SAN FRANCISCO — “Not to Be Forgotten: Legal Lessons of the Japanese Internment” is the theme of the 2017 Ninth Circuit Civics Contest, an essay and video contest open to high school students in the western U.S. and Pacific Islands.
Feb. 19th marks the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, a 1942 decree from President Franklin D. Roosevelt that ordered the internment of Japanese Americans as well as some German and Italian nationals in American concentration camps during World War II.
Between President Trump’s executive order barring anyone from seven majority-Muslim countries from the United States and his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, a milestone passed that few noticed. Fred Korematsu, who died in 2005, would have celebrated his 98th birthday. Fred Korematsu has an important connection to both of these presidential decisions, and it is one that needs to be considered by the Senate and the Court as they make their respective decisions on whether to confirm Judge Gorsuch and whether to allow the immigration ban to stand.
When President Trump asserts the supremacy of his executive orders, unhampered by the power of “so-called judges” to review his actions, he disregards a foundational truth of U.S. constitutional law: the independence of the judiciary.
Seventy-five years ago today, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, declaring parts of the United States to be military zones from which particular groups of people could be “excluded” for security reasons. The order set the stage for the relocation and internment, beginning the following month, of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, most of whom were American citizens living on the West Coast.
In 1944, the majority of Supreme Court justices agreed that the nation’s security concerns outweighed the Constitution’s promise of equal rights.
When President Trump signed an executive order temporarily banning travel from seven majority Muslim countries, he hurled us back to one of the darkest and most shameful chapters of American history. Executive orders that go after specific groups under the guise of protecting the American people are not only unconstitutional, but morally wrong. My father, and so many other Americans of Japanese descent, were targets of just such an order during World War II.
Seventy-five years ago, the U.S. government rounded up tens of thousands of Valley residents and sent them to internment camps.
The documents would expose everything: the racism inherent in the president’s executive order, the cynical politics behind it, the lies told in court to defend it.
Fresno State will host a series of events over two months commemorating the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which led to the confinement of Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans.