Freedom: A History of US

Webisode 12. Segment 6
Forgetting the Constitution

Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Haruko Obata lived in Berkeley, California, where her father was a professor. Haruko was an American citizen. Like most Japanese Americans, she was proud of her Asian heritage, but she didn't approve of the ways of the Japanese warlords. She was happy to live in the land of liberty. Then, one day, Haruko's father tells the family they are moving. They have just a few days to get ready. What have they done wrong? Nothing. But they are of Japanese descent, and the United States is now at war with Japan. Of course, the Japanese in America have nothing to do with that. But there is anti-Japanese hysteria. There is also greed—if Japanese Americans are put behind barbed wire, their property can be sold, and others can profit from it.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution is supposed to protect citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. The Fourteenth Amendment says "nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property without the due process of law." But we are at war, and the War Department is worried about "national security." President Roosevelt issues Executive Order 9102. With only a few days to get ready, 120,000 Japanese Americans, including Haruko and her family, are sent to internment camps Check The Source - Evacuation to Manzanar See It Now - Internment Camps. Haruko recalled that terrible day: Hear It Now - Haruko Obata "When we arrived at Tanforan it was raining, it was so sad and depressing. The roadway was all mud, and our shoes would get stuck in the mud when we walked outside. They gave us a horse stable the size of our dining room—that was our sleeping quarters Check The Source - Internment Camp Poem."

It is the greatest violation of freedom in America since the days of slavery, but few seem to notice. Forty years after the end of the war, the American government will apologize to the Japanese-Americans for the injustice done to them during World War II See It Now - Reagan Reparations.

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