Manzanar War Relocation Center, on US 395, near Lone Pine, CA.
Photo by Evan Robinson.
Seventy-five years ago today, on 19 February, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, "Authorizing the Secretary of War to Prescribe Military Areas". Roughly 120,000 American legal residents of Japanese descent -- about 70,000 of whom were American citizens -- were moved out of coastal exclusion zones and incarcerated in concentration camps. Around 14,000 residents (or citizens) of German and Italian descent, as well as some refugees, were also rounded up and jailed under EO9066.
Assembly centers were set up at convenient locations like racetracks (Santa Anita in Southern California, and Tanforan in the Bay Area) and soon housed thousands of internees. By October, ten "Relocation Centers" were set up outside the coastal exclusion zones: Manzanar and Tule Lake in California; Poston and Gila River in Arizona; Granada, Colorado; Heart Mountain, Wyoming; Minidoka, Idaho; Topaz, Utah; and Rohwer and Jerome in Arkansas. Manzanar was the first, opened in March 1942. Tule Lake was the largest, housing nearly 18,800 internees.
American citizens and legal residents had everything taken away but what they could carry, were stuffed into horse stalls and temporary housing, then moved hundreds or thousands of miles away and crammed into tar paper shacks behind barbed wire perimeters with machine gun towers.
In 1944, the Supreme Court ruled in Korematsu that the exclusion zones were constitutional, but sidestepped the question of incarceration. In 1983, Fred Korematsu's conviction was overturned because the US government had knowingly submitted false information to the Supreme Court (in other words, the government perjured itself) and that the information was material to the Court's decision. Other significant decisions upholding curfews for Americans of Japanese descent were Yasui and Hirabayashi. Both were overturned in the 1980s for the same reasons as Korematsu -- government perjury.
So far as I can tell, no Supreme Court ruling ever addressed whether or not the internment (the incarceration of tens of thousands of legal residents and citizens) was constitutional, despite the occasional news story to the contrary. Some such stories claim that Korematsu touched on the constitutionality of the internment, but the decision included the language:
"The provisions of other orders requiring persons of Japanese ancestry to report to assembly centers and providing for the detention of such persons in assembly and relocation centers were separate, and their validity is not in issue in this proceeding."
which clearly excludes the question of the constitutionality of the internment. Ex parte Endo further muddies the water by the ruling (on the same day as Korematsu) that there was "...no authority to subject citizens who are conceded loyal to its leave procedure." In other words, the government had no authority to detain citizens not proven disloyal. But they may imprison anyone for refusing to be illegally detained.
The Roosevelt administration lifted the internment orders immediately before the Korematsu and Endo rulings were announced. Public Proclamation No. 21, issued on 17 December 1944, rescinded the exclusion orders.
Legislation was signed in 1988 providing that the survivors of the internment were to be paid $20,000 in redress, and additional legislation appropriating additional funds was signed in 1992. The internees did not get their property or belongings back, and fortunes were made by complicit white Americans who bought real property for pennies on the dollar during 1942.
And if, by chance, you think we would never do this again, let me quote from Executive Order: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, issued 25 January 2017:
Sec. 5. Detention Facilities. (a) The Secretary shall take all appropriate action and allocate all legally available resources to immediately construct, operate, control, or establish contracts to construct, operate, or control facilities to detain aliens at or near the land border with Mexico.
Note that those to be detained are not "undocumented aliens" or "aliens illegally in the US", but any "aliens".
How many of you carry proof of citizenship with you at all times?
(Cross posted to Group News Blog)