``And Then They Came for Us`` Movie Screening
Saturday, October 27, 8:30 - 10am
Don Tamaki, Managing Partner, Minami Tamaki LLP
Brynn Saito, Poet/Educator/Organizer, Yonsei Memory Project
Reza Nekumanesh, Executive Director, Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno
On January 27, 2017, President Trump signed the first of thrice-revised executive orders banning travel of people from Muslim-majority nations. Travelers having nothing to do with terrorism were detained. Thousands of validly issued visas were immediately canceled and hundreds with such visas were prevented from boarding planes or denied entry on arrival. Court challenges followed, arguing that these orders were not truly meant to protect against terror attacks, but rather was the “Muslim Ban.” In defending these orders, the government claims that national security requires that the Judicial Branch bow to the will of the Executive Branch.
Echoes of President Roosevelt’s issuance of Executive Order 9066: in 1942 the Army reported that Japanese Americans were engaging in espionage and sabotage, and pursuant to EO 9066 and acts of Congress, Lt. General John L. DeWitt ordered their removal en masse. Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi, and Minoru Yasui challenged these orders. The government defended the incarceration of almost 120,000 Japanese Americans, 70,000 of whom were American citizens, by arguing that national security demanded that the Court stand down and defer to the decisions of the Executive Branch. The Court failed to scrutinize whether the Army’s claims had any basis in fact, accepted without question the government’s contention that the incarceration was a “military necessity,” and ruled against these litigants.
40 years later, in 1983, petitions were filed in the Federal Courts in behalf of Korematsu, Hirabayashi, and Yasui based on the discovery of secret Justice Department, FBI, FCC, Navy and Army intelligence reports and memoranda, categorically denying Japanese Americans had committed any wrong, and admitting that there was no reason to lock them up. In 2011, in an extraordinary “confession of error,” the Acting Solicitor General acknowledged the government’s role in the miscarriage of justice, and admitted that the government had known that its own intelligence “undermined the rationale” behind the mass removal and incarceration program.
Today, the children of Korematsu, Hirabayashi and Yasui have joined together to remind the public that during WWII when the Court abdicated its constitutional duty to be a check and balance on the Executive Branch by failing to ask probing questions, it was a civil liberties disaster, causing great damage to the Constitution and the Rule of Law. When the Court stops asking questions and “looks the other way,” the temptation to falsify evidence and misrepresent facts to achieve a political end may be irresistible, as was the case in 1943-44.