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Executive Order 9066 and Public Law 503 (1942)


On February 19, 1942, citing the necessity for "every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage," President franklin d. roosevelt issued an executive order authorizing various military commanders to designate any area in the United States from which "any or all persons may be excluded" at their discretion. Although based on a 1918 war powers act, the order resulted from vigorous anti-Japanese sentiment on the West Coast. Despite its broad wording, the order was enforced almost exclusively against persons of Japanese ancestry. The order conveyed a remarkably broad delegation of power but failed to distinguish between American citizens and aliens or even between loyal and disloyal citizens. To provide for enforcement, the War Department drafted a bill making it a federal crime for a civilian to disobey a military relocation order. The bill passed Congress without dissent and Roosevelt signed it into law on March 21. Few spoke out against the use of these two measures to deprive some 110,000 people (an entire community was relocated in ten "camps") of their civil rights. The Supreme Court sustained the evacuation and relocation in three japanese american cases (1943–1944), despite a vigorous dissent by Justice frank murphy objecting to the "legalization of racism."

David Gordon

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