Evacuation of the West Coast Japanese.

On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt issued an executive order, “by virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States, and Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy,” providing, as a safeguard against subversion and sabotage, power for his military commanders to designate areas from which “any person” could be excluded or removed and to set up facilities for such persons elsewhere.152 Pursuant to this order, more than 112,000 residents of the Western states, all of Japanese descent and more than two out of every three of whom were natural-born citizens, were removed from their homes and herded into temporary camps and later into “relocation centers” in several states.

It was apparently the original intention of the Administration to rely on the general principle of military necessity and the power of the Commander-in-Chief in wartime as authority for the relocations. But before any action of importance was taken under the order, Congress ratified and adopted it by the Act of March 21, 1942,153 by which it was made a misdemeanor to knowingly enter, remain in, or leave prescribed military areas contrary to the orders of the Secretary of War or of the commanding officer of the area. The cases which subsequently arose in consequence of the order were decided under the order plus the Act. The question at issue, said Chief Justice Stone for the Court, “is not one of Congressional power to delegate to the President the promulgation of the Executive Order, but whether, acting in cooperation, Congress and the Executive have constitutional . . . [power] to impose the curfew restriction here complained of.”154 This question was answered in the affirmative, as was the similar question later raised by an exclusion order.155

Footnotes

152
E.O. 9066, 7 FED. REG. 1407 (1942). [Back to text]
153
56 Stat. 173 (1942). [Back to text]
154
Hirabayashi v. United States, 320 U.S. 81, 91–92 (1943). [Back to text]
155
Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944). Long afterward, in 1984, a federal court granted a writ of coram nobis and overturned Korematsu’s conviction, Korematsu v. United States, 584 F. Supp. 1406 (N.D.Cal. 1984), and in 1986, a federal court vacated Hirabayashi’s conviction for failing to register for evacuation but let stand the conviction for curfew violations. Hirabayashi v. United States, 627 F. Supp. 1445 (W.D.Wash. 1986). Other cases were pending, but Congress then implemented the recommendations of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians by acknowledging “the fundamental injustice of the evacuation, relocation and internment,” and apologizing on behalf of the people of the United States. Pub. L. 100–383, 102 Stat. 903 (1988), 50 U.S.C. App. §§ 1989 et seq. Reparations were approved, and each living survivor of the internment was to be compensated in an amount roughly approximating $20,000. [Back to text]