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  • Article: Why did the United States put more than 70,000 Japanese American citizens into internment camps during World War II? By Nolan Rappaport

    Why did the United States put more than 70,000 Japanese American citizens into internment camps during World War II?

    by


    If you are having difficulty viewing this document please click here.

    Reprinted with permission.


    About The Author

    Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an Executive Branch Immigration Law Expert for three years; he subsequently served as the immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for twenty years. He also has been a policy advisor for the DHS Office of Information Sharing and Collaboration under a contract with TKC Communications, and he has been in private practice as an immigration lawyer at Steptoe & Johnson.


    The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.

    Comments 5 Comments
    1. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
      ImmigrationLawBlogs -
      Nolan Rappaport gives a full chronological account of the official actions and orders relating to the WW2 Japanese-American internment (euphemistically called "relocation") one of the darkest chapters on all of American history, and he also summarizes the background of racial discrimination against persons of Japanese ancestry which led to the internment order and to the US Supreme Court decision, Korematsu v. US (1944) which upheld its legality. But Nolan does not give a direct answer to the central question raised by the internment order

      This question was asked in a thoughtful paper by Joshua Gannis entitled: "The Court, The Constitution and Japanese-American Internment, published by Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy as follows: (Sorry, I cannot find either a citation or link to the article - please use Google.)

      "In a war fought, supposedly, to make the world safe for democracy, why did the Supreme Court of the United States agree to strip US citizens of their basic constitutional rights in the face of scant military evidence?
      u

      Nolan quotes fron the majority opinion in Korematsu which in effect holds that the courts should not substitute their judgment for that of the military authorities in wartime. But is that a sufficient answer to the above question? I find it curious, that even though Nolan has room in his article for a great deal of minutiae regarding the internment order that have no great significance in determining its constitutionality, Nolan's article evidently had no space for mention of the very significant dissenting opinions in the above case, especially that of Justice Robert H. Jackson, who stated as follows:

      "Now, if any fundamental assumption underlies our system, it is that guilt is personal and not inheritable. Even if all one's antecedents had been convicted of treason, the Constitution forbids its penalties to be visited upon him...But here is an attempt to make an otherwise innocent act [remaining in his home in defiance of the internment order] a crime merely because this prisoner is the son of parents as to whom he had no choice, and belongs to a race from which there is no way to
      resign."

      Justice Jackson also warned in the same dissent as follows:

      "A military order, however unconstitutional, is not likely to last longer than the military emergency...But once a judicial opinion rationalizes such an order to show that it conforms to the Constitution, or, rather, rationalizes the Constitution to show that the Constitution sanctions such an order, the Court has validated for all time the principle of racial discrimination in criminal procedure and of transplanting American citizens."

      And in telling words which can be taken as a dire warning as to what could happen in a Donald Trump era of threatened racial and religious persecution and authoritarianism, Justice Jackson wrote:

      "The principle then lies about like a loaded weapon, ready for the hand of any authority that can bring froward a plausible claim of an urgent need."

      Was Justice Jackson, more than 70 years ago, warning about what could happen to American citizens belonging to unpopular racial or religious minority groups, especially Muslims, today, if an authoritarian "strongman" takes over our government and takes his attempts to demonize and scapegoat minority immigrants as terrorists, criminals and people who steal American jobs futher in the direction of violating the basic rights of all people in this country guaranteed by the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution?

      For the latest on that, see Donald Trump's July 21 acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination, especially pages 15-19 as published on his official campaign website.

      Roger Algase
      Attorney at Law

    1. Nolan Rappaport's Avatar
      Nolan Rappaport -
      I deliberately withheld comments about whether the internments were justified. I wrote the article because I am afraid that Muslim Americans will face the same fate if there is a series of horrific terrorist attacks in the United States, and I believe that people who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it. And you can't provide an understanding of something as emotionally charged as the internment of American citizens with an op ed. Education requires a thorough, objective presentation.
    1. Nolan Rappaport's Avatar
      Nolan Rappaport -
      Quote Originally Posted by ImmigrationLawBlogs View Post
      N

      And in telling words which can be taken as a dire warning as to what could happen in a Donald Trump era of threatened racial and religious persecution and authoritarianism, Justice Jackson wrote:

      "The principle then lies about like a loaded weapon, ready for the hand of any authority that can bring froward a plausible claim of an urgent need."

      Was Justice Jackson, more than 70 years ago, warning about what could happen to American citizens belonging to unpopular racial or religious minority groups, especially Muslims, today, if an authoritarian "strongman" takes over our government and takes his attempts to demonize and scapegoat minority immigrants as terrorists, criminals and people who steal American jobs futher in the direction of violating the basic rights of all people in this country guaranteed by the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution?

      For the latest on that, see Donald Trump's July 21 acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination, especially pages 15-19 as published on his official campaign website.

      Roger Algase
      Attorney at Law
      Trump did put a written copy of his acceptance speech on his website. *https://assets.donaldjtrump.com/DJT_...nce_Speech.pdf You should look at it. It is truly unique. He includes 282 footnotes that provide support for the claims that he makes in the speech!!! Name any other politician who has done that. Do you think Hillary will? And Roger, what about you? Have you ever provided footnotes to supporting material for any of the claims you have made in your op eds?
    1. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
      ImmigrationLawBlogs -
      What happens if Donald Trump. on Day 1 of his presidency, announces that because of the alleged terrorist threat to America, he is suspending the Constitution and placing the entire country under martial law? Anyone who does not see this as s very real possibility, if not an inevitable one (if he wins) has not been following his campaign very carefully. There is a critically urgent danger that Trump could use 3 million overwhelmingly loyal, patriotic, law-abiding Muslim US citizens as a pretext to destroy our entire democracy.

      America's democracy somehow survived the Japanese-American internment, which as Justice Jackson pointed out, violated every principle of that democracy. Would our democracy survive Donald Trump? What would happen if Trump issued such an order and the US Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional? Would Trump respond by arresting and locking up the Justices who voted against him (not just Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who would no doubt be given a cell next to Hillary Clinton's - or Senator Ted Cruz's - since Trump does not think very highly of "losers" - or political opponents).

      (As note to Nolan's comments about footnotes, I have very rarely posted an ilw.com blog comment of my own without providing links or other references (whenever available) to support my statements. I respectfully invite Nolan to go to my blog comments on almost any topic and read the links and references. With regard to Trump's acceptance speech footnotes, some of them are no doubt arguably relevant and possibly helpful in certain instances. Others are merely echo chamber references to pro-Trump right wing sites such as beitbart.com which are worthless as far as any kind of objectivity goes.

      Roger Algase
      Attorney at Law

    1. Nolan Rappaport's Avatar
      Nolan Rappaport -
      Quote Originally Posted by ImmigrationLawBlogs View Post
      What happens if Donald Trump. on Day 1 of his presidency, announces that because of the alleged terrorist threat to America, he is suspending the Constitution and placing the entire country under martial law? Anyone who does not see this as s very real possibility, if not an inevitable one (if he wins) has not been following his campaign very carefully. There is a critically urgent danger that Trump could use 3 million overwhelmingly loyal, patriotic, law-abiding Muslim US citizens as a pretext to destroy our entire democracy.

      America's democracy somehow survived the Japanese-American internment, which as Justice Jackson pointed out, violated every principle of that democracy. Would our democracy survive Donald Trump? What would happen if Trump issued such an order and the US Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional? Would Trump respond by arresting and locking up the Justices who voted against him (not just Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who would no doubt be given a cell next to Hillary Clinton's - or Senator Ted Cruz's - since Trump does not think very highly of "losers" - or political opponents).

      (As note to Nolan's comments about footnotes, I have very rarely posted an ilw.com blog comment of my own without providing links or other references (whenever available) to support my statements. I respectfully invite Nolan to go to my blog comments on almost any topic and read the links and references. With regard to Trump's acceptance speech footnotes, some of them are no doubt arguably relevant and possibly helpful in certain instances. Others are merely echo chamber references to pro-Trump right wing sites such as beitbart.com which are worthless as far as any kind of objectivity goes.

      Roger Algase
      Attorney at Law

      I don't want to turn this comment section into a debate over Roger's op ed style, but I will respond briefly to what he said. I hope Roger will reply in an email to me instead of continuing this discussion in the comment section for my article on the internment of Japanese Americans.

      Roger's claim that Trump might suspend the constitution and impose martial law illustrates what I said about his op eds. He does not provide any reasons for thinking Trump might do that. Instead, he gives the readers a homework assignment. He tells them to read about Trump's campaign and they will see that the accusation is right. Frequently, the homework assignment is more specific, but it is the same idea. No reasons to justify his accusations; just a reading assignment.

      I am not surprised that the persuasiveness of Trump's footnotes is being challenged. That's good. But give the man credit for trying to provide persuasive support for his positions. Also, question the credibility of any critic who hasn't reviewed all 282 footnotes....most of them anyway. It isn't very impressive to read a handful of them and conclude that Trump isn't providing good support for his position with not idea what is in the rest of the 282 footnotes.
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