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The Cases of Hirabayashi and Korematsu v United States Essay

The United States, after the fatal attack of the Japanese in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, was forced to enter World War II. There were a few of Japanese descent who, due to the immigration that begun since before 1885, were in the mainland America. Many feared what these Japanese-Americans would side on their home country of Japan that would possibly lead to a successful invasion of Japan. The fact that Japan has invaded one after another Pacific island where American forces were based did not help the public opinion of many regarding the Japanese on the United States.

As a precautionary measure, President Franklin D. Roosevelt has enacted two executive orders to prevent incidents of subversions and espionage from Japanese-Americans. Two Japanese-Americans were found to be guilty of violating these laws which has ultimately brought their cases to the United States Supreme Court. On February 13, 1942, Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which defined military areas in the United States and authorized the removal of Japanese-Americans within these military areas.

The Order declared that “the successful execution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national defense-material, national-defense premises, and national-defense utilities” (United States Supreme Court [USSC], 1944). It also provided assembly centers for those who will ultimately be transferred to evacuation camps. As a result, approximately 120,000 Japanese-Americans were in internment camps (Schaefer, 2008). While the evacuation carried out with little difficulty, there were those who militantly defied the order.

The Japanese American Citizens League, an organization founded in 1924, hoped that cooperating with the American decision will lead to sympathetic consideration when the tension subsided. Of those who resisted the order was Toyosaburo Korematsu. Korematsu was a US-born Japanese-American who stayed in San Leandro, California and knowingly violated the Civilian Exclusion Order No. 34—an order based upon the provisions of Executive Order 9066. The Civilian Exclusion Order No.

34, an order issued by the Commanding General of the Western Command, directed that “all persons of Japanese ancestry should be excluded” from San Leandro, California (USSC, 1944). Korematsu was arrested and was found guilty of the violation. He challenged the constitutionality of the Order and held that it is in violation of the provision in the Fifth Amendment stating that no person shall “be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

” The question of loyalty was not raised. Furthermore, the evacuees were forced, charged with no crime and could not leave without official approval (Schaefer, 2008). This is crucial in that, as Schaefer explained, the Japanese-Americans that were forced to resettle in evacuation camps were instructed that they were to carry only personal items. “No provision was made for shipping their household goods” and “the federal government took a few steps to safeguard their belongings they left behind” (Schaefer, 2008).

The Court (1944) decided that the need to protect against espionage from persons of enemy descent, of Japanese descent in Korematsu’s case, far outweighs their rights as provided for by the Fifth Amendment. The Court held that the military authorities were charged with the protection of the American soils. Furthermore, the Civilian Exclusion Order is in accordance to the provisions of the Congressional authority to the military allowing them to identify who should and who should not remain in areas threatened with invasion, espionage or sabotage.

The court explained that they have no doubts that most of the evacuees were loyal to the United States. They reasoned that the exclusion of the entire Japanese-American population was brought upon the contention that the disloyal could not be immediately segregated from those who are loyal to the United States. The Court (1944) explained “that there were members of the group who retained loyalties to Japan,” a fact that “has been confirmed by investigations made subsequent to the exclusion.

” It has been found that “approximately five thousand American citizens of Japanese ancestry refused to swear unqualified allegiance to the United States and to renounce allegiance to the Japanese Emperor, and several thousand evacuees requested repatriation to Japan” (USSC, 1944). While the Court (1944) held that compulsory exclusion of large groups of citizens from their homes is inconsistent with basic governmental institutions, “when under conditions of modern warfare our shores are threatened by hostile forces, the power to protect must be commensurate with the threatened danger. ” Finally, the Court (1944) explained that

“Korematsu was not excluded from the Military Area because of hostility to him or his race. He was excluded because we are at war with the Japanese Empire, because the properly constituted military authorities feared an invasion of our West Coast and felt constrained to take proper security measures, because they decided that the military urgency of the situation demanded that all citizens of Japanese ancestry be segregated from the West Coast temporarily, and finally, because Congress, reposing its confidence in this time of war in our military leaders-as inevitably it must-determined that they should have the power to do just this”

Another case wherein a Japanese-American has challenged the United States government, particularly of its military institution, was the case of Kiyoshi Hirabayashi v United States. This time, the guilty was found to be violating the Act of Congress of March 21, 1942 requiring all persons of Japanese ancestry to be in their place of residence between 8:00pm to 6:00am. The Act was also in accordance to Executive Order 9066.

The Court’s ruling was also in favor of the United States. While the Hirabayashi case was earlier decided, it has been greatly overshadowed by the Korematsu case due to the fact that exclusion was more extreme than that of the curfew rule. However, the Supreme Court decision made on the Korematsu case relied and affirmed the decision in the Hirabayahi case. Korematsu and Hirabayashi both challenged the constitutionality of the rules enacted based on Executive Order 9066.

They claimed that the rules violated the provisions of the Fifth Amendment stating that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law—a provision that was violated when the military institution has apprehended Korematsu and Hirabayashi and all other Japanese-Americans without questioning and even the indication of treason or disloyalty to the United States government.

Unsurprisingly, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the federal government, giving precaution for espionage and sabotage from persons of enemy descent during the time of war as a justification for such rules imposed based on Executive Order 9066. They held that the rules were not insomuch as a racial prejudice against citizens of Japanese ancestry but was necessary for the war efforts to be successful. The Court, however, clarified that the rules based on the Order should only be imposed until such time when the war is over.

The Japanese-Americans lost much of their property and were destroyed economically. After World War II, the United States federal government paid $35 million to the Japanese-Americans who were affected to compensate for the loss of property. However, the total loss was estimated to be worth up to $400 million. References Schaefer, R. (2008). “Japanese Americans. ” In Racial and Ethnic Groups 11th Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJL Prentice Hall. United States Supreme Court. (1943). Kiyoshi Hirabayashi v United States. 320 US 81. United States Supreme Court. (1944). Toyosaburo Korematsu v United States. 323 US 214.


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