Korematsu Lawyer: “National Security” Can Be a Bogus Excuse for Essentially Racist Laws

Dale Minami
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

President Donald Trump’s recent flood of executive orders are unnerving reminders of Executive Order 9066, issued 75 years ago by President Franklin Roosevelt, which resulted in the imprisonment of 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry. Two-thirds of those exiled from their homes — including my parents, family and their friends — were American citizens. They were denied the basic due process rights of notice of charges, the rights to an attorney and the rights to trials. Women, children, the infirm and the elderly — all were sent to indefinite confinement in the most inhospitable nether reaches of the United States in brazen defiance of the U.S. Constitution.

Gordon Hirabayashi, Minoru Yasui and Fred Korematsu challenged these military orders and lost their cases in the United States Supreme Court in 1943 and 1944 when the Supreme Court abdicated its responsibility to independently evaluate the bases for Executive Order 9066 and meekly accepted the military’s unsupported assertion that Japanese Americans constituted a potential danger to the country’s security. Without any examination of the underlying facts supporting the executive order, the Supreme Court essentially assented to the very dangerous proposition that military judgments are unreviewable by the courts during times of war.

This fallacy and the peril of this frightening proposition was exposed in 1983 when Gordon, Minoru and Fred challenged the government again, arguing that their convictions in 1943 and 1944 were affirmed as a result of monumental government misconduct, including the alteration, suppression and destruction of evidence by government officials who sought to win the government’s cases at all costs. The evidence contradicted the assertions that Japanese Americans posed a danger and that there was a need to exclude them from the West Coast states or detain them en masse.

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