America in 1940
Following the Meiji Restoration in Japan and a devastating economic recession, people began migrating from the Japanese Islands because they needed jobs. Between 1869 and 1924, some 200,000 Japanese arrived in the Hawaiian Islands. An additional 180,000 migrated to the US mainland and the majority of those settled on the West Coast. Many of these people started small businesses and farms. Most arrived on the mainland before 1908. In that year, the United States banned the immigration of unskilled workers. A loophole in the law allowed the wives of men living in the United States to join their husbands — from this, the practice of women marrying by proxy and immigrating to the US, which resulted in a significant increase in the number of picture brides.
The increase of Japanese living in California resulted in steady resistance by European-Americans living on the West Coast. It was purely and simply racialism, as evidenced by the Asiatic Exclusion League, California Joint Immigration Committee, and Native Sons of the Golden West — all organized in response to the so-called “yellow peril.” These groups quite effectively influenced politicians to restrict Japanese immigrants’ property and citizenship rights in a manner similar to anti-Chinese migration. The Immigration Act of 1924 restricted the Japanese in the same way as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
One effect of the 1924 ban is that it produced unusually well-defined generational groups within the Japanese-American community. The Issei, for example, were exclusively those who immigrated before the ban, some of whom elected to return to Japan. Because the United States placed a moratorium on Japanese immigration. Within Japanese-American communities, they were called Nisei. They were distinct from the Issei cohort — generally 15-20 years older than their wives.
Nisei were English speakers; Issei were generally not. Because the 1924 law prohibited Japanese immigrants from becoming naturalized citizens, the Issei became dependent upon their children whenever they rented or purchased property. By 1940, most Nisei had married and started their own families. Despite these handicaps, Japanese-Americans made significant contributions to California agriculture (and in other Western states), but overt racism forced them into establishing unique communities. The communities were, in turn, divided into Japanese prefecture groups. They also created Buddhist women’s associations, set up businesses to provide loans and financial assistance, and started Japanese language schools.
The rise of fascism in Japan in the 1930s prompted the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) to begin monitoring and surveilling Japanese-American communities in Hawaii. In 1936, under the direction of Democrat President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the ONI began compiling “suspect lists” of Japanese-Americans — citizens of the United States whom Roosevelt intended to place in “concentration” camps in the event of war with Imperial Japan.
The FBI began working with ONI in 1939. FDR commissioned a Detroit businessman named Curtis Munson to coordinate these efforts. In 1941, Munson informed the President that the so-called Japanese-American problem was “non-existent.” He reported “an extraordinary” degree of loyalty to the United States within Japanese-American communities. ONI Director Kenneth Ringle made a similar report to the President in 1942.
Still, six weeks after Japan’s “sneak attack” on Pearl Harbor, Army Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt openly questioned the loyalty of Japanese-Americans and proclaimed, “A Jap’s a Jap.” The State of California vigorously joined DeWitt in questioning Japanese-American loyalty by claiming that persons of Japanese ancestry were “totally unassimilable.”
FDR’s Executive Order 9066 (signed on 19 February 1942) authorized military commanders to designate military exclusion zones at their discretion. DeWitt did precisely that on 2 March 1942, ordering all Japanese-Americans living within those zones to depart immediately. Within a few weeks, however, DeWitt reversed himself. After that, he prohibited Japanese-Americans from leaving these exclusion zones, imposed curfews, and placed restrictions on their freedom of movement.
Only one civilian official protested this treatment: Colorado governor Ralph Lawrence Carr. Meanwhile, DeWitt issued more than a hundred exclusion orders over the next five months. By August 1942, federal officials moved American citizens of Japanese ancestry to far distant/remote locations.
Toward the end of the war, the relocation centers began to close. Of more than 70,000 Japanese-American internees, only three (3) challenged the constitutionality of Roosevelt’s order.
Threats to American Constitutional guarantees and liberties continue today. If the reader believes these historical examples were severe, some today argue that it’s getting even worse. Certain political groups, activists, and other morons demand restrictions on freedoms of speech, association, and pamphleteering. Political militants aside, there is no more significant threat to individual liberty than that imposed by the United States government, which conspires to undermine the rights and privileges of American citizenship.
The government’s intrusion into our private lives, as demonstrated by the so-called Patriot Act, the creation of secret courts, the policy of intercepting, reading, and storing data obtained from electronic media, and the government dictate that we (a free people) remain under arrest in our quarters — threatens our American Republic. The preceding “case histories” serve as warnings to us about presidents and their henchmen who not only think they have extraordinary power over us — they do.
The Supreme Court may safeguard the Constitution, but it does nothing to safeguard the rights of citizens who became victims of the government’s unconstitutional overreach. It did nothing to free those who sat in isolated cells while remaining uncharged, unindicted, and untried by a jury of their peers. The high court did not prevent Woodrow Wilson from targeting Americans for expressing their dissenting opinions, and it did nothing to protect Japanese-Americans from President Roosevelt’s Gestapo.
We know what the federal government is capable of doing. With this knowledge, every American must view politicians, bureaucrats, and government policy with deep suspicion. No government is trustworthy. After all, the government reintroduced blacks to the slavery of low expectation and government subsidy; in the same way, the government destroyed the American Indians. It remains up to people who value their liberty to refuse to relinquish their human rights, their rights as citizens. No one in the government will protect us. Preserving our freedom is OUR duty.
- Connell, T. America’s Japanese Hostages: The US Plan for a Japanese Free Hemisphere. Praeger-Greenwood, 2002.
- McGinty, B. The Body of John Merryman: Abraham Lincoln and the Suspension of Habeas Corpus. Harvard University Press, 2011.
- Hall, K. L. (Ed.) The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States. Oxford University, 1992.
- Lewis, W. Without Fear or Favor: A Biography of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney. Houghton Mifflin, 1965.
- Robinson, G. By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans. Harvard University Press, 2009.
 Carr also lost his bid for reelection because of his stance.
 Tule Lake, California, Minidoka, Idaho, Manzanar, California, Topaz, Utah, Jerome, Arkansas, Heart Mountain, Wyoming, Poston, Arizona, Granada, Colorado, and Rohwer, Arkansas.
My thanks to Mr. Koji KANEMOTO for his much-valued assistance and participation in the research, preparation, and editing of this post.