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World War II
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Japanese American Internment Key Events Maps Transcript Webography
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The unconstitutional manner in which Japanese Americans were stripped of their homes and livelihoods remains an unresolved dark chapter in American history:

  • In 1944 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of sending Japanese Americans to detention centers where they were held under armed guard during the war. Later that year the Supreme Court said that Japanese Americans of proven loyalty to the United States should be released. The camps were closed in 1945.
  • In 1952 Congress finally granted Japanese aliens the right to become naturalized citizens.
  • In 1980 Congress created the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians which had the task of reviewing President Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066. The Commission determined that Japanese Americans had been the victims of discrimination by the U. S. government.
  • In 1988 Congress passed and President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act which provided for an official apology from the President of the United States and a payment to camp survivors of $20,000 per person. 243 members of the House and 69 members of the Senate voted in favor of this bill, and 141 members of the House and 27 members of the Senate opposed it.

These are the words of Emi Somekawa, a nurse, a married woman, born in Portland, Oregon, who was pregnant with her second child when she and her family were sent to the internment camps. Her second child was born in a smelly horse stall, where the family lived for months at the Portland Assembly Center, before they were moved to one of the permanent camps at Tule Lake.

"Not only was it a most traumatic time in my life, but it was also the most frustrating period, because I felt that all of our accomplishments up to that time were gone. Yet, if it had to be this way with President Roosevelt's orders, we just had to make the best of it. I've often felt that we'd lost several years of my younger life because of being in camp. I'm bitter towards it. I have tried to cope with it the best I can by educating my children, and I've tried to serve the community the best I know how. I hope that something like this will never happen to another group of people or to us ever again. But sometimes I wonder."

-- John Tateishi, And Justice for All: An Oral History of the Japanese American Detention Camps.



  

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