In an historic move, the families of Gordon Hirabayashi, Minoru Yasui, and Fred Korematsu — the three men behind three landmark Supreme Court cases that challenged the constitutionality of Japanese American incarceration (JACL’s Power of Words) — filed a joint amicus brief to the Supreme Court yesterday paralleling President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban with the forcible imprisonment of Japanese Americans in camps during World War II.
In 1942, Gordon Hirabayashi and Minoru Yasui filed separate Supreme Court cases challenging the constitutionality of a federally-imposed curfew on Japanese Americans, a precursor to removal orders that led to the World War II incarceration of Japanese American citizens. That same year, Fred Korematsu was arrested after he refused to report for removal and relocation orders, and his appeal of that arrest formed the basis of his Supreme Court challenge of Executive Order 9066. These three cases — along with the Ex Parte Endo decision — form the bulk of the Supreme Court case history on federal targeting of specific racial or ethnic minority groups under the auspices of national security.
One need not try too hard to see the relevance of this case history on today’s fight to stop Trump’s attempt Muslim travel ban.
Today is the 5th annual Korematsu Day, a state-wide holiday honouring civil rights hero Fred T. Korematsu that is celebrated in California on the anniversary of Korematsu’s birthday! Fred T. Korematsu defied the American government — his government — when it issued Executive Order 9066 which resulted in the internment of Japanese American in American concentration camps. Korematsu not only became a fugitive in his attempts to defy the racist and baseless order, but he later filed a Supreme Court case against the US government challenging the legality of the order.
After the jump, read an excerpt of my post on Fred T. Korematsu’s life and legacy, which I wrote last year.
Born on January 30, 1919 in Oakland, California to Japanese parents, Fred Korematsu pursued all the trappings of a typical American childhood. He attended public school, participated in the tennis and swim teams, and was conscripted to military service under the 1940 Selective Training and Service Act, which was passed by Congress to boost America’s military defenses in the face of the growing threats of World War II. Although he was rejected by the US Navy due to stomach ulcers, Korematsu was inspired to try and serve his country however possible and sought jobs as a welder at the local shipyard in order to help build American warships. In short, Fred Korematsu was a proud American citizen and a patriot.
Unfortunately, for most of his life, America treated him like a criminal, based solely on his race.