Washington, DC | www.adc.org | February 20, 2018 | On the Day of Remembrance, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) honors the memory of Japanese-Americans forced into internment camps in the U.S. during World War II. This painful chapter in our history reminds all Americans of the great danger to our constitutional rights when fearmongering and prejudice infect our national politics.
On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which called on the U.S. military to exclude “any or all persons” from designated “military areas.” On March 30, after a six-day notice to pack only what they could carry, the U.S. military commenced the first forcible relocation of Japanese-Americans on Bainbridge Island near Seattle. Two hundred twenty-seven American citizens were denied due process as they were transported to internment camps in California and Idaho. An iconic photograph of a mother carrying her sleeping child is a testament to the great injury suffered by Japanese-Americans. Before the war’s end, over 120,000 Japanese-Americans would be incarcerated.
In the 1982, Congress would apologize and pay reparations to the victims of internment. The following year, the Commission on Wartime Relocation would acknowledge the “grave injustice” to U.S. citizens “executed in an atmosphere of fear and anger” that “was not justified by military necessity” but was the result of “race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.” It is important to remember, however, that very few leaders of public opinion, such as newspaper editorials, condemned internment. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the legality of forcible removal in Korematsu v. United States (1944) even though it was in violation of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment declaring “no person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Moreover, Korematsu still stands today “like a loaded weapon ready for the hand of any authority that can bring a plausible claim of an urgent need,” in the prescient words of Justice Jackson, one of the three justices who opposed internment. ADC has worked with Japanese-American organizations to defend the civil rights of persons detained without due process under the pretext of national security. And we support the passage of Senate Res. 387, which would declare January 30, 2018 as “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.”
In preserving the memory of past injustice, we safeguard our nation from ever again enacting the un-American policy of internment. Today, Arab and Muslim-Americans often face similar accusations of disloyalty and subversion as Japanese-American once did. ADC stands in solidarity with our Japanese-American fellow citizens on this Day of Remembrance as we renew our commitment to uphold civil rights during peacetime and war.