Northeastern Illinois University was chosen as the Chicago site for the historically significant Commission on the Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) hearings that took place on September 22-23, 1981. These hearings investigated the legality of Executive Order 9066, a mandate issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II that forcibly evacuated and detained over 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, two-thirds of whom were American citizens. Considered a threat to national security because of their ethnic background, the uprooted Japanese and Japanese-Americans were placed into internment camps and held for an average of three years.
The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) was created in 1980 to investigate the constitutional and ethical objections of Executive Order 9066. The CWRIC executed an official evaluation of the order and its impact on the formerly interned and their families, starting the process of reparations to the Japanese Americans for the time, property, and liberty they had lost. The CWRIC reviewed the facts and circumstances surrounding Executive Order 9066 and its impact on the affected; the Committee also sought appropriate remedies. In order to fulfill that mandate, the CWRIC held twenty days of hearings in cities throughout the United States: Anchorage, Cambridge, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. The CWRIC heard testimonies from more than 750 witnesses of the internment experience.[viii] The results of these national hearings led to the passage of the Civil Liberties Act, which was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. This federal law granted the victims of the internment a formal government apology and financial reparations for the losses they had suffered.
At the hearing, testifiers were interviewed in sets of three to seven individuals sitting on themed panels such as: Nisei experiences, Issei experiences, and military testimonies. After each panel of testimonies, members of the CWRIC commission had the opportunity to question testifiers.