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Japanese Internment Camps Essay, Research Paper

A Loaded Weapon Japanese Relocation

Note: these are answers to questions regarding the reading “A Loaded Weapon: Japanese Relocation,” but the answers have the questions within them.

1. Japanese and Japanese-Americans in the US did not have a smooth time just up until the time of relocation. Prejudice against Japanese-Americans had been widespread, especially on the West Coast, for one half-century before Pearl Harbor. In addition to the prejudice, Japanese males were prevented from marrying white women by custom, and more importantly by law. The history of Japanese in America starts with the Issei, the term used to designate first generation Japanese-American immigrants. These first generations immigrants settled in mostly California, Oregon, and Washington. Many worked in fruit orchards, vineyards, and farms. Others found jobs laboring for the railroads, in canneries, logging, and meatpacking. In the beginning the Issei were welcomed due to labor demand, mostly because they would work for low wages and not complain about working conditions. These ambitious first generation Japanese-Americans soon became unpopular because the Unions regarded them as unwelcome competitors for jobs. Local farmers resented the success of Issei farms growing citrus fruits, potatoes, and rice. The value of Issei farm crops grew from $6 million in 1909 to $67 million in 1919. As time progressed, anti-Japanese feelings grew along the West Coast, some of it coming from racial prejudice. Many white Americans refused to accept nonwhites as equals. Japanese-Americans were also given a bad reputation from California newspapers that warned of a Yellow Peril in which waves of Japanese Immigrants would gradually engulf the state. Immigrants were seen as tricky, inscrutable, deceitful, and treacherous. In 1906, San Francisco school board officials established separate schools for Japanese children. Pressure exerted on President Theodore Roosevelt to stop Japanese immigration led to the Gentlemen s Agreement with Japan in 1907. As part of the agreement the Japanese government agreed to reduce immigration to the United States. In exchange, the United States promised not to adopt laws that discriminated against the Japanese. In 1922, the U.S. Supreme Court Declared that Japanese immigrants were aliens ineligible to citizenship. The basis for this denial was a 1790 act of Congress that limited citizenship to free white persons. After the civil war the law was expanded to include persons of African descent. The effect of the Supreme Court decision was that white immigrants from Europe and blacks from Africa could become naturalized U.S. Citizens, but Asians could not. The children of the Issei, called Nisei, were, whoever legally U.S. Citizens. According to the constitution, anyone born in the U.S. is a citizen. In 1924, congress excluded all immigration from Asiatic countries, while still admitting immigrants from other parts of the world. This action made the Japanese government furious because it violated the Gentlemen s Agreement. Other events of discrimination occurred during this time, for example the refusal or selling homes to Japanese in white neighborhoods.

2. The children of Japanese immigrants were different from their parents because they were born on U.S. soil. Under the constitution, anyone born in the U.S. is an American citizen. Immigrants were not born in the U.S. so they had to obtain citizenship. The fact that children of immigrants were legally U.S. citizens, and even born here, made the actions of relocation unconstitutional because it took away their rights as U.S. citizens. Their rights were overlooked simply on the fact that they were Japanese.

3. The general reaction after the attack on Pearl Harbor was fear and hatred against all Japanese. U.S. Army General John DeWitt, military commander of the newly created Western Defense Command, envisioned immediate dangers on the West Coast. He believed that naval attacks and air raids would occur, along with acts of sabotage and espionage by Japanese living along the west coast. DeWitt wrote a report to the secretary of war saying:

In the war which we are now engaged racial affinities are not severed by migration. The Japanese race is an enemy race and while many second and third generation Japanese born in United States soil, possessed of United States citizenship, have become Americanized, the racial strains are undiluted.

In 1942, Earl Warren, then attorney general of California, declared that Japanese-Americans had infiltrated every strategic spot in California. He added, I have come to the conclusion that the Japanese situation as it exists in this state today, may well be the Achilles heel of the entire civilian defense effort. Unless something is done it may bring about a repetition of Pearl Harbor.

The remark that most fueled public hostility was a widely reported one made by secretary of the navy, Frank Knox. After inspecting the extensive damage at Pearl Harbor, he held a press conference in Los Angeles. There he said that Japanese attack had been accompanied by the most effective fifth column work that s come out of war.

Finally, government action was taken and in February 1942, President Roosevelt issued Executive order 9066. It gave the army authority to move civilians out of western coastal areas. And in March, congress unanimously passed public law 503, which provided for enforcement of the president s order in the courts. Under the authority of the new law, the army began issuing civilian exclusion orders. The Pacific Coastal strip was divided into exclusion areas. About a week after orders were posted in an area, all Japanese, whether citizens or not, were required to evacuate.

4. The reasons given for Japanese internment were as follows:

+ The Japanese-Americans posed a threat as enemy agents. Many of them lived around aircraft plants, ports, dams, bridges, power stations, and other strategic points.

+ Widespread distrust of the Japanese population lowered public morale on the West Coast. Evacuation would lift morale.

+ The Japanese themselves were in danger of attack by angry citizens. There had been several violent acts, including murders, committed against them. In relocation camps they would be safe.

+ Loyalty of Japanese-Americans to the United States was doubtful. There was no way to distinguish loyal U.S. Citizens from those whose first loyalty was to Japan. All Americans of Japanese ancestry were considered citizens of Japan by the Japanese government. Some had sent their children to Japan for schooling. As a group, the Japanese in the United States had maintained their cultural traditions and had not blended into the mainstream of American Life.

+ In total war, constitutional rights have to give way to drastic measures.

5. Korematsu vs. United States was a case about a Japanese-American that resisted relocation. He was a legal, born in the US citizen. His main motivation to escape detention was his marriage plans to a white woman he had fell in love with while working as a gardener. In an effort to resist the escape the camps, he had plastic surgery done on his face, changed his name, and posed as a Spanish-Hawaiian. This attempt failed. While leaving a post office in Oakland, FBI agents seized him and in Federal court was found guilty of breaking the law. Korematsu appealed his conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the case of Korematsu vs. United states the high court was asked to decide whether the evacuation and relocation of Japanese-Americans violated their constitutional rights. The nine justices of the court voted 6 to 3 to uphold Korematsu s conviction.


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