Americans feared that Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans could be potential enemy agents that helped the attack on Pearl Harbor. Roosevelt started out by having the Supreme Court rule out places that were off limits. They declared that all of the West Coast was off limits to all people of Japanese ancestry. The Japanese only had a couple days to sell their belongings and head off to the internment camps where they were held under armed guards. Nobody was questioned or had a trial to determine if they were dangerous to American soil. They were all immediately sent off to 10 different camps throughout the U.S., and most Japanese people did it quietly, without complaints.
Living conditions weren’t the best, and the government tried to play it off like they weren’t bad by calling one the “Harmony Camp”. Masao Watanabe explains that it was a very traumatic experience. Families had to live in places farm animals used to occupy. Fences with barbed wire surrounded the camps, and there were guards with guns walking around. They had to live in tarpaper barracks, dine in mess halls, and children had to go to school. The worst of it was the government was hoping the people living in the internment camps could make their own crops, but the dry soil made it hard to grow anything. Some Japanese Americans died due to not enough medical care or the guards killed them for not following orders. The Japanese came to America to find jobs and new opportunities. They never thought they would be a part of an internment camp being held against their rights.
There were definitely some conflicting opinions on what to do in this situation. The people who saw that internment camps were necessary thought we have no idea who is loyal to America and who isn’t. They also said that this is a part of war and everybody feels the pressure of war in different ways. They felt this was the only way to protect America when our shores were threatened. On the other hand, Americans thought that the interning of Japanese Americans was racist and unmoral. We know that there were some Japanese who were disloyal, but who’s to say that there weren’t citizens of German or other ancestry in the U.S. helping the Japanese too.
One consequence of our government’s internment program was loss of trust of how the government treated citizens with regard to our basic rights. This loss of trust could extend beyond the Japanese and into people of other ethnic backgrounds.