Korematsu V. United States Essay

In 1943 the cases Yasui v. United States and Hirabayashi v. United States the Supreme Court decided that curfews specifically targeting ethnic groups were constitutional when the nation was at war with the other nation from which the minorities originated. The case was important because it confirmed the government's power in restricting the freedoms of minority groups. Despite the obvious flaws in the presumed constitutionality of these laws, they were still confirmed by overwhelming Supreme Court decisions in favor of continuing the internment.

The most important Supreme Court decisions came in 1944. Ex parte Endo and Korematsu v. United States were both decided in 1944 on December 18th. In Korematsu v. United States the Supreme Court decided that it was not unconstitutional to exclude people of Japanese descent from the West Coast. However, in Ex parte Endo the Supreme Court did rule that citizens whose loyalty was not in question (i.e. most of those interned by the United States government) was unconsitutional. Therefore, Ex parte Endo was the case that would lead most directly to the end of Japanese internment. However, Korematsu v. United States is an equally important and interesting case.

The Korematsu v. United States decision basically decided that the government's need to prevent against sabotage and espionage by foreign agents was more important and had a greater priority than protecting minority rights. The Supreme Court ostensibly decided that the ethnic minority was not excluded from the area due to race or other hostility but instead because of the war with Japan and the decisions made by the government, it was necessary for the continued safety of the country. This decision highlighted the conflict between the constitutional rights of United States citizens during wartime, and the supposed "military necessity" of protecting the United States and its citizens against foreign espionage.

Korematsu vs. United States

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Fred Korematsu was born in the U.S. in 1919. His parents were born in Japan. Since he was born in the U.S. he was a citizen. He grew up like a normal kid in California. As he grew up, his life was normal, until the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1942.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans were regarded as a threat to the U.S. President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, also know as the Exclusion Order. This Order stated that any descendents or immigrants from enemy nations who might be a threat to U.S. security will report to assembly centers for Internment. There were no trials or hearings. They were forced to evacuate and many lost their homes and their businesses. Fred Korematsu refused to go. He was a U.S. citizen. Fred Korematsu was grabbed by police, handcuffed, and taken to jail. His crime -- defying President Franklin Roosevelt's order that American citizens of Japanese descent report to internment camps
This action violated Korematsu’s basic constitutional rights. The fourth amendment states, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized." The government’s actions clearly stepped over the boundaries of the constitution. As a U.S. citizen he should not have been pushed around like that. Korematsu decided to take his case to the court.
Korematsu’s case first went to regional court. After being turned down there, he then went to the court of appeals. Being turned down there also, his lawyer appealed to the Supreme Court while he was held in the relocation camp. The Supreme Court decided to take his case, but then made the wrong worst decision ever. They decided to uphold the other courts’ decisions by a vote of six to three. Korematsu lost his case. After the war ended, the internment haunted the nation's conscience as well. In 1948 Congress took the first step in making amends, enacting the Japanese American Evacuation Claims Act to provide some monetary compensation to those who had lost homes and businesses because of the order. In 1980, Congress again opened the internment issue, and this time a stream of witnesses testified, many of them for the first time, of the hardships and psychological trauma they had suffered.

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The result was a report that condemned the removal as unjustified by military necessity, and also concluded that the Supreme Court decisions had been "overruled in the court of history."
This case showed how over time opinions change and how at one point some people had a better view of what this country was made for than others. In 1998 President Clinton presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Korematsu. "In the long history of our country's constant search for justice, some names of ordinary citizens stand for millions of souls," Clinton said as he presented the Bay Area man with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. "Plessy, Brown, Parks," Clinton said, recalling the names of civil rights pioneers, "to that distinguished list, today we add the name of Fred Korematsu." Korematsu was finally pleased that after all these years he was right after all.



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