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President Clinton Signs Wartime Violations of Italian American Civil Liberties Act

Contact: Diane E. Crespy, (202) 547-2900 dcrespy@osia.org

Washington, D.C., Nov. 8, 2000 - The Order Sons of Italy in America® (OSIA) has applauded President Clinton's signing of the Wartime Violations of Italian American Civil Liberties Act, or H.R. 2442, which asks him to acknowledge, on behalf of the U.S. government, the violation of Italian Americans' basic human rights during World War II, and requires the Justice Department to compile reports on the treatment of Italian Americans during the war.

"The Order Sons of Italy in America® is extremely pleased that President Clinton has signed this important bill into law," said Philip R. Boncore, Esq., OSIA national president. "This is a big step towards educating the American people about the full scale of World War II, and the detrimental outcome of ethnic prejudice."

According to the bill, the president is not required to make a formal acknowledgement about U.S. government actions against Italian Americans during the war, but the Justice Department has one year to compile detailed reports regarding the events.

OSIA, the largest and longest-existing organization of American men and women of Italian heritage, has been an active supporter of the bill since Reps. Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.) and Elliot Engel (D-N.Y.) introduced it July 1, 1999. OSIA members and National Executive Director Philip R. Piccigallo testified on Oct. 26, 1999, to the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution and have continuously advocated to Congress for the bill, which passed the Senate on Oct. 19 and the House of Representatives Oct. 24.

During World War II more than 600,000 Italian Americans lost their jobs, had household items such as radios confiscated, and were moved to internment camps, forced to remain within five miles of their home, subjected to curfews, separated from their families, forced to carry enemy alien identification cards, put on trial, and treated as a threat to national security despite the lack of any evidence indicating they were involved in espionage.

Though many Americans are aware of the Japanese-American internment during the war, the internment of Italian Americans remains largely unknown. There is no mention in history textbooks; the tragic episode is not included in World War II documentary or historically based Hollywood films. Few realize that even baseball great Joe Di Maggio's father was forced to give up his livelihood, fishing, even though his sons had served in the U.S. armed forces.

OSIA has also been a strong supporter of a traveling exhibit that brought to light the civil rights violations of Italian Americans' civil liberties. "Una Storia Segreta," or "A Secret Story," was created by the American Italian Historical Association, Western Regional Chapter and contains letters, memorabilia, artifacts, and photos that tell the story of the internment.

For more information on the Order Sons of Italy in America®n and its other initiatives and programs, please visit OSIA's official Web site www.osia.org, email nationaloffice@osia.org, or call (202) 547-2900.