Japanese students finally graduate, 60 years late

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About 60 people attended a formal graduation ceremony at the Los Angeles Trade Tech College, just under one-third of those awarded diplomas under a California law passed at the beginning of the year which grants the certificates to anyone unable to complete high school because of the US government's internal displacement programme.

Many wiped away tears as they received their documents from a Japanese- American higher education official, especially those accepting diplomas on behalf of relatives or friends who are no longer alive. The official, Warren Furutani, a Los Angeles community college district board member, said continuing fear of drawing undue attention was what had kept many of the diploma recipients away from the ceremony.

For more than half a century, he said, he had lived with the shame and consternation of being imprisoned in his own country. "It's almost like being raped," he told the Los Angeles Times. "You ask yourself, 'What did I do wrong to have this happen?' and either you decided, 'I'm mad' or you let it recede."

After the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbour in 1941, the US government rounded up nearly 120,000 people of Japanese descent - two-thirds of them US citizens - and sent them to "relocation centres" in remote parts of the West where they endured poor, overcrowded conditions and harboured growing resentment until President Franklin Roosevelt rescinded his own executive order in 1944.