Donald Trump has defended his proposal that Muslims should be denied entry into the United States by comparing his plan to the US government's detainment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War. Trump, who appears to revel in controversy, said that banning all Muslims "until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on" is warranted after the attacks by Islamist extremists in Paris and the shooting in San Bernardino, California"We are now at war," said Trump, defending his plan by comparing it with President Franklin D Roosevelt's decision to intern more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.
One of the places where Japanese-American citizens and resident Japanese aliens were incarcerated from 1942 to 1945 during World War II was the Manzanar War Relocation Centre near Independence, California. Today the former internment camp, which has been partially restored, is a national historic site, housing a museum.
Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US government decided it had to sort out what it called the "Japanese Problem" on the west coast. In February 1942, Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, authorising the designation of military zones within the US from which "any or all persons may be excluded". Although the order wasn't aimed at any specific group, it became the basis for the mass relocation and internment of around 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry. In March of that year, all persons of Japanese ancestry were ordered to report to civilian assembly centres. They were then moved into remote internment camps, or relocation centres, like the one at Manazanar.
Renowned American landscape photographer Ansel Adams visited the Manzanar War Relocation Centre in 1943 to document the harsh condition faced by American families, who were incarcerated there simply because they were of Japanese extraction. His photographs were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art and were published in the book Born Free and Equal: The Story of Loyal Japanese-Americans. The book caused a great deal of controversy as it came out in 1944, when the US was still at war with Japan.
The exclusion order was rescinded in January 1944, and Japanese-Americans began to leave the camps and return home. Manazanar closed on 21 November 1945, and the last Japanese internment camp in the US finally closed in 1946.
During the 1970s, Japanese-Americans launched a campaign to call for compensation. This campaign resulted in the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which granted people who were interned $20,000 each, making a total of $1.2 billion (£793m) for surviving former detainees.
This article was first published
on December 10, 2015