Moral Low Ground

Civil Liberties

U.S. Admits Imprisoning Japanese-Americans in WWII Concentration Camps was a “Mistake”

The United States Justice Department today admitted that “mistakes” were made in the internment of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during World War II.

Official notice of exclusion and removal of Japanese-Americans.

According to Agence France-Presse, US Solicitor General Neal Katyal issued an internet statement in observance of Asian-American Pacific Islander History Month that blamed his WWII-era predecessor for ignoring a US Navy intelligence report that found only a handful of Japanese-Americans posed a threat to national security.

“Instead, [the solicitor general] argued that it was impossible to segregate loyal Japanese-Americans from disloyal ones… And to make matters worse, he relied on gross generalizations about Japanese-Americans, such as that they were disloyal and motivated by ‘racial solidarity,'” Katyal wrote.

Some 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry, the majority of whom were American citizens; many born in the US, were rounded up and forcibly relocated to desolate concentration camps where they languished for the duration of the war.

“The solicitor general was largely responsible for the defense of those policies,” Katyal wrote. He says that the court decisions that affirmed the internment “still stand today as a reminder of the mistakes of that era.”

As a result of the civil rights era “Redress Movement” launched by Japanese-Americans, President Gerald Ford declared the shameful internment “a national mistake which shall never again be repeated” in 1976. In 1983, a Congressional commission found that internment was “unjust and motivated by racism rather than real military necessity.” Five years later, President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which set aside $1.2 billion– $20,000 for each surviving former internee– in reparations. George H. W. Bush, Reagan’s successor, issued a formal apology in 1992.

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