Densho Digital Repository
Emi Kuboyama, Office of Redress Administration (ORA) Oral History Project Collection
Title: Joanne Chiedi Interview
Narrator: Joanne Chiedi
Interviewer: Emi Kuboyama
Location: Washington, D.C.
Date: May 20, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1020-5

<Begin Segment 1>

EK: Emi Kuboyama with Stanford University, here with Joanne Chiedi in Washington, D.C., today is May 20th. Joanne, could you start by stating your name and where you were born and raised, and then your ORA role or title?

JC: Sure. Joanne Chiedi, I was born and raised here in Washington, D.C. And the title that I ended with was Deputy Administrator for the redress program, but I started with, as the Deputy Director for the Verification Unit.

EK: So could you talk a little bit about your educational background prior to starting at the Department of Justice, and kind of your progression at the Department of Justice?

JC: Sure. So I'm a graduate from Mount St. Mary's University in sociology and criminal justice. And I started at the Justice Department as a student intern in 1982. And then when I graduated in the summer of 1983 they offered me a permanent position and I started working for the Employment Litigation Section in the Civil Rights Division. So I worked there up until 1989, and at that time, a friend of mine, a colleague at the Justice Department in the Employment Litigation Section said she was working on a detail on a program called the Office of Redress Administration. And said that, "You may want to consider applying for this job." And there was a job ad out for the Verification Unit. And my job in Employment Litigation was locating and verifying eligibility for people who were, employment discrimination cases. So we would have a consent decree, we would have the eligibility requirements, and then it was our job to find those individuals. So it was like a perfect pairing with what they needed in the redress program. So I applied for a job, I interviewed with Bob Bratt, and I was hired to start that unit. And basically, all we had were huge paper records, microfiche, and oral history from the legislation. And that's when I hired Lisa Johnson, I hired two students who sat in front of a computer and entered war records all day long, basically. So that created our database, 'cause this was all pre-internet. So there's no internet, there's only going to the National Archives, seeing what they had, bringing those paper documents back, and then entering them into a system, unless it was microfiche. So we did have microfiche readers and we were able to glean some information from there. But we were developing, basically, the criteria was set out for us, we were building a database of all the names and where an individual was either interned or where they lived at the time if they were forced to evacuate. So we were just building all that basis for the Verification Unit.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

EK: And could you talk a little bit more about how the office was staffed and how the whole verification process evolved?

JC: Uh-huh. Okay, so since it was a ten-year program, we were careful about hiring too many federal employees, because after ten years we would have to figure out what are we going to do with those employees. So we started, we were able to get a contractor on board, I believe it was Aspen Corporation, I'm not sure they still exist, or they may have been bought out by somebody else. And we had about ninety contract employees, probably ten to fifteen government employees, and that was the start of the Verification Unit. We created a hotline so that individuals could also call us, because, again, we were responsible for locating--identifying and locating. There was no requirement for the claimant to come to us. So we got a lot of calls. We had, there was a bilingual call center, and we had several people who spoke Japanese, and that really helped us continue to build that base of who were eligible. And then we knew that the community was very important for us as well. There were several major community organizations like the Japanese American Community League as well as the National... I'm going to get this wrong, NCRR, National Coalition for Redress and Reparations. And there were a few others, but those were the main ones that I worked with. And we asked them, what was the best way to locate individuals who were interned or forced to evacuate? And they said that it was really important for us to build a relationship with the community, because they had tried to do this in the 1940s. I don't remember exactly what the program was called, but people were getting, like, ten cents on the dollar. And, again, DOJ were the ones that -- and working with, then, the War Department -- who basically set the foundation and set the charge for the internment program. So we wanted to ensure them that fifty years later, or forty-five years later at that point, we were individuals, it's a different timeframe, different environment, and that we were there to help them, and certainly to also apologize for what they had gone through, hence the presidential apology letter.

So what we did with the Verification Unit was we took all of these records and we created this database called Super Mario, because Super Mario was a very, then-popular game. [Laughs] And we created a database with all the names of the individuals who were interned and all the individuals that were evacuated. But we soon found out that all of the names was incomplete, and we knew that the numbers, actuarial numbers were actually off by about five thousand, which was very conservative. But we start the verification process, and we realized that some cases were a lot more difficult to verify than others. And we also knew that we needed to work quickly because we were dealing with an older generation born in the early 1900s, and we wanted to ensure that they received a payment. Not that their beneficiaries, if they had a husband or children, wouldn't be eligible, but we wanted to give them the satisfaction of receiving a payment and an apology letter, so it was really important to us. Plus, we were charged, by appropriation and by the law, to verify and pay twenty-five thousand people a year, five hundred million dollars a year. So, again, pre-internet, developing the system for verification and payment, and we certainly wanted to make sure that everyone that we paid was eligible, we didn't want any erroneous payments, or fraudulent payments to go out. We actually worked with the FBI, they taught us how to review information coming in, to spot records that perhaps were altered or were falsified. So that was a very good educational experience with the FBI at the time, and we were working with the Social Security Administration, and they provided us with records. One was like a death master file, which would identify the people who died before the law was enacted. So, unfortunately, those individuals would be ineligible, so we were concerned about people altering birth records. So that was a very good federal relationship with the Social Security Administration, they were also able to give us addresses for people who were receiving social security benefits. So we were trying to figure out current records for this Japanese American population, matched with historical records. So there was a lot of matching of records.

And during that process, we actually realized that people who were born in Japan were born a year old, and so we had to then reconcile these birth records that were different than what we were seeing in the historical records. And then we were dealing with women who had changed their name or assumed different names, so we had name matches. So we were discovering, as we knew, that there were some, what we would call easy verification or complex verification. So we did, early on in the program, we created this unit called Special Verification, and all they did was focus on the more difficult ones. So that those that were what we call "easy to verify," all the records matched what was coming in, we were able to pay those individuals quickly. And we had what was called a huge library at our facility, again, pre-internet, and we came up with a dot system. Because, again, we were dealing with hundreds and thousands of records. So that we insure that we had good internal controls, everyone had a file, and individuals who were what we called "good to go" had a green dot. If you were in "special verification" you had a yellow dot, because there was caution, we had to ensure that things were okay. And unfortunately, if you had a red dot, you were ineligible for payment. So we had this... it wasn't very sophisticated at all, but we wanted to keep things very simple because it was a complicated program.

EK: And these dots were the stickers that you actually put on...

JC: These dots were the stickers, yeah. And then what became the big brown envelope, we let people know, "If you receive a big, brown envelope" -- because we didn't want the envelopes to look like any other envelope -- so we said, "If you receive a big brown envelope from the Office of Redress Administration, please pay attention to it. Don't throw it out, it's from the government, but pay attention to it." And inside it we had another big brown envelope, because we certainly didn't want them to have to pay for postage. And so that always became a joke or a talking point out on the road, because people would say, "I received my big brown envelope," we're like, okay, that's a good thing. And then the check would also go in a big brown envelope. So we just came up with very simple processes for, again, ninety contractors who really became... they were contractors that, they became pretty much part of the federal workforce. We used to call it the "Mini United Nations" because they had such diverse backgrounds. Which was really nice, because, from a cultural perspective, that's what we were dealing with, with the Japanese American community as well. It was a lot of different cultures that we had to be very sensitive to. So even in our five days, actually, seven days a week work environment, because we worked a lot, because we had such a mandate, and it was okay, because we had a great mission. But it helped us continue just to realize what we were doing every day, just to see our small United Nations and what we were dealing with from a public perspective. That's how we started.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

EK: So over the course of the ten-year program, I would imagine that the process evolved as more people ended up in special verifications, could you talk a little bit more about how the verification process evolved as well as how the staffing and structure evolved?

JC: So as we got, we would read about different, let's say, professions. There was a small group of what we would learn through the, either the hotline coming in or people writing us, or through the community leaders like Sox Kitashima, we learned of individuals, let's say, who were homeless. So how do we reach the homeless? We also learned of professions like chick sexers, who would literally, that's their profession, was to determine the sex of a chick, so depends upon what box you would go in. And I say all this because maybe those individuals may have lost something that was not documented at the time from the War Department. We learned of people in Hawaii living in gulches, and we're like, "What's a gulch?" Now, they may not have been evacuated, but they lost, perhaps, their liberty. Then we learned of the 442nd, our military force, Japanese Americans who fought in the war, highly decorated unit, and we had to determine what was their loss. I remember one guy saying, "I lost a pair of shoes, a shirt and a girlfriend." And so we're like, okay, I can work on your eligibility on the first two, but not the last, and said I was really sorry that he had lost a girlfriend. And then, through our community outreach and through our workshops, because we conducted probably a hundred workshops across the country where we brought our computers loaded with all the historical documentation, plus people's names, and we would verify them on the spot, which was really cool.

And we learned of a group called the Japanese Peruvians who were forced, mostly there were men first who were forced out of their country with the notion that they were going to be repatriated back to Japan, and then we would, in turn, get American soldiers who were in prisoner of war camps, but that never worked out. So you had individuals, several, and then their family members who were forced to repatriate to the United States, and they didn't enter the country legally. So one of the requirements of the program, which was permanent resident status, I think it was 1924, if I'm not mistaken. So that was an issue that we had to deal with. And again, people who just didn't have the documentation, because these were war records that were created not with the intent of paying reparations. So we had people in Texas, most of our cases were in the Midwest or the western part of the country. And Crystal City, Texas, had a small group of mostly men who were interned, so again, that was off our radar a little bit. So there were things that were not within our vision initially, but our vision then expanded because we realized other people were impacted during the redress program. So it's a loss of liberty, loss of property. So they basically had to fit into those buckets. With the Japanese Peruvians, we did work on the Hill, we did a lot of work on the Hill. Worked on the Hill about expanding the Civil Liberties Act to include this population, which was about five thousand at the time. And in working with Janet Reno, she was a great supporter of the program and very compassionate. And through working with the community leaders, through working with the department, through working the committee members on the Hill, we were able to carve out adding the Japanese Peruvians' eligibility, but not all of them. So some were able to actually get the full twenty thousand dollar payment and some were able to get a five thousand dollar payment. And it became an appropriation issue really at that juncture. So although they had suffered all the consequences of that executive order at the time, because of the eligibility requirement, they didn't receive the full compensation. Which was really hard, because you had some family members who were eligible, you had other family members who were not, but you were listening to all of their stories and they were all the same. But the compensation was different, but they did receive an apology letter, so hopefully that helped. And some of the instances that struck me when we were doing our workshops was because the elders did not talk about what happened during World War II, you had grandchildren just sitting there wide-eyed learning for the first time that their grandparents were interned. And some of the, even the children, because they were so young, learning the full experience of what happened, so that was very interesting as well.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

EK: Could you talk a little bit more about specifically where you went when you conducted outreach?

JC: So I went to California too many times for me to remember. I probably conducted -- it's not an exaggeration because I worked in the program for the entire time -- at least a hundred workshops. I traveled a tremendous amount of time. So a lot in L.A., San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento, because there were big strawberry farms in Sacramento, so a lot of people lost, not only did they lose their liberty and they were interned, but they also lost their property. Where else did I go? Glendale, California, was a large population as well... where else did I go?

EK: Seattle?

JC: Well, yes, state of Washington, spent a lot of time in Seattle. It was funny, we were looking at, of course, a lot of addresses, and there was a large population that lived on this block, and we were like, oh my god, this must be the longest block in the world. But we realized there was a retirement home, an assisted living facility, and we were like, "Oh, that makes sense." So we spent a lot of time in assisted living facilities, nursing homes, in church basements, wherever we needed to go in order to verify someone and to talk to the community to learn more of what we needed to keep an eye on from an eligibility perspective. Portland, Oregon, spent a lot of time there. Hawaii numerous times, just because the situation was very, it was complex in Hawaii, given the bombing of Pearl Harbor and what were you going to do, evacuate the whole island? There was a large population of Japanese Americans, so there was a lot of nuance. They were in that Special Verification bucket, they had that yellow sticker dot on their folder. But many turned green, so we were happy, green meant good to go, ready for payment.

EK: What about outside of the West Coast?

JC: Let me think, where did I go?

EK: Arizona?

JC: I went to Arizona, yes, I spent a lot of time, it seemed like in Phoenix was the big area.

EK: Because remember the line went right down the middle of the city.

JC: That's right, that's right. Yeah, it was interesting and fascinating, some of the thinking and theories behind the internment program and the evacuation program. Unfortunately, there weren't a lot of government officials, given their age, that we could actually interview other than historians who provided us some input. Yeah, Phoenix, Arizona, let me see if I wrote down some areas and don't remember. But I think those were the big areas. Because what would happen is we would... again, reputation and trust was really important. So some of us had the cities that we went to a lot, because we started getting name recognition as well. You know, like, "You want to go to that meeting with Joanne, she will help you out." We started work at eight o'clock in the morning, sometimes seven, depending upon, because people wanted to get us, if it was over weekends, before they went to church, 'til nine o'clock at night.

EK: Can you talk about kind of those early years where you and Bob, I believe, used to go out on the road and conduct the first rounds of outreach?

JC: Yes. So we went out on the road, and what we basically, again, garnering their trust, who we were, what our role was in the program, what we wanted to achieve, why it was important to us to talk to the community and for them to talk to us. So we used to come with props, like, here's our computer, and here's what we're going to bring to verify you. Your names are in here, and what we need you to bring during our workshops, and it was all the eligibility requirements, and usually was a driver's license or a birth certificate. That's basically it, really, that's all we needed. We needed to know where they lived currently and where they were born, to establish citizenship, because we had the records back then which was called Immigration and Naturalization Service, the INS. And then if you had a name change, your marriage certificate. So we wanted to tell them what to expect, and then we had a big brown envelope saying, "This is what you're going to get in the mail, the sooner that you're able to give us this information, the faster we can verify you. If you gave us copies, please send a certified copy of the record. Please try not to send us the originals," although people did, and we did mail back everything if people sent us the originals. But it was really setting up the expectation and letting them know that we're trying to streamline the process as much as possible. That if they didn't have that information, we were setting up a requirement that they could basically give us a statement signed under the penalty of perjury of law, and we would take their word as long as they were willing to sign it under penalty of perjury. So, again, we were trying to make it as easy as possible, we didn't want to make it difficult to people who had suffered for so long to receive this acknowledgement. And I'm happy to say, we were audited every year, I don't remember the auditing company, probably shouldn't give them a free commercial. [Laughs] But we put ineligible payments in there, we tried to trick ourselves. Of course, I was in on the trick, along with Bob, and I'm happy to say we never paid anyone that we should not have paid. There was only maybe two or three incidents of individuals who we caught in time. So knock on wood, everyone who deserved the payment received it.

But again, it was developing that relationship. I mean, I discovered sushi during that time period. We had a lot of wonderful meals with the community. We really wanted to... it wasn't a nine to five job, we never cut anyone off, we never said, "Oh, it's past nine o'clock, we can't help you." As a matter of fact, if people wanted to meet us at six o'clock in the morning, we did it. So it was really to gain their trust and confidence that we were there to help them. And through that, it wasn't just community leaders, we had even individuals that would say, "Hey, I think my neighbor is eligible but doesn't want to come forward, can you help them?" And yeah, we don't want to force anyone, but perhaps we sent them a personal letter or note saying, "You might be eligible, we found your record if you want to contact our office." So it was a tremendous amount of personal time and acknowledgement that we're from the government, but we're here to rectify a wrong, and that you can trust us, is the basic message.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

EK: So in addition to working with the community leaders and having these outreach efforts, what other means did you use? Press releases, reaching out to the media?

JC: We did a lot of media, but media was so different then. So we worked on Japanese American vernaculars, like anything that they read in their community. So a lot of messaging in the community, a lot of messaging at churches, lot of messaging in communities, programs that they were interested in, so it was a lot of where they go. It didn't make sense to have large announcements, let's say, in the New York Times or the Washington Post, although we did, but we really focused on community. Community was major in the Japanese American community back then. I mean, hopefully it still exists today, but it was an organization of people who really knew who their neighbors were, were in tune with what was going on, and understood what we were trying to achieve. A lot of radio announcements, again, with regards to targeting whoever the radio announcer or star was at that time, or whatever program that people listen to. Lot of press releases, but again, back in the community. So we used media and print, probably print more than anything. We would have loved to have had Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, probably would have posted a lot of pictures with permission. All those tools that avail today would have been just fantastic. I mean, the internet would have been unbelievable had those war records been online. And NARA, I mean, NARA was a big... although we didn't use them to promote what we were doing, the information at the National Archives was just stunning. And even to read local print and paper, with fewer "Japanese American," just reading the word "Jap," and reading articles about needing to fear your neighbors, and some of the characters were just, it was stunning. So we knew, going in, what we needed to overcome, and so we were very sensitive to that. Like if we had an acronym, we need to really look at that acronym. Because the records that we created, I mean, if you were eligible, you'd have your own file, you'd have all your records and all the research that we had completed. And we had a very in-depth complaint form that we used, and we were very sensitive about our notes and what we documented. Because you, now, you can receive your documents, so we were sensitive to that. But we used every tool that was available to us. I mean, no rock was left unturned.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

EK: So you mentioned archival research, can you just talk a little bit more about when the need to do additional archival research might have arisen and what was found?

JC: Yeah, I think the archival research, I started in April of 1989, and that archive research started way before, like I think as soon as the bill was signed, August 10, 1988. And there was an incredible staff, I remember Alice Kale, who spent a lot of time at the National Archives, she actually came up with the notion like, we can have this simple verification process if you had an internment record or a government record, a record of where you evacuated from. My time was spent very early on when I started in April of '89, I went to the National Archives here, I went in California, I went in Seattle, I went in every state. Basically, wherever I was, if they had an archive, I was in their library, because every one was a little different. And no one thought I would go back to the library after graduating school, but I was there. And we actually found some nuances, like we sort of realized about the Japanese Peruvians, we discovered the Hawaiians that lived in these parts of the island where their movement was restricted or they lost property. We found out about Crystal City, Texas, because usually what they would do is they'd take the men, the FBI would come or the War Department would come and they would, if there was a man in the household, or a young man in the household, they would take them out of the house, and then their family would follow. So we found out about all of these pockets of individuals that were not in the original Act. But it was... I mean, I spent hours at the National Archives, and again, just amazing, the records that were there. Presidential letters, Roosevelt letters, letters between Roosevelt and the attorney general and the head of the War Department, mayors, governors. Because we had an issue with people who were fired from the railroad, Japanese Americans who were railroad workers, and we were trying to determine if they were fired because of a presidential order or because it was a decision that the Union, I think it was Union Pacific at the time, made. And we never found anything from the government.

EK: And that was important because the eligibility required federal government action.

JC: Right, right. So we tried, we interviewed many railroad workers, Union Pacific executives at the time, people who may have some knowledge. But again, this was a class of individuals, unfortunately, you somewhat knew, but you knew that they were not going to be eligible. I remember one letter that Roosevelt, President Roosevelt had. It was like this documentation, because there was discussions about interning Italian Americans and German Americans. And later there was a redress of Italian Americans, but it was a report that we put together. And I remember vividly reading this letter and saying that if you were to intern the Italian Americans, what would happen to our opera houses and our restaurants? And hey, I'm an Italian American, I was shocked at reading that, I was surprised. And how are we going to determine if they are Italian or Irish or some other descent? Because even during the internment period, I remember this one kid, maybe you'll remember his name because someone mentioned him, I think he was... was he Filipino?

EK: I think he was Mexican American.

JC: Mexican American, and he went to the internment camp; that's where his friends were. And I don't know if he was forced to leave at some time, but I just remember that story.

EK: I think he was, they eventually found out and he was asked to leave.

JC: Yeah, so that was interesting. But there were some, like, Chinese Americans, Philippine Americans, they were just gathered up, and it was sad.

EK: So I just wanted to clarify one point about the archival research. So this is not online research.

JC: No.

EK: What did it look like?

JC: Okay, so it looked like a lot of paper that you had to be very careful with, because acid started already basically crumbling the paper. I mean, it was binders and folders and boxes. I just remember hundreds of boxes, a lot of paper cuts on your fingers. Had we been smarter, we probably would have worn some type of gloves, which I'm surprised they didn't make us wear any type of gloves because of the oil on our hands and everything, naturally. But it was literally reading hundreds and hundreds of pieces of paper, and when you think about reading a lot of documents, you would get sleepy, but we weren't sleepy one bit. Because what you were reading, if anything, your eyes were wide open. You're reading history that I'd never learned when I was in school. I think now they're starting to teach what happened during World War II, but I think we were so ashamed of what we did to citizens of our country. But it was almost like reading history books of something that I was not aware of until I became part of the redress program.

EK: So you have young kids, so have not spoken to them about the work that you did in this area yet?

JC: Oh, yeah. I mean, my kids are three and five. [Laughs]

EK: But at some point?

JC: Oh, yeah. No, the five year old, I think what I do with them is more of tolerance, of just, "all people are different, they have different backgrounds, they have different traditions, we all don't look the same, and we have to respect our diversity," is basically my message. Oh, I will proudly tell them what I've done in this program, I mean, it's unbelievable. And even here, working here, my colleague asked me if I would sit and talk to his daughter who was doing a thesis on the redress program. And I thought, wow, that's really great. Because movies and things of that nature didn't come out 'til later, I was just like, this is really cool. It's getting the attention it needs, and I started reading about how it's now being part of elementary school education and high school, because there's more information out there that we probably haven't even... I'm pretty sure I touched almost every piece of paper that had to do with the redress program, I'm pretty confident about that. Between boxes and microfiche, which I'll never forget the sound of people going through microfiche, there's a distinct sound of the machine.

EK: Because we had them set up in the office.

JC: Oh, we had, like, dozens of machines and people sitting in front of them all day long. But I'm proud, though, to say, the War Department, now Department of Defense, kept unbelievable records. The detail of those records really created the basis of the redress program.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

EK: So I'd like to move now to the first check presentation ceremonies. Can you talk a little bit about what those were like?

JC: Nervous. So we sent invitations out to, I think the top, may have been top fifty or a hundred individuals that we paid. Of course, we paid the eldest first and worked our way down, because again, we really wanted to pay, we didn't want anyone to pass away who was alive on August 10, 1988. We wanted them to experience the apology letter from the President, three Presidents, actually, I think, through the program, and the twenty thousand dollar payment. We sent out invitations for individuals to come to this ceremony here in Washington at the Department of Justice, and Attorney General Dick Thornburgh was there to also present checks. So it was a lot of coordination with the community leaders, we brought a lot of community leaders in, it really was a celebration ceremony for them, not for us. And the oldest woman who came in for her redress check was a hundred and seven years old, and she's pictured over there. And I'll never forget Dick Thornburgh kneeling down, presenting the presidential apology, it was just... I don't think there was a dry eye there, it was great. I even get sentimental thinking about it. But I wanted to remember her name, so I think I actually looked it up, so let me see if I can give her credit. Because traveling here at a hundred and seven is a pretty unbelievable thing. Oh, I thought I wrote it down, may have to follow up. But it's somewhere, it might even be in the, some notes in there. But a hundred and seven, there was a woman or man at a hundred and five, a hundred and two, so it was a hundred club in the ceremony there. But it was a celebration of the program and the people. And then I think we had two check ceremonies, if I'm not mistaken, or a couple, maybe two or three. And it really was for the individual to know that, as a government, it meant a lot to us, so we wanted to celebrate those events, and they were well-received. And it was, again, another way for us to basically use those programs to also reach out to others who might be eligible. So that was another way of getting the word out that we're open for business, and please contact us if we haven't contacted you.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

EK: You mentioned in passing earlier that there were other people who were considering redress or reparation programs. Do you remember what other groups might have approached ORA to discuss how the program operates?

JC: Yeah. So I was approached... so this must have been in the mid-1990s, and it had to do with, I think it was in Nevada where it was testing of nuclear... nuclear testing from the, not the War Department, Defense, it was... what was it? Something to do with nuclear waste or nuclear testing. And they were asking us, is that what you're asking?

EK: Well, I was also thinking about the Tuskegee Airmen (study).

JC: Yes, well, that's another one. But there were two, actually.

EK: And wasn't there a Black Farmers from the Agriculture --

JC: Black Farmers from the Agriculture. So we'd get calls, and we'd get calls about how did you do this and what did you do, and how did you even create a basis or a foundation? And my first question would be what's your eligibility requirements, because it makes a big difference whether people have to apply to you in order to be eligible or if you had to find them. And our program was unique as far as having to identify and locate the individuals. So most already had records, most had to apply for relief or reparations, but I think my main message was, get to know the community, if this is something that the government did to them, then you need to gain their confidence and trust, and you need to show your compassion for the program, and you just need to be really honest. If you were ineligible, we showed a lot of compassion, and we did our best to find a way within the law to see what was the oversight of not creating this class. And if people know you tried your best, and that you communicated this issue, or perhaps this oversight with those who can change something in the program or change the law. Then at least you had their respect, that you just didn't give up and say, "You're not eligible. Next." And people who are wrong, you don't want to create that divisiveness, I would say. I know that's a strong word, but that's what it is, it's them and government. And so show your compassion, create a system of record, make sure you pay those who are only eligible, because one thing that would kill your program is paying ineligible people. Not only from a government oversight perspective, but from a complainant perspective. You're wasting resources, and we had a budget of 1.6 billion dollars, 1.64, I think, at the end, billion dollars. We had ten years, we had to pay twenty-five thousand a year, so you wanted to make sure you were paying those who were wronged. But I think compassion and outreach were my main messages to those individuals. This is not a paper process, and if you don't go see, feel, and get a sense of who you're trying to pay, then you're going to lose sight of your mission. That was my main message.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

EK: So you've touched upon this throughout the interview, but I was wondering, in your broad experience, what's unique about what happened at ORA or the way that DOJ kind of handled this?

JC: We really felt our mission. We knew it wasn't a piece of paper, we knew it wasn't an entry in a computer system. It wasn't about us and it wasn't about our achievements, although we achieved a lot, I mean, we were able to verify people within five years of the program, half the timeframe, which then allowed us to really focus on the people who didn't fit neatly within the requirements. And we didn't close the door. That year of August 1998, August 10th, we waited 'til the bitter end because we just didn't, again, want to leave any rocks unturned. It was about the mission and the people. We told the stories, especially with the contractors who were not, they didn't go out to the community outreach programs. We came back and told them stories of what we were, who we were working with and what we were doing and why it was so important. And they felt it, it was palatable. It was a palatable mission, we were dealing with people, we were dealing with people who were senior citizens, and we needed to right a wrong in government. So it was that message over and over again, we had signs up with regards to what that message was. We brought back letters from individuals, and even the people who were working on the verification process, whether they were federal employee or contractor, also received letters. So although maybe the contractors weren't able to go out in the field, they received thank you notes from people, and it meant something. So passion went both ways. We were passionate about what we were doing, and the community leaders and the people, ordinary people, who wanted to help their neighbors, were passionate about seeing justice served. So it was just a great experience.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

EK: So since your work at ORA happened pretty early in your thirty-five plus years of federal government, both at Justice and your current role at HHS, how did your experience working at ORA impact you in your later roles in government?

JC: So I think I was always looking for that moment of working with a group of people, you didn't have say what your mission is. Like, they knew. We have people... you interviewed Aaron Zajic, and you're going to interview Martha Watanabe, but they worked overnight. They used to sleep in their offices in order to ensure someone was paid. We worked seven days a week, and I remember one summer when I first started, Bob Bratt actually got angry with me because he was like, "Why didn't you put any overtime in? I've got, the Department of Labor just said I have an employee, union employee, who was not compensated." I didn't even know I was part of the union. I was like, "I don't know, I had a mission," I worked seven days a week. And what happened was, other people were putting in for overtime, and I just remember getting this lump sum payment in my paycheck, going, wow. I was a GS-11 at the time when I started. So I think I was always looking for mission and people. Because you can have a great mission, but if you're not working with people who understand what your mission is, then it's not fun, and work can be fun. So I always was looking for that type of work, and my role after the redress program started sunsetting, I was like, what am I going to do with these great people? The contractors went on to other contracts, but I had over about twenty core federal employees. And some found other jobs within the government, but what we created in the Civil Rights Division at the time was the Litigation Support Group. Because there was a need for our civil rights work to be augmented by professionals who knew, and then technology started to come to be, thank god for the internet, and really knew how to identify, locate, knew how systems work, and we were able to convert those individuals into litigation support specialists. We created a business... like redress, we created something that didn't exist. So we knew what was needed to build that foundation. So I loved working, I directed Litigation Support, because again, we were finding individuals who were discriminated against, senior citizens, people with disabilities who were in institutions, a mission of helping people with the power of the federal government, it's pretty amazing.

And then I left Justice, and then they found us -- to go back a little bit -- Congress passed the reparations bill for Italian Americans, so they found me, "Would you like to work on this?" and I said, "Of course, I would love to." It was a report, there was no presidential apology reparations check, but again, going out to the community, and we found there, we found individuals whose husbands were taken away from them. Heartbreaking stories there as well, although they weren't interned, they had a loss. And again, it wasn't the volume of Japanese Americans, certainly, but you had people coming in from Ellis Island looking at the Statue of Liberty, then placed in an internment camp. Again, mostly men, it wasn't at that degree, but what I remember about that report, it was right after, right about the time... because the report was due in November, and then 9/11 happened in September. So think about the nuances of 9/11 after it happened, and the fear of Muslim Americans, and then you had this report going out with Italian Americans, and this fear, and then my background with Japanese Americans and that fear, so I thought, oh my god, it's like there are nuances of so many similarities. And thankfully our government handled it very differently than what they did in the past. So fast forward, I left the Justice Department in 2005 and I came to the Department of Health and Human Services to work in the Office of Civil Rights. And again, a program ensuring that Health and Human Services benefits are received from individuals, needy children, foster kids, people in, again, retirement homes, nursing homes, ensuring that they're receiving benefits free of discrimination.

And then in 2010 I came here in the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services, and I thought I never would work in an inspector general's office, because typically your mission is internally within your department. But here what we do is we fight fraud, waste and abuse and we ensure efficiency and effectiveness and economy in our programs, but we touch one in five Americans, one in three children. And our role is to ensure that services provided to beneficiaries young and old are free of fraud, waste and abuse. And, of course, you can work out what's going on on the opioid epidemic, we're on the forefront of that, we have law enforcement here, and what we called the gun-toters, federal investigators, we have auditors, we have evaluators, we have attorneys, we have a small law firm, we have a huge, chief data office, again, something that would never exist. But it's the same thing, it's the same way of what I did in redress and what I do here. I go out and I talk to the community, I go out and who are the nonprofit organizations out there that can help me ring the bell to the communities that we touch, our dollars, it's a third of our economy. Think about FDA, NIH, CDC, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, how can we ensure that dollars are well spent, and that people are receiving quality of care. And unfortunately, elderly are still being taken advantage of, people with disabilities, so it almost brings back all of my knowledge and expertise into this program. It's a great way, my thirty-five-year career, and people here are so mission palatable. Again, they're a great group of people, and I'm like, oh my god, this is redress all over again, so it's been a great journey.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

EK: So since starting with the federal government in the early 1980s...

JC: Thank you for reminding me. [Laughs]

EK: I had to throw that in there. You've witnessed and been working through kind of a number of the administrations, right? What strikes you as unique about the creation of ORA and the operation of it having spanned both kind of the Republican and Democratic administrations? And I know we had to go back for additional funding...

JC: I find that people are the same, it's just different programs. It's different decades, I guess I can say now, since I've spanned three decades, I never thought I'd say that. People want to do the right thing, politicians want to do the right thing, people who are elected in the executive office want to do the right thing, and the way you do the right thing is listen to the citizens of this country. So listening to their needs and what needs to change and what has to happen, I've learned that the two branches, the legislative branch and the executive branch are two important powerful branches, and they each had different roles, but they do work together. You can't believe everything you read, that's what I've learned having been misquoted a lot in different newspapers. At the end of the day, there's a reason why we're called the United States. We want to unite people, we want to do the right thing, we want our laws to work. And when they don't work, what can we do to change that? And I learned that you have to give people a chance, and you really have to listen. You can't believe everything you read, sometimes you can't believe everything you hear the first time. But through your own research, and through your own experiences, and through talking things out, that you always can make the best decisions. Sometimes people get real upset about different issues, or they get very impassioned about something, because they read something, or they get misquoted, or maybe you say something that's not really clear. I find if you take the time, through the internet, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, pick up the phone. What I've learned is you pick up the phone or you get out from behind your desk and you go talk to someone. You look in their eyes and you have a conversation. And when you're able to do that, either you get your message across, you're able to diffuse something that should have never have happened initially. But if people see that you care just as much as they do, either about furthering something or about clarifying something, the relationship is much better and you can move forward. Sometimes we just focus on things that are not reality or are misunderstandings, and you waste a lot of time doing that. Just because we have, we put someone behind federal prison, like, let's say, a doctor who is pretty much a drug dealer, he runs a pill mill operation. Not all doctors are bad, and not all people who need opioids are bad, are mistreating them, so you can't just lump everything into one. So I've learned to be calm when faced with an issue, and to kind of sit back and really think about what's going on, and pick up the phone and talk to different people that I believe are either part of the issue, or may have had past experiences. Because there's a lot of wisdom out there that I always like to gain when I'm dealing with something. So being calm and not reacting, I think the redress, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor there was just such a reaction to do something quickly, and I think that that was my lesson, just to sit back and be calm about things a little bit.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

EK: So what would you say are kind of the biggest personal impacts that you've had as a result of working with ORA?

JC: Personally, it made me, personally, a better person and realizing... it really just widened my eyes to what could happen if you're not careful. So, again, to be paced and measured, I wish I could say it helped me not work long hours, but I think that's just innate in me, and I always try to, I'm finding that work-life balance. But again, to give people a chance, like you're not always physically or just visibly, you may not see someone, because someone's coming at you, they look different. And because they look different doesn't mean they are different. I think it just gave me that awareness that everyone deserves a chance, and that you should not base people on the color of their skin or what they do or where they come from. And it just broadened my mind because I had not been exposed to that, really. I mean, I live in Washington, D.C. I live in the political capital, and it really does, from a policy perspective, I come into any job or any interaction, personal interaction, I give everyone that I meet, I know that everyone's not the same and I actually rejoice in that, because diversity is what makes our culture. I don't know, when I think about redress and my life then, it actually is a calming experience, because I feel like we've really changed a community of people that mistrusted us, and that's pretty powerful.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

EK: Are there any others whose contributions you want to mention or point out?

JC: Okay, so I mentioned Alice Kale, who was just unbelievable. I mean, she really was the backbone of the creation of the start of the verification. And then there was Valerie O'Brien, who was our attorney at the time, who worked with the Hill and worked with a lot of these statutory requirements. And, again, hard worker, sharp as a whip, just wonderful person. I know you're interviewing Tink Cooper, I'm trying to think of folks that you may not have... there are several individuals that I wish I could remember all of their names who worked on the outreach part of it and from a media perspective, but I'm terrible with names. [Laughs] There's a lot of unsung heroes probably, but everyone, Eileen...

EK: Fukuda?

JC: Fukuda, yeah, was another one who worked with the verification group. Oh, Paul Suddes, he was the first Deputy Administrator of the program, and he had the hard job of sending out ineligibility letters, so that was unfortunate.


EK: So I understand that you worked pretty extensively with Bob Bratt in the early years. Could you talk a little bit about that time?

JC: Okay. So Bob hired me, and I do remember going into his office, and at that time, he was the executive officer of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, and he also had this role of the administrator of the redress program, so he had two jobs. And he was in his mid-thirties, had a lot more hair, I have to give him a little bit of a hard time. But just a tremendous amount of energy. And I actually remembered seeing a picture of his family behind him as he was interviewing me, and his brother, who I kept looking at going, I know his brother. Why do I know his brother? Well his brother, Keith, and I, would walk, we'd basically leave work together, we worked in different places, but we went to the same metro. He was a really nice guy, and it was nice, also during that time period, Ninth and Pennsylvania was still going through a transition. And I was like, oh my god, it's such a small world, so in our interview, I was like, "Is that your brother, or who is that?" So I happened to know Bob only through his brother, but I also remember, one, just a nice, incredibly smart guy, young, and I remember this huge office. And I thought, wow, because, again, I'm a GS-11, he's an executive officer, like the CEO of the Civil Rights Division. I thought, I would like to be in his role one day. But I would say Bob was always a mentor and coach, and I still hold on to some of his mentoring and coaching and just the way he deals with people. So, again, he's very gregarious, he is a people person, he's very funny. So if you're nervous, he will help you be comfortable in an environment, but I remember when I was interviewing with him, he took out of his top pocket a yellow sticky. And on that yellow sticky he had, "Our mission is to identify, locate and pay Japanese Americans who were interned during World War II." And I learned from him after that, everything was on a sticky note. And if you weren't able to articulate your message and it didn't fit on a sticky note, then no one would remember. If you're going to sit there and talk for hours and hours or just drone on, you're going to tune people out. So really fine tune your mission, be passionate about what you're doing. And if people tell you a story, or this is their recollection of what's going on, listen to them. Don't say, "No, you're wrong, that's not what I understand, this is not what's in our record," listen. Take the time to listen, don't challenge. Because you're from the government and they'll just see you with all the power and with all the cards in your hand, and they won't feel empowered. So in this program it was really important to be a good listener, to understand what your mission was, to understand you're talking to people who probably haven't talked about this experience for forty years. And again, it's probably the first time that the family members are hearing this experience. So be compassionate and have a lot of empathy. And to this day, he is one of my best friends, and he's been that guiding light in my career. So just an unbelievable, brilliant leader, who really, the attorney general at the time hired the right person for this job. We were lucky.

EK: Thanks, Joanne.

JC: Sure.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2019 Emi Kuboyama. All Rights Reserved.