Seventy-five years ago, 120,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were U.S. citizens, were racially profiled, surveilled, excluded, and imprisoned in American concentration camps. This unprecedented violation of constitutional rights was the direct result of racism, xenophobia, and misleading and unfounded governmental claims of “military necessity.” To the question, “Could it happen again?” we have our answer.
It’s happening now.
In this time of rising governmental authoritarianism, the Twin Cities Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (TC JACL) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations Minnesota (CAIR-MN) stand in solidarity and declare our unity of purpose against racism, xenophobia, religious bigotry, and hate. We stand together in the common pursuit of global justice, civil liberties and human rights, hope, compassion, and love.
The legally sanctioned discrimination targeting Americans of Japanese descent during the World War II era mirrors the current demonization of all Muslims and the governmental legitimation of Islamophobia through executive orders and proposed legislation targeting Muslims, at home and abroad, with official acts of discrimination.
TC JACL and CAIR-MN stand together to resist the current forces of oppression that join our communities’ histories. These forces include:
- Racial, national origin, and religion-based profiling and discrimination;
- Stigmatizing and assuming “guilty until proven innocent” based on group membership/association without due process;
- Selective surveillance, invasion of privacy, and searches without warrants, based on race, national origin, or religion;
- Indefinite exclusion and detention of legal U.S. residents without charges and denial of the right to a speedy trial and representation in a court of law;
- Defining “American” as white, Christian, and non-foreign born, while demonizing non-white, non-Christian U.S. citizens, legal residents, and foreign nationals as non- or un-American “Others”;
- Official justification of the denial of civil liberties to American citizens and legal residents in the name of “homeland security” or “military necessity.”
While Japanese American and American Muslim histories and experiences are not identical, we share in a common and parallel struggle in seeking a just and inclusive future.
We will resist, oppose, defy, and intervene in any and all acts of racism, xenophobia, misogyny, Islamophobia, and oppression targeting our own and other marginalized and oppressed communities.
We will show up, stand up, speak up, and rise up together in the name of civil and human rights, and local, national, and global justice.
In heart, mind, and spirit, we will accompany one another, side by side, as equal partners, with no single organization or individual walking ahead or behind. Together, we will act and embody in the present the justice and humanity that we envision for all in the future.
In solidarity, justice, and peace,
Twin Cities Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League
Council on American-Islamic Relations Minnesota
Executive Order 13769: The Muslim ban
Executive Order 13769 was signed one week into the Trump presidency. The press has called this executive order the “Muslim ban,” since travel and immigration from seven predominantly Muslim majority nations alone were banned. The Trump Administration argued that people who are fleeing countries where there has been war and terrorism are more prone to commit terror acts because they look like those terrorists or share the same faith as those terrorists. EO 13769 authorizes targeted differential treatment to an entire population without any evidence of individual risk for criminality or wrongdoing. No immigrant from the seven countries listed on the ban has ever committed a terrorist act in the U.S.
Unlike EO 9066, EO 13769 did not create incarceration camps (it is more costly to put people into detention camps than to exclude or deport them). But similar to EO 9066, EO 13769 profiles an entire group based on race and ethnicity. Trump justified EO 13769 by comparing it to FDR’s EO 9066, and used the same “national security” rationale.
A challenge to EO 13769 was brought forth by the Attorney General’s office in Washington state whose 7,000 Muslim immigrants were affected by the ban. Minnesota has about 30,000 similarly affected Muslim immigrants, prompting our Attorney General, Lori Swanson, to join in the court challenge. One of the primary arguments used was the Supreme Court Case of Mitsuye Endo, which, in December 1944, legally ended the forced mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.
The courts ruled to block the “Muslim ban” from being implemented, but the Trump Administration signed a new executive order (EO 13780) which once again attempted to create a Muslim ban. This rewritten executive order, which was challenged by the state of Hawaii, has now been thwarted by an injunction issued by a federal court there.
In the wake of the Day of Remembrance and our chapter’s newly formed partnership with the Council on American Islamic Relations-Minnesota for that event, the Education Committee of the TCJACL sent a letter of support to Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson for standing up to EO 13769, the contemporary equivalent of EO 9066.
We received a letter in response in which she wrote:
“I note that the (Japanese American Citizens) League and the Council (on American Islamic Relations) issued the joint statement on February 19, the Day of Remembrance. The forced removal and incarceration of Japanese-Americans in World War II is a dark mark on our nation’s history and stands as a stark and important reminder of the erosion of constitutional protections that can occur in response to perceived international threats.
“I thank you for your advocacy on the behalf of civil and human rights, individual freedom, and the bedrock constitutional principles of our nation.”
“I appreciate your ongoing commitment to upholding the core values of this country.”
Now is the time to be vigilant not only for our community’s civil and human rights but, as stated in the National JACL mission, for “all communities who are affected by injustice and bigotry.”
The Twin Cities JACL Education Committee