Historical Context

World War II and Japanese Internment
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered (through Executive Order 9066) the arrest of Japanese Americans, primarily those living on the West Coast. Violating the basic rights of citizens, as provided by the U.S. Constitution, President Roosevelt ordered the U.S. military to build detention camps and then to transport Japanese American citizens and legal aliens to the make-shift quarters. Roosevelt reportedly did so in the name of national security. It has been estimated that 120,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated, most of them under the age of eighteen. According to the Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, some students were released to go to college or to enlist in the U.S. Army. However, a large number of people were held in these camps until World War II ended. This means some people spent up to four years in these camps. No one in these camps was given the benefit of due process. They could not protest these illegal laws that sent them to prison.

In 1980, when the commission published its results, it was declared that none of the detainees had been proven to be a spy, which had been the government’s stated reason for the detention. Rather, the commission concluded the detention of Japanese Americans was the result of racism and wartime hysteria. Eight years later, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which stated that an injustice had been done to the Japanese Americans and suggested that these people were owed a presidential apology and a token sum of $20,000, paid to every detainee.

There were ten major designated relocation camps, most located in isolated and desolate desert or swampland areas: Tule Lake and Manzanar in California; Minidoka in Idaho; Topaz in Utah; Heart Mountain in Wyoming; Granada in Colorado; Rohwer and Jerome in Arkansas; and Poston and Gila River in Arizona. In addition, there were several temporary so-called assembly areas (such as the Tanforan Race Track) and many isolation centers, totaling over twenty different camps. Tule Lake in the mountains of California was reserved for those people suspected of or convicted of crimes. Also, many who would not sign oaths of loyalty to the United States ended up at Tule Lake.

Japanese Immigration to the United States
In 1869, Japanese immigrants came to California to work at the Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony. Their plan to grow tea and...

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