February 19th 1942: Japanese internment

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Children in an internment camp

On this day in 1942 US President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order 9066 which allowed the military to relocate Japanese-Americans to internment camps. This order gave the military the power to designate certain areas as exclusion zones and to force people of Japanese descent into these camps.

 

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Executive Order 9066

Japanese-Americans were considered a national threat due the attack on Pearl Harbour which prompted the US to join World War Two. Other groups were also detained, but it was Japanese-Americans who were mostly targeted, with 120,000 being held in camps. In Korematsu v. United States (1944), the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the executive order.

 

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Boundary sign at a California camp

Those interned suffered great material and personal losses, with most losing a lot of property and some losing their lives to illness or the violence of sentries. The victims eventually received an official government apology in 1988 and reparations began in the 1990s. Reparations are an important step, but the pain and suffering inflicted by the wartime internment of Japanese communities continues to be felt in modern America. This year people across the country are commemorating the anniversary, not just due to its remaining impact on people, but also the stark reminders of how civil liberties come under threat in wartime. The Japanese experience during World War Two draws parallels to the experience of Arabs and Muslims now who can be detained under the National Defence Authorisation Act. This article explains, in better detail than I can, the modern implications of FDR’s 1942 action.

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