65 Years Since Alien Land Law Repeal

In 1952, Sei Fujii, lawyer, civil rights activist and newspaper publisher, stood before the California Supreme Court to challenge against the Alien Land Law of 1913. Through skillful argument and mastery of the law, Fujii played a vital role in successfully overturning this unconstitutional law, which violated the “equal protection of the laws” provisions of the 14th Amendment.

Photo of Sei Fujii from the USC School of Law Class of 1911 album.

The Naturalization Act of 1870 had limited citizenship to “free white persons and Africans,” thereby prohibiting all Japanese from becoming citizens, then, under California’s Alien Land Law, alien Japanese were denied the right “to acquire, possess, enjoy, use, cultivate, occupy, transfer, transmit and inherit real property, or any interests therein.” It and subsequent revisions were passed in response to anti-Asian immigration and the economic success of Japanese truck farmers. (To partially circumvent the Alien Land Law, Japanese farmers put their properties in the name of their children, the Nisei, who were citizens by birth.)

The court’s decision was rendered on April 17, 1952. By winning his case, Issei Japanese immigrants could now legally own and lease land in the state of California. The significance of this decision cannot be denied.

To commemorate this day, the 65th anniversary of the Fujii decision, the Little Tokyo Historical Society (LTHS) and the Japanese American Bar Association have petitioned the Supreme C