The Legacy of Internment

Minoru Yasui

Gordon Hirabayashi

Fred Korematsu

The Supreme Court Cases

Minoru Yasui, Gordon Hirabayashi and Fred Korematsu challenged the right of the U.S. Government to subject only Japanese Americans to curfew and evacuation. The three men were convicted and imprisoned for violating the curfew and failing to report for evacuation. In 1944 the United States Supreme Court upheld their convictions. justice Robert H. Jackson stated in his dissenting opinion in the Korematsu case that once the Court has validated the principle of racial discrimination ". . . and of transplanting American citizens ... the principle then lies about like a loaded weapon ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need. . . "

In 1983 the three men filed coram nobis petitions seeking to vacate the original convictions. In November 1983 United States District Court Judge Marilyn H. Patel reversed Korematsu's conviction. The Judge found that the internment had been based on misleading and incomplete information about Japanese Americans put forth by government officials. The other cases are pending in the federal courts.


In 1980 Congress set up a bipartisan Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians to look into the circumstances of the exclusion, removal and detention of 110,000 Japanese Americans and resident Japanese aliens from the West Coast, and the treatment of Aleuts, during World War II. The nine Commissioners heard 750 witnesses at hearings held coast to coast and in Alaska and delved into the archives of the war period.

In its unanimous report issued in February of 1983, "Personal justice Denied," the Commission's conclusion was that the reason for the evacuation was not military necessity but racial prejudice, wartime hysteria and the failure of political leadership.

Legislation based on the recommendations of the Commission has been introduced in Congress to redress the grave injustices suffered by an entire class of citizens who were deprived of the basic rights guaranteed to every United States citizen by the Constitution. Congress is examining the legislation.

"The evacuation experience of Japanese Americans during World War II is a harsh reminder of the frailties of constitutional guarantees: That wherever and whenever civil liberties can be taken from one group or individual, they can be taken from any group or individual. The current efforts for redress will help insure that an injustice of the past will not be repeated in the future. "

(Memorial Service, Amache, Colorado)

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