By: Nathan N.

Japanese immigrants came to the United States in search of laborer jobs, which of course scared Americans. It was soon after their arrival that these Japanese families began to expand, giving birth to naturalized citizens. Such events led to laws being passed that discriminated against Japanese immigrants, starting in 1913 when states began legislation to prevent Japanese from owning land. In 1922 courts ruled that Japanese could not become naturalized citizens and within a few years, Japanese immigration to the United States was a thing of the past. The divide increased, until Japanese diplomats met with the U.S., and then Pearl Harbor was attacked.

President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 in February 1942. The order meant that any Japanese individual, whether American citizen or not, was to be relocated to relocation camps inland of the United States. “Increasingly the larger public and the government believed that their presence near vital ports and military bases posed a threat to national security” (Visions of America 698). Roosevelt declared this was a wartime necessity, but was this necessary? Japanese-Americans were given curfews, forced to live within small boundaries (eight individuals per 20×25 foot room), and were paid anywhere from $12-$15 monthly for their jobs. Many of the Japanese within the camps offered to help support the war effort, which is astounding since many lost their businesses and loved ones’ due to these internment camps.  

It wasn’t long before Japanese-Americans were dying in war, therefore the Army decided to draft fighters from these 10 camps, because this was their American duty, even though tens of thousands of the Japanese-Americans haven’t ever been to Japan. In my opinion, the camps and the placing of Japanese into these camps was a bit dramatic, sure America didn’t want the Japanese to turn on us in midst of a war, but how can the United States take away all their rights as citizens and then tell them to fight for America in the war because it is their duty? Seems a bit hypocritical. These camps weren’t the most horrific camps in history, but by no means were the camps peaceful or welcoming. As the text and videos mentioned, many Japanese died in the camps due to malnutrition and lack of medical care. These camps surrounded by watch-towers, barbed-wire, and security guards were not built to feel like home.

However, the morale was at an all-time low between the Japanese and Americans, so when it was over and done with would all the Japanese families go back home? “The war provided many opportunities for racial minorities to assert their claims for equal rights in American social and political life” (Visions of America 703). This would be a scar that wouldn’t disappear any time soon. Instead of relocating the Japanese on a whim, the United States could have tried to mend the gap between the Japanese and Americans by asking for support in the war or implementing a draft earlier on. The government lost trust from the Japanese-American citizens, Japanese immigrants, and Japanese natives. History shows that we cannot stereotype a certain group of people, whether it be for religious reasons or ethnic reasons. Japanese-American citizens were betrayed, they were legal citizens of the United States, yet were treated as prisoners. Not only did this affect the Japanese, because every minority group from that moment on had to wonder what if their native country was to attack the United States, what would happen to them? The U.S. has been on a quest to gain power economically, therefore many of us go down with the ship whether we would like to be a part of it or not.