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The Japanese American Cases—A Disaster, 54 Yale Law Journal 489 (1945)


Our war-time treatment of Japanese aliens and citizens of Japanese descent on the West Coast has been hasty, unnecessary and mistaken. The course of action which we undertook was in no way required or justified by the circumstances of the war. It was calculated to produce both individual injustice and deep-seated social maladjustments of a cumulative and sinister kind.

All in all, the internment of the West Coast Japanese is the worst blow our liberties have sustained in many years. Over one hundred thousand men, women and children have been imprisoned, some seventy thousand of them citizens of the United States, without indictment or the proffer of charges, pending inquiry into their "loyalty." They were taken into custody as a military measure on the ground that espionage and sabotage were especially to be feared from persons of Japanese blood. They were removed from the West Coast area because the military thought it would take too long to conduct individual loyalty investigations on the ground. They were arrested in an area where the courts were open, and freely functioning. They were held under prison conditions in uncomfortable camps, far from their homes, and for lengthy periods—several years in many cases. If found "disloyal" in administrative proceedings they were confined indefinitely, although no statute makes "disloyalty" a crime; it would be difficult indeed for a statute to do so under a Constitution which has been interpreted to minimize imprisonment for political opinions, both by defining the crime of treason in extremely rigid and explicit terms, and by limiting convictions for sedition and like offenses. In the course of relocation citizens have suffered severe property losses, despite some custodial assistance by the Government. Perhaps 70,000 persons are still in camps, "loyal" and "disloyal" citizens and aliens alike, more than three years after the programs were instituted. Although the process of relocation has been recently accelerated, many will remain in the camps at least until January 2, 1946.

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