The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 caused the wholehearted participation of the USA with World War II. The experience of war turned American culture into one predominated by nationalism and paranoia. A good example of this is the Supreme Court case Toyosaburo Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944). The Supreme Court made a decision in this case that reflected the atmosphere in the country more than the intentions of the American Constitution.
Toyosaburo Korematsu was an American living in California at the time that President Roosevelt designated parts of the country ‘military areas.’ Japanese and Japanese-Americans living in the USA were ordered into internment camps which were essentially prison camps. People had to leave their lives behind and relocate to the camps. Mr. Korematsu did not do so. He had plastic surgery so that he would appear less Japanese and continued his life in San Francisco, California. In May 1942 he was arrested and charged with failing to complying with the evacuation order. His case was taken on by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in order to test the constitutionality of the evacuation order also referred to as the relocation and exclusion order.
The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the lower court which stated that Mr. Korematsu must relocate to the internment camps. The votes were 6 – 3 with Mr. Justice Black writing the majority opinion of the court and Mr. Justice Frankfurter writing a concurring opinion. They both used arguments based on presumption of National Security reasons. Mr. Justice Black also used another case the Supreme Court had heard earlier, Kiyoshi Hirabayashi vs. United States as an example of a prerequisite. In that case Mr. Hirabayashi had been arrested for failing to comply with a curfew on citizens of Japanese ancestry. The Court found at that time that the curfew was necessary in order to protect Americans from traitors. The Court assumed that people of Japanese ancestry were spies and were conspiring to bring harm to American citizens.
Mr. Justice Black explained that Mr. Korematsu must comply with evacuation (exclusion) order because the United States was at war with Japan, Congress had upheld the decisions of US military leaders and the Supreme Court upheld the decision of Congress to make the law. Mr. Justice Frankfurter argued that since the Constitution does not forbid the military from taking such actions than the Congress and the Executive can make laws to support the military actions which enforced exclusion of American citizens with Japanese ancestry.
Mr. Justice Roberts wrote a dissenting argument in which he pointed out that Mr. Korematsu could not comply with two opposing laws so he made the choice to continue his life in San Francisco. A Military Order had been made that he must stay within the boundaries of the military zone yet the Act of Congress on March 21, 1942 insisted he evacuate. Due process of law would punish him regardless of which of the two orders he followed therefore if convicted for noncompliance to either law could not, according to Roberts, be legal. Mr. Justice Murphy dissented in a very direct manner stating that racism was at the root of the orders not the Constitution. Presumption of guilt based on race was illegal and American citizens had not been given their right to prove their innocence in a court of law. Mr. Justice Jackson also dissented. He reasoned that when a court uses their judicial power to apply laws of military authority than that court is no longer basing decisions on the Constitution.
I argue with the dissenting views that Mr. Korematsu should have been released. Neither Mr. Justice Black nor Mr. Justice Frankfurter proved that Mr. Korematsu is at war with the USA. In fact Mr. Justice Black even wrote that the court did not have any information demonstrating the quilt of Mr. Korematsu on allegations of conspiracy or espionage. Instead Black based his argument on the war with Japan. Without clarification Black declares that Mr. Korematsu was not excluded due to hostility directed towards him or his race but because of the attack by the Japanese Empire. This appears to be a classic argument for a general need to take some action for National Security reasons without giving just cause. Mr. Justice Frankfurter is more direct in his use of a National Security based argument. He argued a negative argument to prove a positive; that the Constitution did not forbid the military orders so the military orders are constitutional.
I would argue that just cause had not been proved demonstrating that Mr. Korematsu was in any way linked to the Japanese Empire. I would strongly suggest he be immediately released. I would also argue that this case is representative of all the citizens that had been evacuated without due process of law. Each citizen should be released and until proof of conspiracy with the Japanese government was established in a court of law they should be allowed to return home. Under the Constitution each citizen must be treated equally by the laws of the United States. If legislation made by the Congress and the Executive are based on any other reason including the atmosphere of fear in the country – then they are misusing their powers to make legislation.