke wrote?

HM: Yeah.

TI: And how did Mineta know that that existed, do you think?

HM: Well, because I guess there was some knowledge on the part, between the conversation that was taking place between his legislative aide and Mike Lowry's aide, that there was conversations saying that, hey, there was another draft that these guys in Seattle put together. And then the problem was that they didn't understand all the constituents of the bill. So when it came to the subcommittee hearings on why are the Aleuts included? They weren't under evacuation order. They were under some other military order. And why are these Latin American Japanese included? Why are the Germans included? They didn't have the answers. So they just chopped them out automatically. And that was, to me, extreme lack of knowledge. And the fact that they weren't even willing to investigate why there was a rationale for that, led me to believe the weakest link in this whole system of legislation process is the administrative aide, and the fact that he's got limited time. He's not willing to investigate these things. Not too well interested, maybe, in the subject. More interested like a San Jose guy, interested in the career of his congressman.

TI: Right. Well, eventually the commission bill was signed into law by Carter. This was in 1980, by President Carter?

HM: Yeah.

TI: At that point, what involvement did you have? I mean you...

HM: Well, I wasn't too happy with the bill. But anyway, Frank Abe [Laughs] convinced me that I should put, collect the material I had used previously, and then use it for presentation for the commission. It must have taken him about a month to convince me. But he kept talking to me about it. So I relented, and I put the thing together and we made the presentation.

TI: So this was at the Seattle commission hearings that you presented...?

HM: Yeah, at the Seattle Community College.

TI: And then, so you testified. And I'm gonna just really fast-forward because I want to get to the UCLA conference. But I'm curious. When Reagan signed the bill in 1988, what was your reaction?

HM: I knew he'd signed it. I had no qualms. They were putting pieces in the Pacific Citizen about the fact that he was against redress and all this kind of crap. Yeah, phooey. I mean, the consequence of that bill passing, the 1.4 billion or 4 billion at most, the way we had constituted the original package for redress was way above that. And we covered everybody, including the people that died and the survivors by social security regulations, who the survivors were. And so we were talking about a budget that was maybe multiples of that. And we're talking about 1976 dollars rather than 1988, 1990 dollars, somewhere in that ballpark. Inflation had caused the depreciation of the dollar, so that people were saying, we got $20,000, said that you guys is 15,000 average, but that 15,000 represents more than $30,000 in 1988 dollars. But I mean, people are, they're just not that smart sometimes, and they don't realize some of the things that's going on. So I didn't think there was a problem of getting it passed through Congress. You need half of the 435 votes, not all of 'em. You don't need all of 'em. Couldn't care less. You're gonna compromise the bill to such an extent if you get all the unanimous vote that the bill is going to be kind of diluted. So you want something that's going to pass, not too easily, but pass with enough conditions that, favoring your side to make it effective. But I don't think the same way as other people do. So that's my own independent thought.

TI: Well, at the point when it was signed, was there any acknowledgment of the work, especially the early work that you did on redress?

HM: No, I don't think so. They didn't, they tried to, well, the present philosophy right now is that the, the word that they want to put out is the fact that redress started in 1980. They claim that the commission bill was the start of the whole redress process. Well, we would never have gotten to the commission bill itself, had not there been some homework done and some work done previous to that. But, you know that's the way the national JACL wants to look at it.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.