of the 110,000 persons removed for reasons of 'national security'
were school-age children, infants and young adults not yet of
- "Years of Infamy", Michi Weglyn
the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, President
Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which permitted the military
to circumvent the constitutional safeguards of American citizens
in the name of national defense.
order set into motion the exclusion from certain areas, and the
evacuation and mass incarceration of 120,000 persons of Japanese
ancestry living on the West Coast, most of whom were U.S. citizens
or legal permanent resident aliens.
Japanese Americans, half of whom were children, were incarcerated
for up to 4 years, without due process of law or any factual
basis, in bleak, remote camps surrounded by barbed wire
and armed guards.
were forced to evacuate their homes and leave their jobs; in
some cases family members were separated and put into different
camps. President Roosevelt himself called the 10 facilities "concentration
Japanese Americans died in the camps due to inadequate medical
care and the emotional stresses they encountered. Several were
killed by military guards posted for allegedly resisting orders.
the time, Executive Order 9066 was justified as a "military
necessity" to protect against domestic espionage and sabotage.
However, it was later documented that "our government had
in its possession proof that not one Japanese American, citizen
or not, had engaged in espionage, not one had committed any act
of sabotage." (Michi Weglyn, 1976).
the causes for this unprecedented action in American history,
according to the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment
of Civilians, "were motivated largely by racial prejudice,
wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership."
Almost 50 years later, through the efforts of leaders and advocates
of the Japanese American community, Congress passed the Civil
Liberties Act of 1988. Popularly known as the Japanese American Redress Bill, this act acknowledged that "a grave injustice was done" and mandated Congress to pay each victim of imprisonment $20,000 in reparations.
The reparations were sent with a signed apology from the President of the
United States on behalf of the American people. The period for
reparations ended in August of 1998.
this redress, the mental and physical health impacts of the trauma of the incarceration experience continue to affect tens of thousands of Japanese Americans. Health studies have shown a 2 times greater incidence of heart disease and premature death among former prisoners, compared to non-incarcerated Japanese Americans.