Making Amends for Korematsu

The 1944 ruling validated FDR's order to relocate and imprison 120,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants during World War II.


If there is a silver lining to the Supreme Court's summer ruling in Trump v. Hawaii, which upheld President Donald Trump's ban on travel from predominantly Muslim countries, it's that the Court finally denounced its own error in Korematsu v. United States. That 1944 ruling validated Franklin Delano Roosevelt's order to relocate and imprison 120,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants during World War II. It has been a blight on the Supreme Court's record ever since.

Signed by FDR in February 1942, Executive Order 9066 was a brutal and authoritarian document rooted in fear, racial prejudice, and sweeping generalizations unsupported by the data then available to policy makers.

After the Japanese navy's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, fear of a West Coast invasion seized California. The state was home to a large population of Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants, who had made their way east after the Meiji Restoration of 1868 repealed a centuries-old law prohibiting Japanese citizens from emigrating. Many of those newly liberated Japanese settled in California, where they quickly aroused the same paranoid anti-immigration sentiments seen in other parts of the U.S. at the turn of the 20th century.

What did Californians of Western European descent fear? What nativists have always feared: competition. They worried that the Japanese would out-reproduce them; that, if allowed to own land, they would become wealthy at the expense of whites; and that the traditions they brought with them would corrupt American culture.

In response to these concerns, California passed the Alien Land Law of 1913, which prohibited non-citizens from owning property or even signing long-term leases. This restricted Japanese immigrants—many of whom could not obtain citizenship under the terms of the 1790 Naturalization Act—to lower-level farming jobs and short-term housing arrangements. Amendments to the law in 1920 and 1923 codified further deprivations, and then, after Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1924, Californians were able to close their state almost entirely to Asia.

When the smoke cleared in Hawaii, it was easy for white Americans on the Pacific coast to see their Asian neighbors as potential subversives—not because Japanese Americans openly worshipped Emperor Hirohito, but because they'd already been dehumanized by decades of anti-immigrant politicking. While no loyal American cheered the attack on Pearl Harbor, some citizens used the threat of sabotage as a vehicle to advance their pre-existing prejudices against the Japanese.

Lieutenant General John L. Dewitt was responsible for securing the West Coast during World War II. Relying "heavily on civilian politicians rather than informed military judgments," according to a later investigation, he incorporated citizens' longstanding resentments into a February 1942 report to FDR in which he recommended "excluding" Japanese immigrants and their family members from the West Coast of the United States.

"In the war in which we are now engaged, racial affinities are not severed by migration," Dewitt wrote. "The Japanese race is an enemy race." He saw no reason to believe that Japanese Americans, "barred from assimilation by convention…will not turn against this nation when the final test of loyalty comes." That none had yet betrayed the U.S. was, in his opinion, "a disturbing and confirming indication that action will be taken."

In hindsight, we know that Dewitt was wrong about the military threat posed by people of Japanese descent. The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, formed by Congress in 1980, found no substantiated accounts of sabotage or subterfuge by Japanese Americans living in California during the war. But the public mood at the time would brook no sober analysis on such things—so when Dewitt suggested that FDR begin rounding up Japanese Americans and moving them east to prevent communications with the enemy abroad, the president was all too happy to oblige.

Any person born in Japan or of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast in 1942 was asked to report to their nearest relocation center. Communities that had existed for decades were broken up and their residents transferred to camps in Eastern California, Utah, Arkansas, Wyoming, Arizona, Colorado, Arkansas, and *Idaho. "From Puyallup to Pomona, internees found that a cowshed at a fairgrounds or a horse stall at a racetrack was home for several months before they were transported to a permanent wartime residence," says an article on relocation published by the National Archives.

Many of them never made it back home when the camps began to discharge people in 1944. According to the National Archives, only 30 percent of the Japanese who had been forcefully relocated from Tacoma, Washington, for example, ever returned.

The conditions in U.S. internment camps looked nothing like those in Nazi Germany. Adults worked, children went to school, and there were no gas chambers or heinous, involuntarily medical experiments. But the Japanese—70,000 of them U.S. citizens—were still imprisoned based on racial animus, mindless fear, and lies, and they were still deprived of the liberty, wealth, and relationships they'd built before Pearl Harbor.

Fred Korematsu was one of them. Born in Oakland, California, to Japanese immigrant parents, Korematsu had supported the U.S. war effort after Pearl Harbor until his Japanese lineage got him fired from a factory job. Ordered to report for internment in May 1942, he refused.

After three weeks on the lam, Korematsu was arrested and tried for violating a federal law that made it a crime to disobey Roosevelt's executive order. He eventually appealed his case to the Supreme Court, where a 6–3 majority led by Justice Hugo Black—a New Dealer and FDR appointee—ruled that mass detention of Japanese immigrants and their American families was not unconstitutional.

Korematsu died in 2005, which means he did not get to see the ruling that bears his name excoriated this year by the same Court that seven decades earlier had defended his imprisonment. He did, however, bear witness to President Ronald Reagan's signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which celebrated its 30th birthday in August.

That law was the product of nearly a decade's worth of research and investigation by the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. It called for giving each living survivor of internment—starting with the oldest ones the government could then identify—a tax-free check for $20,000 and a letter from the president apologizing for the government's actions.

"The checks will be consequential," Cressey Nakagawa of the Japanese American Citizens League told the L.A. Times in 1990, when the first letters were sent out. "But most meaningful will be the apology."

The majority opinion in Trump v. Hawaii, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, does not apologize to Korematsu or even formally overturn the decision, but it comes close. "Korematsu was gravely wrong the day it was decided, has been overruled in the court of history, and—to be clear—'has no place in law under the Constitution,'" Roberts wrote.

"This formal repudiation of a shameful precedent is laudable and long overdue," Justice Sonya Sotomayor responded in her dissent. "But it does not make the majority's decision [in the travel ban case] acceptable or right."

*An earlier version of this article failed to mention Idaho, which contained the Minidoka and Kooskia internment camps.

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  1. He saw no reason to believe that Japanese Americans, “barred from assimilation by convention?will not turn against this nation when the final test of loyalty comes.” That none had yet betrayed the U.S. was, in his opinion, “a disturbing and confirming indication that action will be taken.”

    In hindsight, we know that Dewitt was wrong about the military threat posed by people of Japanese descent.

    Yeah, they just magically give up their affinity/loyalty for their homeland when their feet touch America’s magic dirt and their lungs breath our free air…

    Not only do we have evidence of the danger posed by colonies of people you are at war with in our own history, but world history is rife with it.

    1. The Chinese students “see the Tibetan spiritual leader as a separatist political figure who threatens their culture and governance.”

      They don’t see themselves as American, they see themselves as Chinese… but keep on with your myth about the “melting pot” and all that.

      1. In other news, China will soon be showcasing their very first long-range stealth bomber, the Hong 20. It’s a strategic (ie, nuclear) bomber that will be able to reach Australia from the mainland. Check it out – looks remarkably similar to our very own B2.

        1. Yeah, it only took them 20 years of actually having one of our stealth jets to go off of to get it working lol.

          Honestly, the thing that keeps us safe from China is their lack of ingenuity. The thing that threatens us is their industriousness compared to our growing degeneracy.

          1. The other danger is the willingness of Marxist traitors like the Clintons and the Feinsteins who are willing to sell our country out to China.

            If America were cleansed of it’s progressives we would be so much better off.

          2. Yes we learned in the Navy the Chinese are not necessarily innovators. In combat if they lose their commanding officer they are somewhat lost. It is the inherent defect of the communist system. We can see the same thing happening within the progressive movement. Very few within the movement can actually utilize a critical thinking skill set. In short they run on superficial talking points that often run contrary to reason. The forced detention of the Japanese was justified (wrongly ) 1. keeping Americans safe 2. Keeping Japanese safe from retribution. It was exactly the kind of policy the progressive FDR was perfect suited to enact. It was one of the true National injustices of the 20th century along with, Plussey versus Ferguson, (and others). Somehow I don’t see the temporary ban on immigration from countries with poor internal security and a propensity for exporting terror quite the same as these policies/rulings. The problem seemed to be in Trump’s delivery rather than practice. As a country I believe we need to have efficient, consistent, fair, practical and secure immigration policy to ensure orderly immigration. If not we are setting ourselves up for chaos.

      2. My grandmother’s parents emigrated to the US from Germany sometime around 1895. When WWII broke out, my dad went to enlist in the Army but they instead arrested him and locked him up in a camp for the duration out of fear that he might still be pining for the fjords. Oh, wait, no they didn’t – they gave him a gun and a uniform and some training and sent him over to Europe to kill Nazis. Along with thousands of other Americans of German ancestry whose patriotism was second to none. But of course, he was a white guy unlike the wily Chinee and the dusky Ethiope and the treacherous Mohammaden to whom loyalty is an unfamiliar attribute.

        1. the wily Chinee and the dusky Ethiope and the treacherous Mohammaden

          Perhaps the worst part of all of historical racism is that it has tainted those cool-ass terms with the sins of the era. Here our hipster culture has found 101 ways to bring back the old school in everything from pretentious mustaches to steam-powered fantasy to kettlebells to overpriced cocktails, but just try using any of those and you get all sorts of funny looks. It’s enough to make you pack up and move to the remotest regions of The Argentine.

        2. Actually, the whole legal framework of internment, relocation and prisoner of war status is a somewhat convoluted tangle of national and international law as defined by various treaties and conventions as well as just plain old tradition.

          Internment of enemy aliens is legal and governed by law. It is somewhat similar to the status of POWs. Shorter version, we’ll treat yours humanely if you do the same with ours.

          OTOH, this changes when it comes to Naturalized or native born citizens of foreign origin or ancestry. Here US law required due process to establish on an individual basis if a person was a threat, in exactly the same way due process is required to establish if any citizen is a traitor, spy or saboteur.

          Executive Order 9066 was illegal in that it detained and relocated American citizens without due process.

          But again, shorter version, FYTW.

        3. While you have a point about the racism experienced by Japanese Americans there were Germans interned as well during in both WWI and WWII. During WWII even a some number of Italian Americans were interned for whatever reason ( I am sure it was justified by the progressives). Interestingly it was the 2 most despicable progressives of the 20th century Wilson and FDR were responsible for this. Again these were American citizens denied due process not people/ immigrants from countries hostile to the US.

          1. The difference is that the Germans and Italians interned were not citizens. As I have explained the internment of enemy aliens is legal under both national and international law.If any naturalized or native born Germans or Italians were interned it was through bureaucratic fuckups not deliberate policy.

        4. My Dads’ family (his dad was 6 at the time) immigrated at the turn of the century. People born in Germany or descendants had their poor treatment at the hands of racism during WW1. They weren’t sent to camps, but they would be sent to prison for the slightest infractions.

        5. pining for the fjords

          Pining for the fjords?? What kind of talk is that!

        6. Some Italian and German Americans were also relocated, I believe.

    2. You picked probably the worst quote from the entire article to substantiate your demonstrably false claim.

    3. Because if there’s anything that America should stand for, it is conformity and unity of purpose!

      1. “Because if there’s anything that America should stand for, it is conformity and unity of purpose!”

        During an event like WW2, yes. Are you really this fucking obtuse? You must be one coddled little weakling. I can’t imagone you surviving in any kind of demanding or dangerous environment.

    4. You really can’t treat people as individuals, can you?

      You’re a collectivist through and through.

      1. I can treat individuals as individuals, while recognizing groups exist, and dealing with groups as groups when necessary. Something libertarians like to pretend they are incapable of, yet do all the time.

        We all do. Every day.

    5. “Not only do we have evidence of the danger posed by colonies of people you are at war with in our own history, but world history is rife with it.”

      Claims facts not in evidence.

  2. General Dimwitt?

  3. President Donald Trump’s ban on travel from predominantly Muslim countries

    Since Riggs is writing entirely about Hawaii‘s effect on Korematsu (and that even barely–mostly about the internment itself as history), and had no intention of broaching the topic of the actual merits of whether it was SCOTUS’s proper Constitutional place to overturn the Trump policy, one might thought he could have used a more straightforward neutral introduction–rather than one that: (1) adopted a chummy presuppositional tone that all of us right-thinkers present surely must bemoan Hawaii; (2) completely misrepresent the Trump policy (which I find rather silly myself) in at least two ways. Oh well, at least they didn’t call it a “Muslim ban.”

    (Not that Trump didn’t pretty much ask for this kind of misrepresentation to be brought on himself, of course. But in journalism, accuracy and fairness shouldn’t be something a human subject has to merit.)

  4. That law was the product of nearly a decade’s worth of research and investigation by the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians.

    They sure knew how to milk a federal government job, didn’t they.

  5. You can not talk about Japanese prison camps without addressing the Niihau incident, something most Americans have never even heard of. It is still not a good enough reason for them, but to blame it only on general xenophobia is dishonest.

    After Pearl Harbor, a Japanese pilot crash landed on Niihau, with a population of a few dozen. After initially taking care of him, news of Pearl Harbor came in and they took him into custody. A Hawaiian-born Japanese American and his Japanese immigrant wife were brought in to translate for the rest of the islanders.

    These two, who were long-time friends with the other residents, betrayed them and helped the pilot escape by attacking the guard and at one point taking a hostage. They then helped him destroy all his papers and try to contact the Japanese navy with his radio.

    This arguably played a huge part in the fears, and ignoring it to make FDR and America look worse as if there weren’t some logical reasons for fearing other Japanese-Americans would betray America is unnecessary.

    1. I indeed hadn’t heard of this story; I’ll have to look it up.

      Would make it even more interesting that, of all places, Hawaii did not participate in the West Coast internment! Their Japanese-Americans remained as free as Nebraska’s.

      1. Actually I didn’t even know there were any Japanese Hawaiians on Niihau! I thought it was just natives and the white guys who own the place.

      2. Hawaii was not a state then.

        Hawaii was under military control during WWII, which was far more severe restrictions than Nebraska.

      3. Which is funny since it was determined that Japanese spies based in Hawaii had provided the intel necessary for the success of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. My understanding as a boy growing up in the Northwest and son of a Marine who had fought in the Pacific, many of those relocated had incredibly fertile/productive farms (especially in the Kent Valley). There were a significant number opportunists who pushed the policy in order to steal this land from these families(US citizens) . It was in short a criminal enterprise disguised as a necessary national security issue. It is far different from a policy to temporarily ban citizens from countries like Iran from immigrating to the US. I just don’t see it. Whether I agree with the particulars of the policy I cannot disagree that our government has the authority and obligation to determine whether or not an immigrant who is coming from a hostile country should be allowed free and unfettered access to US. Trump did himself no favors by spewing the obvious reference to a Muslim ban on the campaign trail. Silly actually …

    2. In 1940, the USA instituted the Alien Registration Act.

      In January 1942, FDR issue EO #2537, which required aliens from World War II-enemy countries?Italy, Germany and Japan?to register with the United States Department of Justice. Registered persons were then issued a Certificate of Identification for Aliens of Enemy Nationality. Proclamation No. 2537 facilitated the beginning of full-scale internment of Japanese Americans the following month.

      Japan surprised attacked the USA and it scared the shit out of people. Under FDR, the Constitution had been ignored for over a decade. This military attack by Japan just gave an excuse to ignore even more important protections of the Constitution like protecting Liberty, prohibiting search and seizure without probable cause, etc.

      1. But of course, common sense registration of gun owners will NEVER lead to confiscation.

        1. Always beware when politicians refer to a policy as “common sense”.

    3. The point isn’t the subjective feelz of policymakers when they adopted internment, but whether they followed the Constitution.

      In Hawaii they at least tried, because they used the method of suspending habeas corpus, which the Constitution at least mentions.

      On the mainland, they just provided for expelling U. S. citizens from their homes and putting them in camps, no reference to suspending habeas corpus or any of those things, never mind the constitutional procedures laid out in the document itself.

      1. California, Oregon, and Washington states used internment as an excuse for people to steal Japanese-American property after they were shipped off. This made it even more shameful.

        This did not happen with German and Italian Americans/nationals that were interned like it did with Japanese-Americans. Germans and Italians were released after the war and typically had their property waiting for them or family ran the business. The Japanese-Americans were all shipped off to internment camps, so nobody was left to run the businesses.

        1. You might consider how it was their family was taking care of their stuff and not in the camps with them…

          1. Yes, we get it, you’re a racist.

            1. The point was legitimate RT. Do you think the Germans and Italians didn’t end up losing everything by magic? Do you think avarice is stopped by “Oh, he’s white”?

              Take the point LC made as true–that their family ran it for them. How did their German family run their business for them and escape internment? The odds are that they had married non-German or non-Italian people, who took care of their things. Additionally, it was a lot harder to tell if someone was German or Italian than it was if they were Japanese.

              Unfortunately for the Japanese, they are easily identifiable outside of E. Asia, did not intermarry into the society but they existed as an enclave–a little colony of their homeland. There generally was no family to take care of their stuff because they were all going to the camps. And this resulted in a similar situation as in OK with the Indians having whites in charge of their property.

              1. The “family” referred to were the native-born or naturalized citizen children, siblings etc of the internees.

                This was not accorded to the Japanese of the West Coast whose native-born or naturalized citizen children, siblings etc were arrested and relocated along with them.

                Because FYTW.

          2. “You might consider how it was their family was taking care of their stuff and not in the camps with them…”

            Their families were in the camps; their property was stolen.

            1. LC was claiming that this didn’t happen to the Germans/Italians. I was commenting on perhaps taking time to think about why that was Sevo. I don’t deny it happened to the Japanese.

              1. It happened to the Japanese on the West Coast because the pickings were fatter. The japanese immigrants and their descendants were just o rich the temptation was just too great. Dammit, they made us do it.

                Successful people will always be a target for the mob to loot.

          3. Their families were not in the camps because they were US citizens, either native born or naturalized.

            The internment of the west coast Japanese did not make the distinction.

    4. Glad someone is bringing this up. It’s not fair to our own history that we teach a sterilized version of history where “internment was bad because it purely driven on racial animus.”

      It was bad, but as with many bad things that people have done in history, the reasons have an additional layer of complexity to them. Also, it’s worth saying that of the Japanese residents on the island, two were first generation immigrants and the other was a second generation, so that also plays a factor. Loyalty to the homeland is probably stronger within people who actually lived in the homeland.

  6. “…as if there weren’t some logical reasons excuses for fearing other Japanese-Americans…”


    Whatever happened to treating people like individuals? And even if we are to treat people as members of a group, do the actions of a few people really represent the intentions of the whole? Because a few Christians bombed some abortion clinics, should all Christians be treated as potential bombers? Because a white person blew up a van that killed 168 people, should all white people be treated as potential domestic terrorists?

    People will find any excuse to justify their prejudices. Don’t confuse excuses for logical reasons.

    1. this was in reply to colorblindkid|10.11.18 @ 8:09AM.

    2. I prefaced it with saying it still isn’t a good reason. But it was a different time, and we can learn from our mistakes without judging individual people by the moral standards of today.

      1. Even if you take into consideration the fact that racism was not frowned upon, it is still an excuse and not a reason.

      2. Sarcasmic doesnt read well, so he could not pick out that you were not advocating internment.

        He has another agenda to push….web traffic!

  7. FDR: Execute order… 9066!
    Lackey: But who shall carry it out my lord?
    FDR: Dewitt!

    1. I wish we could execute a similar order against the progtards. Although I don’t want to intrer them here. I would like them all exiled, forever.

      Let them be provided for by some Marxist shithole. They love those o,aces anyway, and surely the comraderie will keep them warm at night.

  8. Japanese Americans ? Japanese Immigrants.

    I don’t have a lot of sympathy for citizens of a country the US is at war with.

    1. I do, but actual alien enemies can be detained for security purposes.

      FDR and Congress went further and locked up citizens of the U. S. along with Japanese nationals.

    2. Because everyone gets to choose where and to whom they are born, right? Tribal thinking at its thinnest.

      1. You don’t get it. People support everything their government does. Just like every American supports all of Trump’s policies. Jeez. Don’t you know anything?

      2. Nearly all the American Lefties dont support Trump’s policies.

        Libertarians support some policies and reject other policies of Trump.

        1. Libertarians loathe Trump.

          Faux libertarians adore him.

    3. The people who were detained and relocated under Executive Order 9066 included the native born and naturalized citizen families of Japanese nationals on the west coast. It also included the confiscation of their property.

      If it had only included first generation Japanese nationals who had not been naturalized, it would have been legal. Internment of “enemy aliens” in wartime is legal as it provides for humane treatment and restoration of freedom and property once hostilities are included.

      Naturally, if any alien naturalized or otherwise commits treason, sabotage, espionage or in any provides aid on behalf of his or her country of origin he or she is subject to prosecution under the law of the land. And given various rules of war vs the COTUS due process may or may not be afforded.

  9. Always remember that the Democrats did this.

    The Lefties will always want to put people in camps.

    1. Trump’s nationalistic cult of personality has turned otherwise libertarians into xenophobic protectionists. His supporters enthusiastically celebrate his separating families, and deride those who think babies should remain with their mothers. Makes me wonder how much protest from Trump sycophants there would be if he decided to intern Muslims or illegals. I’m guessing the answer would be none.

      1. Oh illegals you mean. Yeah deport them.

        I would rather focus on things the US Government is doing to violate the Constitution against Americans.

        You comparing internment camps of Americans of Japanese descent with illegals is typical of your dishonesty.

        We get it, you want Anarchy-Land and the Constitution gets in your way.

        1. Muslims and illegals. We are at war with Muslims, remember? Every Muslim is a potential terrorist. Better to lock them all up to be on the safe side. And every illegal is a potential murderer or rapist. Better lock them all up to be on the safe side.

          Same fucking logic, different fucking day.

          1. Cute that you non-Libertarians are trying to WHATABOUTISM Japanese-American internment with non-American illegal immigrants violating US law.

            1. I know I’ve won when you call me names. Ha ha!

            2. Poor Sarcasmic calling names and then hiding behind strawmen.

              1. I only called you names if you identify with one of the hypothetical people I was talking about. Since you are personally offended, you obviously did. No wonder your response was to call me names.

                1. You name call when your shitty positions fall apart.which tends to be fast.

                  Your jokes are bad. Not even sure why you are here.

        2. We get it, you want Anarchy-Land and the Constitution gets in your way.

          That’s your go-to when you have no argument at all. Default to the straw man.

          By the way, the Constitution is not the libertarian Bible. It’s better than anything that came before it, but it’s far from perfect. Just because you wrap it around your dick when you pleasure yourself doesn’t mean I’m an anarchist. Fucking moron.

          1. You’re a big liar Sarcasmic.

            You get caught all the time.

            Then you use word salads to hide in your safe space.

            1. Says the sheep that bleats “Anarchist! Anarchist!” in its shrill Stevie Nicks voice whenever it has no argument.

              1. Bitch, you got a problem with Stevie Nicks?

            2. You are anarchist.

              Embrace the horror!

              1. Baa-ah-ah-ah-ah-narcist!

                1. Poor sarcasmic. A fringe anarchist who does not own it and holler holla hollar about anarchism.

          2. “By the way, the Constitution is not the libertarian Bible. It’s better than anything that came before it, but it’s far from perfect. Just because you wrap it around your dick when you pleasure yourself doesn’t mean I’m an anarchist. Fucking moron.

            1. The constitution is nearly perfect
            2. You should show more respect for it and those of us who do show proper reference towards such a valuable contribution to the human history and our civilization.
            3. He isn’t a fucking moron, and yes, it does make you an anarchist. Although it isn’t the only reason.

            1. 1. No, it is not. It is just very good, possibly the best.

              2. No, I’ll show proper respect to any document or any person I think deserve it. Any requirement that you have that I “show proper respect to” anyone or anything is your own personal wish, which has absolutely nothing to do with anything legal or enforceable. Any attempt to use state or federal government enforce my compliance with your wish for me to show “proper respect” is in violation of any number of enunciated constitutional rights.

              3. FYTW. Just because.

  10. In our viewpoint today, the internment camps were unjustified.

    In the viewpoint of the time, they made a lot of sense. When the bulk of the pacific fleet is destroyed and the ability for the US to defend its territories in the entire pacific theatre is tenuous at best, any advantage is grasped at. Even ones that in retrospect where wrong headed and un-American.

    It’s tiresome for the constant complaints and secondguessing of historic events that the author has little to no perspective to truly understand.

    1. Internment was as unconstitutional as it is today. The Constitution only allow one method for taking away an american’s Liberty and that is conviction by a jury while the defendant gets numerous trial rights and Due Process rights.

      That is different than some social construct that changes every 50 years.

      1. Internment of “enemy aliens” has never been unconstitutional, it’s just been subject to laws.

        Native born and naturalized citizens of countries with which we are at war are not “enemy aliens”, they are citizens of the United States and thus entitled to all the protections that status affords. Hence, any accusation of disloyalty must be made and prosecuted according to law. Under the COTUS even traitors have the right to due process.

    2. Isn’t it odd that you would describe American policies that were widely popular with the American populace in their time to be unamerican?

    3. If you cannot judge the past, how can you learn from it? There was no justification for locking up hundreds of thousands of Americans for nothing more than their ancestry (while leaving the millions of Americans descended from our other adversaries free and sending many to fight against them). And it isn’t like nobody realized this at the time. Korematsu wasn’t a unanimous decision, the governor of Colorado at the time fiercely opposed it, etc.

  11. Like with the Sedition Act, where Congress first refunded the fines and many years later the Supreme Court said oops, the Sedition Act was unconstitutional.

    Here Congress in 1988 has already apologized and paid compensation. Now the Supreme Court trails in the rear, saying oops and admitting it was wrong.

    It seems the “political branches” took the leading role in both cases in admitting constitutional error.

    1. The Congress and the Executive can change with the winds, but the Supreme Court has to be conscious of the precedents they set, careful not to create too much without considering all the ramifications.
      Further. The Supreme Court has to wait until just the right case comes before them in order to set any precedent they’ve been itching to add.

      Congress and the President are playing Monopoly. The Supreme Court is busy playing Jenga.

      1. The Supreme Court seems to “follow the election returns” just as much as in the age of Mr. Dooley.

        They are inundated with petitions asking them to take cases – they take only a small proportion of these – also, by tweaking the concept of “standing” and the like, they can affect the kind of cases which reach them.

  12. Like with the Sedition Act, where Congress first refunded the fines and many years later the Supreme Court said oops, the Sedition Act was unconstitutional.

    Here Congress in 1988 has already apologized and paid compensation. Now the Supreme Court trails in the rear, saying oops and admitting it was wrong.

    It seems the “political branches” took the leading role in both cases in admitting constitutional error.

  13. Unanswered questions:
    How many interned Japanese were lynched by California mobs?
    How many US Citizens were rounded up and sent to camps by the selective service? How many of those were eventually killed?

    The only difference between the interned Japanese and Americans is that the interned Japanese were not sent to war zones to fight. In both cases the government took complete control of their lives.

    1. But mostly that second group was white, and to be sure, they deserve to die. The sooner we end the white majority the better. One might even say that this was a necessary thing, to help hasten their evil, oppressive, bigoted demise.

    2. Yeah the real victims were all the people who didn’t get sent to the camps. Those interned Japanese Americans were actually privileged!

      (also, many Japanese Americans were sent to fight the Axis in Europe).

      1. I dunno, from a libertarian perspective, which is more evil:

        1. Sending someone to fight a war for 4 years, against their will, to kill other men, and even die.
        2. Imprisoning someone for 4 years without cause due process, then releasing them. Perhaps to go back to their property, and perhaps not.

        1. As I mention, the conscription analogy is often used to justify all sorts of bad stuff – if you can conscript, surely you can (insert civil-liberties violation).

          I think conscription is unsonstitutional, but assuming (as the system does) that I’m wrong, it’s certainly not a license for the government to do anything whatsoever in wartime.

        2. Both are bad. But in addition to what Eddy said below, I’m not sure why you’re presenting this as if it was a choice between these two options. Internment applied to the entire Japanese American population on the West Coast, most of whom would not have been conscripted under any circumstance due to age or gender; and there still were many Japanese Americans who fought in WWII. If you weren’t Japanese and you didn’t get conscripted, you remained a free person (granted wartime restrictions were worse than the normal status quo, but certainly no comparison with someone in an internment camp). And our government treated returning soldiers a lot better than it treated the internees upon release.

          If you want to argue that persecuting a minority ethnic group is justified if the government also conscripts young men to fight wars, go ahead, but I don’t find it to be a very persuasive argument.

          1. It’s not a choice between the two options, but a comparison of them.

            The world is not the Utopia in our heads, where everyone can have everything they want for the price of wishing for it.

            Wars involve a lot of suffering. “OMG, US so evil for Japanese internment camps!” should be measured versus other things it did in the war, and what other countries did in the war.

            Trench warfare, or internment camp? One may wish to fight, but it’s hard to argue that internment camps caused more suffering, injury, disease, or death.

    3. I have some constitutional scruples about both, but detaining civilian citizens without charge is usually something done by suspending habeas corpus, which has a couple preconditions – an invasion or insurrection, and danger to the public safety of allowing the detainees to remain at large. I’d also add that since there’s nothing in the Constitution depriving citizens of their right to sue for false imprisonment, then arrests and detention without judicial process would justify actions for damages.

      Traditionally, when Parliament suspended habeas corpus (and there’s no reason to suppose they had greater civil-libertarian instincts than the American Founders), their laws applied to people who had been duly arrested/charged in the court system, while denying them the right to pretrial release (which habeas corpus would have secured).

      So citizens locked up without trial would by this reasoning be based on safeguards the detained citizens didn’t have.

      That doesn’t make conscription good, indeed, the conscription metaphor has been used to justify abrogating just about every other right – “if you can force people to fight in war, then you can (insert any civil-liberties abuse).”

  14. One of the most culturally pregnant of these alien detention camps was the the one at… wait for it… Roswell, New Mexico–about a day’s drive form a nicer camp at Crystal City, Texas.

  15. “120,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants”

    After Reason relentlessly equating citizens and non-citizens, because muh anarchy, we find that
    “But the Japanese?70,000 of them U.S. citizens”

    I’ve got no problems with confining foreign nationals from a nation we’re in all out war with. I believe it’s largely standard.

    What I’ve always wanted to hear is what happened to US nationals in Japan and Japanese controlled countries during the war.

    If Japanese treatment of POWs is any indication, it was probably quite unpleasant. They were pretty damn murderous to US, only surpassed by the rates at which the Soviets and Germans murdered each other. Germans comparatively reciprocated POW conventions with the rest of the Allies.

    The Japanese were even worse on the Chinese.

    Fun facts:

    Percentage of POWs that Died
    Soviet POWs held by Germans 57.5%
    German POWs held by Yugoslavs 41.2%
    German POWs held by Soviets 35.8%
    American POWs held by Japanese 33.0%
    German POWs held by Eastern Europeans 32.9%
    British POWs held by Japanese 24.8%
    German POWs held by Czechoslovaks 5.0%
    British POWs held by Germans 3.5%
    German POWs held by French 2.58%
    American POWs held by Germans 1.19%
    German POWs held by Americans 0.15%
    German POWs held by British 0.03%

    1. Ken Burns documents the treatment of Americans and other foreigners in Manilla during WWII in his documentary The War. he focuses one one particular family and features the daughter who provides a lot of quite worthwhile commentary.

      I generally don’t like Burns’ talking heads style of commentary but in this film the added touch of people who actually experienced the events is quite powerful.

  16. This article does not go far enough. An essential feature of the 1937 constitutional revolution was to remove the Supreme Court from determinations of substantive due process or protection of contracts under the contract clause in favor of Roosevelt’s preferred policies bordering on fascism (and this at a time when we were fighting the principal fascist countries in a deadly war). Korematsu was only the culmination of a long line of precedents which increasingly sacrificed personal liberty to the perceived needs of the State….

  17. Also on that list were Wickard v. Filburn (1942) and Yakus v. United States (1945). Wickard expanded the interstate commerce clause to cover essentially all human action in any location regardless of whether it crossed a state line or not. Yakus for all intents and purposes overturned ALA Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States by allowing Congress to grant to unelected bureaucrats essentially unrestrained and arbitrary power upon the flimsiest of delegations and remains at the heart of today’s deep state. As wartime decisions, ALL of these cases are highly suspect in terms of their legal reasoning — the Court actually wanted to reverse Yakus — and every one of them (not just Korematsu) merits the Chief Justice’s disapprobation for being from a time when the Court had turned chicken. Unfortunately, Wickard has been given new life by conservatives who find within it a convenient precedent for keeping the federal nose in the intra-state marijuana business. And, Yakus is seen (rightly) by liberals as a key element in maintaining the socialist-terrorist state.

    It therefore will be interesting to see how the new conservative majority deals with these other cases.

  18. Making Amends for Pearl Harbor

  19. My only concern is that this “loophole” was responsible for putting away a lot of people in the civil rights era, including lynchers and klansmen who would get acquitted by a jury of their peers despite overwhelming evidence and then get convicted on violation of civil rights by the feds.

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  20. Sad that SCOTUS officially blurts the populist sentiment about a very complex matter. The question is, “shall we indict and re-write historical events to satisfy the mob. FYI, Franklin D. Roosevelt was reading the de-coded messages from Japanese embassies to Nippon describing what the second generations would do to support the war. I’ll defend the exceptional record of the US in WW2 against anyone.

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