"If you have the feeling that something is wrong, don't be afraid to speak up." - Fred Korematsu
Korematsu v. United States challenged the US government's power to impose Executive Order 9066. Even though the United States was also at war with both Germany and Italy at the time, only Japanese Americans, regardless of their citizenship, were forced to report to Internment Camps. Korematsu argued that Executive Order 9066 was a violation of his constitutional rights.
"The United States was fighting to defend
democracy, but through these four years of mass incarceration, it suspended many basic constitutional principles:
• right to liberty, property, and due process of the law (5th Amendment)
• freedom from unreasonable search and seizure (4th Amendment)
• equal protection under the law (14th Amendment)
• presumption of innocence
• the right to demand release from unjust imprisonment (habeas corpus)
• right to a speedy trial, to hear the accusations and evidence, to have a lawyer (6th Amendment)" - Fred T. Korematsu Institute
“Despite the hardships visited upon this unfortunate racial group by an act of the Government brought about by the then prevailing military necessity, there was recorded during the recent war not one act of sabotage or espionage attributable to those who were the victims of the forced relocation.” - House Report No. 732
Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, Pepperdine University
on the Importance of Civil Rights in Wartime
“It’s not OK to take away an entire group’s civil rights because some individuals are suspects. It’s my hope that my case and the cases of other Japanese American internees would be remembered for the dangers of racial and ethnic scapegoating.” - John Tateishi, Executive Director of the Japanese American Citizen League
Although Executive Order 9066 was issued based on “military necessity”, the government never examined whether this massive imprisonment of an entire ethnic group was justified. The government is responsible for making decisions based on facts, not the fear of espionage. Justice Murphy, dissenting, wrote “President must be reminded that they too have to subject to the law and the law must insist and law must be obeyed.” The US government failed in its responsibility of safeguarding Constitutional rights during the war time.
The court accepted the government’s representation of Korematsu's case and chose to ignore reviewing the factual basis for military decisions in wartime. “The judicial process was seriously impaired when the government’s law enforcement officers violate their ethical obligations to the court. The court is not powerless to correct its own records where a fraud has been worked upon it or where manifest injustice has been done," according to Judge Marilyn Patel.
Peter Irons, Constitutional Law Professor, University of California San Diego
on the Responsibility of the Government
Courtesy of Of Civil Wrongs and Rights
"Our country has done many things right, but it also has made mistakes. We need to honor the courageous people who stand up for what is right—even if it means challenging our government. America is greatest when we celebrate our diversity and defend each other’s rights and freedoms. Our Constitution has profound ideals, but these ideals are meaningless if we do not try to protect them." - Karen Korematsu, daughter of Fred Korematsu
It is essential to maintain a proper balance between civil liberties and protecting national security, especially during wartime.