The Immigration Bar Loses Another Giant: Mas Yonemura

My former partner, Mas Yonemura, passed away yesterday, July 23, 2008. He was 92 years old. His wife Toshi passed away several years ago. His children, Jean, Ann and Paul survive him.

Mas was a person who left his mark, if you met him, you remember his larger than life personality. Mas was born and raised in Southern California, the son of immigrants from Japan. He graduated from UCLA, then moved to the bay area to attend law school at UC Berkeley. In his third year of law school, World War II began. While his parents were interned, Mas dropped out of school and joined the Army, where he was among the first class of the Army language school, honing his skills in Japanese to become a translator. He was in the Army through the beginning of the occupation of Japan, and then returned to complete law school and start his practice.

Upon graduating, Mas first worked in one of the first mostly African-American law firms in the bay area, where he became friends with men who eventually went on to become appellate judges, the mayor of Oakland, etc. Soon after, he decided to practice on his own, in Oakland, starting a practice that he conducted for over 50 years. At first, he was a general practitioner, and, as Japanese firms grew and came to the U.S., he was often their first attorney. For many years, he was the attorney for Japan Airlines, for local Japanese Americans and their family businesses, and for decades was the attorney for the Japanese Consulate in San Francisco. He was instrumental in the founding of the Japan Center in San Francisco. He gradually became involved in immigration law, first for persons from Japan, eventually becoming primarily an immigration attorney in the later decades of his practice. He brought a broad background in general practice and business to his immigration practice, giving him a perspective not common to our field.

Mas was active in AILA, and was one of the founders and first presidents of AILF. He worked hard to raise the funds to get the AILF going. Mas' practice often involved the transferred employees of Japanese firms, so he had special expertise in "E" visas, and often prepared the chapter on Japan for the Visa Processing Guide. He was a friend and mentor to many AILA attorneys, very generous with his time, always willing to share war stories about his cases. Mostly, he was a personality people didn't forget, who befriended his clients, adversaries, and colleagues.

Mas would "work" on Saturdays, scheduling several appointments in the morning, and then take the whole morning's calendar of clients out for a Chinese lunch, where everyone got to know each other and shared their stories. He was an old-fashioned, people-oriented lawyer, who lived his life to the fullest.

Robert Baizer

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 08072363.