Thursday, November 27, 2008

Life After Japanese Internment Camps

"Finally getting out of the camps was a great day. It felt so good to get out of the gates, and just know that you were going home…finally. Home wasn't where I left it though. Getting back, I was just shocked to see what had happened, our home being bought by a different family, different decorations in the windows; it was our house, but it wasn't anymore. It hurt not being able to return home, but moving into a new home helped me I believe. I think it helped me to bury the past a little, to, you know, move on from what had happened." -Aya Nakamura [November 18, 2000.]
On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, allowing the military to impose a curfew and forcibly detain people of Japanese ancestry, even American citizens, and so began Japanese-American internment camps.
In 1946, Japanese-American citizens were finally released from their horrible internment camps. Many Japanese-Americans found that their homes and land were sold to other Americans. It took years for some to find new homes and farms, and obviously had trouble finding new jobs and getting loans. Unfortunately, not all Japanese-American citizens were able to rebuild their lives. Still, a number were killed due to continuous racial prejudice, even after being let out of the inhumane internment camps. Because of such deep emotional wounds, it took about two decades for Japanese-Americans to take any kind of legal action. It was not until over forty years later that the United States government finally made a formal apology to the Japanese-American community and passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. The Civil Liberties Act reads:

“The Congress recognizes that, as described in the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, a grave injustice was done to both citizens and permanent residents of Japanese ancestry by the evacuation, relocation, and internment of civilians during World War II. As the Commission documents, these actions were carried out without adequate security reasons and without any acts of espionage or sabotage documented by the Commission, and were motivated largely by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership. The excluded individuals of Japanese ancestry suffered enormous damages, both material and intangible, and there were incalculable losses in education and job training, all of which resulted in significant human suffering for which appropriate compensation has not been made. For these fundamental violations of the basic civil liberties and constitutional rights of these individuals of Japanese ancestry, the Congress apologizes on behalf of the Nation.”

Belated, but still appreciated, President Gerald R. Ford also formally apologized in 1976. Soon enough, the Office of Redress Administration finally delivered redress payments to 82,220 claimants. However, some went unpaid due to those who made no claim.
Today, many Japanese-Americans have fully rebuilt their lives and have prominent careers. A few cases about treatment of the Japanese-American citizens during wartime made it to the United States Supreme Court. Because of these determined citizens taking legal action, a better change was made for future American citizens of Japanese ancestry.