What was life like for the Japanese-Americans before the internment?

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  • For Japanese immigrants, life before World War II was much like any other immigrants' life. They held jobs, went to school, and shared the common belief that America was the “melting pot” of cultures and races, a land of opportunity for all.
  • Many Japanese immigrants came to America to work and earn money, then return to Japan. Some wanted to settle in America and start families.
  • However, Japanese-Americans were still discriminated and the government was still unfair to them even before the internment started.
  • For example, in 1913, California passed the “alien land law” prohibiting Japanese aliens from obtaining citizenship, owning land or property.
  • In 1922 it also became illegal to extend a lease to an alien ineligible for citizenship. By 1925 it was prohibited in Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Idaho, Nebraska, Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, Minnesota, and Missouri. During WWII Utah, Wyoming, and Arkansas followed.
  • In addition, A 1922 Supreme Court case reaffirmed that Asian immigrants were not even considered for naturalization.

Did other people agree to the internment?

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The Americans absolutely agreed to the internment. This was because of racism and the Caucasians also liked the idea of not having to compete with Japanese-Americans when it comes to farming and businesses. However, the  First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was unalterably opposed to the Executive Order 9066 and strongly counseled her husband not to sign it.

What about the children?What happened to them in the internment?

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The picture on the left shows some children in an internment camps at Idaho. During the internment, half of the people(about 60,000) were children.

How did the world react to the internment?

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The remainder of the world including ironically Japan was either entirely apathetic or openly hostile and did or said nothing to bring about a change in policy of the internment.

How did the internees feel?

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Minoru Kiyota, who was among those who renounced his citizenship and swiftly came to regret the decision, has stated that he wanted only "to express my fury toward the government of the United States," for his internment and for the mental and physical duress, as well as the intimidation, he was made to face.[68]

[M]y renunciation had been an expression of momentary emotional defiance in reaction to years of persecution suffered by myself and other Japanese Americans and, in particular, to the degrading interrogation by the FBI agent at Topaz and being terrorized by the guards and gangs at Tule Lake.[69]


What happened to Japanese in other places?

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Japanese Americans in Hawaii did not suffer this same fate because they made up such a large proportion of the population of the territory of Hawaii. They did, however, suffer from discrimination throughout the war and after. Also, some people were still interned. The picture on the left shows one of the concentration camps, called the Honouliuli Camp.

What are some examples of how the people's lives were changed after the internment?

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A Japanese family returns home to find their garage vandalized with graffiti and broken windows in Seattle, on May 10, 1945.

"Finally getting out of the camps was a great day. It felt so good to get out of the gates, and just know that you were going home…finally. Home wasn't where I left it though. Getting back, I was just shocked to see what had happened, our home being bought by a different family, different decorations in the windows; it was our house, but it wasn't anymore. It hurt not being able to return home, but moving into a new home helped me I believe. I think it helped me to bury the past a little, to, you know, move on from what had happened." ~ Aya Nakamura [November 18, 2000.]