We are squarely in the center of the anniversary of one of the most un-American acts of any President and congress in recorded history – the forced internment during World War II of 120,000 people of Japanese decent – of which 62% were US citizens.
This action was so intolerable that four successive presidents later acted on it. Gerald Ford rescinded the law that enabled the travesty, Jimmy Carter convened a commission to study the effects and issue reparations, Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 into law based on the Carter commission recommendations, and George H.W. Bush signed an appropriation bill authorizing payments.
Our own government’s official apology document stated the internment was based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership”. As citizens we must remember that our own government can, and will, sometimes make horrendous decisions which violate our most basic constitutional rights. It is up to every person of conscious to understand and oppose injustice.
Former Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark, who represented the US Department of Justice in the “relocation,” wrote:
The truth isÃ¢â‚¬â€as this deplorable experience provesÃ¢â‚¬â€that constitutions and laws are not sufficient of themselves…Despite the unequivocal language of the Constitution of the United States that the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, and despite the Fifth Amendment’s command that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, both of these constitutional safeguards were denied by military action under Executive Order 9066.
Rather than re-create the wheel, there is a fantastic and fairly complete article on this event over at Wikipedia. Please take a few moments to read it and remember that politicians, police and generally everyone can – and will – make mistakes.