Karleen C. Chinen
If nothing else, Donald Trump’s presidency is prompting many of us to pay closer attention to the business of governing in America. So many of the procedures that I never gave a second thought to now have me visiting google.com numerous times a day and asking, “Can he do that?” And, I pay much more attention to world and national news than I ever did previously.
As President Barack Obama’s final term began winding down and it became increasingly more difficult for any of his proposals to make it through the highly partisan Congress — do you realize that the U.S. Supreme Court has been without its ninth justice for a whole year now because Obama’s pick could not get even a hearing? — President Obama turned to executive orders to push through his agenda. Over the course of time, I learned, of course, that executive orders can always be repealed . . . which is exactly what Donald Trump vowed to do from Day One of his presidency — and he has —and has signed his own executive orders in grand Oval Office ceremonies.
All of the talk about executive orders got me wondering whether President Franklin Roosevelt’s infamous Executive Order 9066 was ever repealed. A lead from civil rights attorney Dale Minami led me to the website of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library.
Executive Order 9066 was indeed repealed by President Ford in February 1976. The following is the text of Proclamation 4417, confirming the termination of EO 9066. It is worth re-reading in these troubled times. Titled “An American Promise,” it was signed by President Ford and is preserved in the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum in Ann Arbor, Mich.
February 19, 1976
By the President of the United States of America,
In this Bicentennial Year, we are commemorating the anniversary dates of many great events in American history. An honest reckoning, however, must include a recognition of our national mistakes as well as our national achievements. Learning from our mistakes is not pleasant, but as a great philosopher once admonished, we must do so if we want to avoid repeating them.
February 19th is the anniversary of a sad day in American history. It was on that date in 1942, in the midst of the response to the hostilities that began on December 7, 1941, that Executive Order 9066 was issued, subsequently enforced by the criminal penalties of a statute enacted March 21, 1942, resulting in the uprooting of loyal Americans. Over one hundred thousand persons of Japanese ancestry were removed from their homes, detained in special camps, and eventually relocated.
The tremendous effort by the War Relocation Authority and concerned Americans for the welfare of these Japanese-Americans may add perspective to that story, but it does not erase the setback to fundamental American principles. Fortunately, the Japanese-American community in Hawai‘i was spared the indignities suffered by those on our mainland.
We now know what we should have known then — not only was that evacuation wrong, but Japanese-Americans were and are loyal Americans. On the battlefield and at home, Japanese-Americans — names like Hamada, Mitsumori, Marimoto, Noguchi, Yamasaki, Kido, Munemori and Miyamura — have been and continue to be written in our history for the sacrifices and the contributions they have made to the well-being and security of this, our common Nation.
The Executive order that was issued on February 19, 1942, was for the sole purpose of prosecuting the war with the Axis Powers, and ceased to be effective with the end of those hostilities. Because there was no formal statement of its termination, however, there is concern among many Japanese-Americans that there may yet be some life in that obsolete document. I think it appropriate, in this our Bicentennial Year, to remove all doubts on that matter, and to make clear our commitment in the future.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GERALD R. FORD, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim that all authority conferred by Executive Order 9066 terminated upon the issuance of Proclamation 2714, which formally proclaimed the cessation of hostilities of World War II on December 31, 1946.
I call upon the American people to affirm with me this American Promise — that we have learned from the tragedy of that long-ago experience forever to treasure liberty and justice for each individual American, and resolve that this kind of action shall never again be repeated.
IN WITNESS THEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this nineteenth day of February in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred seventy-six, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundredth.