Constitutional History

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Korematsu v. United States 323 U.S. 214 (1944)

Facts: In 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which gave Congress and the military authority to evacuate everyone of a Japanese background living in San Leandro, California, and send them to relocation camps(cite). Fred Korematsu, who was a Japanese-American, refused to leave San Leandro and was arrested (cite). He claimed that the Order was unconstitutional and violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution (cite).

Constitutional Question: Were the President and Congress within their war powers of implementing exclusion and controlling the rights of Japanese Americans? (cite).

Answer: Yes

Justice Black Delivered the Opinion of the Court:

All legal restrictions that pertain to the civil rights of any group are not necessarily unconstitutional, but they should be observed with careful scrutiny.

The restrictions placed on the rights of the specific group (the Japanese) were only placed so because of the possible presence of disloyal Japanese Americans.

There were members of the Japanese-Americans who refused to swear allegiance to the United States, and several thousand who requested to be sent back to Japan.

The Court was not oblivious to the responsibilities and privileges of the American citizen, or to the hardships placed upon any specific group during wartime. War is a time of emergency and distress, in which there may be hardships placed upon many groups within a country. Due to this, the exclusion order must be upheld.

It is true that compulsory exclusion of any group of citizens is inconsistent with the spirit of the Constitution and with American beliefs. However, when our country is threatened by evil forces, we must protect our country for the greater good of all of its people by rooting out the disloyal from the loyal.

This case does not deal with racial prejudice or bias against Japanese-Americans, and nor does it deal with the imprisonment of citizens in...