President Franklin D. Roosevelt's signing of Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, authorizing the military to circumvent constitutional rights of American citizens in the name of national defense, set in motion the internment of 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, 50 percent of whom were children, and 70 percent of whom were U.S. citizens forced to leave their homes and jobs without due process of law.
Called "one of the largest controlled migrations in history" by the War Relocation Authority in 1942, and "one of the most shameful acts committed by the United States government this century" by contemporary Japanese Americans, the internment was initially fueled by fear of domestic sabotage. Indeed ten individuals were convicted of providing wartime secrets to Japan, but all were Caucasians. In Years of Infamy, Michi Weglyn reported that "our government had in its possession proof that not one Japanese American, citizen or not, had engaged in espionage, not one had committed any act of sabotage." On the contrary, according to the Commission of Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, causes of evacuation and mass incarceration "were motivated by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership."
Finally, through almost 50 years of efforts by leaders of the Japanese American community, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. Referred to as the Japanese American Redress Bill, this act acknowledged a grave injustice. It stated: "For these fundamental violations of the basic civil liberties and constitutional rights of these individuals of Japanese ancestry, the Congress apologizes on behalf of the Nation." Each victim of internment was mandated $20,000 in reparations.
According to the Children of the Camps Project, however, "Despite this redress, the mental and physical health impacts of the trauma of the internment experience continue to affect tens of thousands of Japanese Americans."
- Students analyze America's participation in World War II. (11.7.5)