Senator Graham Needs a Refresher on Japanese American Wartime Incarceration

June 15, 2018 Press Release
Contact: Jeffrey Moy, Vice President for Public Affairs, jmoy@jacl.org
David Inoue, Executive Director, dinoue@jacl.org

In a floor debate Tuesday, June 12, Senator Lindsey Graham, in opposing Senator Rand Paul’s Sixth Amendment Preservation Act, defended the removal of the right to a lawyer for those imprisoned under the National Defense Authorization Act by comparing it to the denial of legal representation for Japanese and Germans imprisoned during World War II.

We would like to remind Senator Graham of the nearly 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans imprisoned during World War II, as mentioned just minutes previously by Senator Paul, who were identified as enemies by the military, rounded up, and incarcerated in American concentration camps under the supervision of the army. Senator Graham seems to be trying to make a distinction that it is the war on terrorism that makes this lawful. Fortunately, Senator Graham is in the minority of legal opinion and the majority now recognizes the incarceration of Japanese and Japanese Americans during World War II was unconstitutional, in spite of the failure of the Supreme Court to find otherwise at that time.

Senator Paul’s amendment proposes to repeal section 1021 of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. That section “affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force… includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons pending disposition under the law of war.” This language is eerily similar to the wide latitude given to military commanders during WWII by executive order 9066 to remove Japanese and Japanese Americans from the west coast.

JACL is emphatic that there can be no equivocation on the civil rights guaranteed by our constitution. The incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II was one of the greatest abuses of wartime hysteria combined with blatant racism to violate the constitutional and civil rights of nearly 120,000 people, the majority being American citizens. We appreciate Senator Paul’s recognition of the need for legal guardrails on the government to protect our individual rights, and especially the context of the Japanese American experience as it relates to section 1021 of the NDAA.

We hope that Senator Graham will return to his law studies and refresh his memory on the cases of Korematsu, Yasui, Hirabayashi, and Endo, all cases brought forth in challenge to the unjust incarceration and with legal representation for the wrongly imprisoned. The effort to wage war should not be used as an excuse to subvert the constitution.

The Japanese American Citizens League is a national organization whose ongoing mission is to secure and maintain the civil rights of Japanese Americans and all others who are victimized by injustice and bigotry. The leaders and members of the JACL also work to promote cultural, educational and social values and preserve the heritage and legacy of the Japanese American community.

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