Japanese Internment Camps: Unlawful Containment Of U.S. Citizens

2213 words - 9 pages

During WWII Germany was not the only country that was holding their citizens without justifiable cause. Pearl Harbor on O’ahu in Hawaii was attacked by Japanese warplanes on December 7th, 1941 causing a chain reaction that would destroy thousands more lives as the war developed within the United States. The unexpected attack led many Americans to fear that there would be another surprise attack. Leaders pressured President Roosevelt to do something about the Japanese who were living in the United States at the time. Roosevelt reacted with two executive orders to handle the prospective problem. Executive order 9066 was authorized on February 19th, 1942, giving military personnel the right to organize military supervised camps for the relocation of Japanese Americans. A month later the Executive Order 9102, authorized on March 18th, 1942, started the relocation of Japanese Americans to internment camps. Soon after the order was signed, 10 relocation camps were opened and Japanese Americans were quickly relocated.
Military officials were concerned about the loyalty of Americans who were of Japanese descendants considering them to be security risks. These concerns would later be proven, in 1983, to be based more on racial bias and fear than on actual risk. The leader of the internment program, Lieutenant General John L. Dewitt, testified before congress that “A Jap’s a Jap – it makes no difference whether he is an American citizen or not.” Life in the interment camps was hard; internees were only allowed to bring a few of their possessions making it hard to adjust to their new life with nothing of their own. They were only given 48 hours to leave their homes and prepare to be ripped from everything they had ever known. Many were taken advantage of; with so little time to sell everything they owned people were able to buy their prized possessions for almost nothing.
There were many lawsuits that made it all the way to the Supreme Court including Hirabayashi vs. The United States and Korematsu vs. The United States. Fred Korematsu was born in the United States but was of Japanese decent; he decided to stay in San Leandro, California instead of relocating to his nearest internment camp, ignoring the executive order. He didn’t want to go, so he was arrested and convicted even though there was never any question that Korematsu's was a loyal citizen of the United States. In the Supreme Court Case Korematsu vs. The United States rose questions of whether the government went beyond their powers in relocating American citizens just because they were of Japanese descent. The Supreme Court decided 6-3 that the relocation order was constitutional because preventing Japanese spies from aiding in another attack on American soil outweighed Fred Korematsu’s right as a citizen. However, Korematsu's conviction was overturned on November 10, 1983 because in Korematsu's original case due to the government withholding information that would have changed the ruling in...

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