Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Life Before Internment Camps

Japanese Americans were among one of the first group of Asian Americans to establish a new home in America in 1885. Many migrated due to the Policy of Isolation back home and they no longer wanted to be restricted in their own land. Once in America, the Issei, First Generation; and the Nisei, Second Generation, quickly adopted the Western way of life. Although the Japanese Americans were the first to assimilate, they still faced many forms of discrimination along with barriers changeling their way towards success. Japanese American came face-to-face with the harsh life of discrimination. They were not allowed to enter shops and were limited on the jobs available to them. Signs like, “NO JAPS ALLOWED”, were displayed in front of stores prohibiting their entry.
The Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907 was an informal agreement between Japan and the U.S. which halted the issuance of passport granting laborers to enter the U.S., unless they invested in the U.S. businesses or homes. In 1913, California passed the Alien Land Law, prohibiting all aliens who were ineligible for citizenship the right to own property and then later extended to leasing land. Even though they thought this would decrease the number of Japanese immigrants in the U.S., the agreement overlooked women, resulting in doubling the population. Then the 1924 Immigration Act, which limited the number of immigrants from other countries from entering the U.S. Due to this Immigration Act, there weren’t a second wave of Japanese immigrants.

From then on, lives for Japanese Americans were much like any typical American in the U.S. They carried on normal life like going to work, school, hanging out with friends; many build friendships with Americans at work or around their neighborhoods. Although the Issei, were the most loyal to Japan they were now in the U.S. to build a new home for their family and raise their family in America. The Nisei, however, felt more at home in America then the Issei. They received their education and felt the necessity to be American, and yet found themselves foreign to their original heritage.
Then came the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, that changed the lives of all Japanese Americans.

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