On April 3, 2007, descendants of Japanese Americans interned during World War II filed the first of three amicus briefs in support of a Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) appeal on behalf of Arab and South Asian immigrants detained after September 11, 2001. The brief outlines the damage the internment did to their families and to the laws of equal protection in the U.S. and draws parallels between what was done to Japanese Americans during the war and the profiling of Muslim men today.
Jay Hirabayashi said, “I joined the amicus brief because I believe that the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights should be inviolable in time of war as much as they are in times of peace. That's what my father always said and he went to prison holding those beliefs.”
Last June, a federal court found that the government could broadly detain non-citizens indefinitely on the basis of race, religion, or national origin. The court also held that the defendants, including former Attorney General John Ashcroft, could be held liable for the treatment and terrible conditions the men endured. Defendants appealed portions of the decision, and CCR and its clients filed a cross-appeal as well last week.
Mr. Hirabayashi, Holly Yasui, and Karen Korematsu-Haigh are the descendants of internees. Their parents Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi, and Minoru Yasui sued the government in the landmark Supreme Court case against the internment. The brief, filed today in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit by Prof. Eric L. Muller, a legal historian at the University of North Carolina School of Law, states that the ruling “painfully resurrects the long-discredited legal theory” used to justify the internments.
“The internment of Japanese Americans was a blot on our history we should never repeat. We let fear undermine our democracy then, and we seem not to have learned our lesson,” said CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren.
Two additional amicus briefs will be filed tomorrow. The first is from former prison wardens and explains the dangers of segregating prisoners on the basis of race or religion. The final friend of the court brief is from immigration scholars and leading practitioners in the field and explains the ways that settled immigration case law was misapplied by the lower court in its ruling that the government was not in violation of the law when it held the men for weeks and months beyond when their immigration issues had been resolved and they were ready for deportation.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.