Blog of Rights

Will the Senate Forget the Lessons from Japanese-American Internment?

By Amanda Simon at 1:02pm

The U.S. Senate is considering the unthinkable, changing detention laws to imprison people – including Americans – indefinitely and without charge. Before they proceed, they should review our own history by listening to the voices of the last people systematically targeted and detained by the U.S. government: Japanese-Americans.

Today the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) sent an important letter to the Senate regarding two damaging sections of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) - Sections 1031 and 1032. As we've talked to you about before, this would be the first time since 1950 that Congress authorized the American government to detain its citizens without charge or trial.

JACL raises this important history in their letter:

The JACL is particularly concerned with the issue of indefinite detention because of our own experiences related to the illegal Japanese American internment during World War II, an episode that has left an indelible scar on American history. The United States has rightly condemned its decision to forcibly relocate and indefinitely detain individuals of Japanese descent, including American citizens, without due process, and efforts to redress this extraordinary wrongdoing continue to this day.
Relating their history to the proposed legislation, the letter goes on to say:
The JACL also believes that section 1031, if enacted, would be the first time that Congress cuts back on the protections provided by the Non-Detention Act of 1971, which states that, "No citizen shall be imprisoned or otherwise detained by the United States except pursuant to an Act of Congress." The Non-Detention Act of 1971 expressed the will of Congress and the President that America would never repeat the Japanese American internment experience, and would never subject any other Americans to indefinite detention without charge or trial.
Given our country's checkered past with this kind of military detention, we hope senators will remove these sections from the NDAA. The Senate has yet to move the bill to the floor but, considering that many view the NDAA as a "must-pass" bill, the fight is long from over.

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