In this presidential election year for the U.S., I thought it would be appropriate to examine and learn from what past presidents did using their power in the form of the executive order.
On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the Secretary of War to prescribe certain areas as military zones, clearing the way for the deportation of Japanese Americans to internment camps. As a result, approximately 120,000 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry were evicted from the West Coast of the United States and held in internment camps across the country. Over two-thirds of the interned — about 70,000 people — were American citizens. Many of the rest had lived in the country between 20 and 40 years. Most first generation U.S. born Japanese Americans, (the nisei), considered themselves loyal to the United States of America.
In December 1944, the internees were released and returned “home” to find that they had lost their homes, businesses, property and savings. To this day, no Japanese American citizen or Japanese national residing in the United States was ever found guilty of sabotage or espionage. Persons born in Japan were not allowed to become naturalized US citizens until 1952.
On February 19, 1976 (34 years later) President Gerald Ford rescinded Executive Order 9066. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed legislation to create the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) to conduct an official governmental study of Executive Order 9066, related wartime orders, and their impact on Japanese Americans in the West and Alaska Natives in the Pribilof Islands. In December 1982, the CWRIC’s report, Personal Justice Denied, concluded that the incarceration of Japanese Americans was based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership". The Commission recommended legislative remedies consisting of an official government apology and redress payments of $20,000 to each of the survivors; a public education fund was set up to help ensure that this would not happen again (Public Law 100-383). On August 10, 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which was based on the CWRIC recommendations, On November 21, 1989, President George H. W. Bush signed an appropriation bill authorizing payments to be paid out between 1990 and 1998. Forty-eight years after the unjust incarceration, the surviving internees began to receive redress payments and letters of apology.
A president who has prejudice against a group of U.S. residents, fused by war hysteria, could put 120,000 innocent people, 2/3 of whom were citizens, in concentration camps! It took 3 subsequent presidents’ actions, to redress this injustice. Of course, their actions were the accumulation of countless hours of community activists working and lobbying our political leadership’s behavior of the internees over a period of 48 years.
In preparation to go to the polls in November, I would recommend the people of the United States, to study this ugly episode of the U.S. history, (see study process below), and learn from it the importance of electing a president who will make sure that this kind of shameful injustice against our own citizens will not happen again.
"Executive" Order No. 9066
Authorizing the Secretary of War to Prescribe Military Areas
Whereas the successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national-defense material, national-defense premises, and national-defense utilities as defined in Section 4, Act of April 20, 1918, 40 Stat. 533, as amended by the Act of November 30, 1940, 54 Stat. 1220, and the Act of August 21, 1941, 55 Stat. 655 (U.S.C., Title 50, Sec. 104);
Now, therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States, and Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War, and the Military Commanders whom he may from time to time designate, whenever he or any designated Commander deems such action necessary or desirable, to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion. The Secretary of War is hereby authorized to provide for residents of any such area who are excluded therefrom, such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary, in the judgment of the Secretary of War or the said Military Commander, and until other arrangements are made, to accomplish the purpose of this order. The designation of military areas in any region or locality shall supersede designations of prohibited and restricted areas by the Attorney General under the Proclamations of December 7 and 8, 1941, and shall supersede the responsibility and authority of the Attorney General under the said Proclamations in respect of such prohibited and restricted areas.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
The White House,
February 19, 1942
Reflection Questions for Proper 8 (Year C)
2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20
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