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Conscience and the Constitution


"We are preparing our people to move out. Why jeopardize this country or our people by trying to insist on staying, or even by pursuing our legal rights as citizens of this country to contest evacuation?"
--Mike Masaoka, February 28, 1942

In San Francisco, magazine publisher James Omura protested the imminent expulsion of all Japanese Americans from the West Coast. Three individuals in California and Oregon defied military curfews imposed only on persons of Japanese ancestry. But their voices were overwhelmed and opposed by the widely publicized statements of the Japanese American Citizens League and its national spokesman, Mike Masaoka.

The JACL pledged the cooperation of its members, and the government saw in JACL a group with which to work to carry out the President's program of mass exclusion and detention. The JACL's motto, "For Better Americans in a Greater America," proclaimed its desire to prove that its members were loyal to the U.S. and not Japan. To that end, JACL provided names of Issei leaders to the FBI, opposed all test cases, and urged the creation of suicide battalions to create unquestionable proof of loyalty in blood.

Once inside the camps, cooperation led to collaboration as JACL leaders worked alongside the War Relocation Authority on programs to promote the postwar assimilation of Japanese Americans and segregate so-called "troublemakers." Masaoka led the call to draft the Nisei out of the camps. Then the trouble started.

In this section

"For Better Americans in a Greater America"
To prove Nisei loyalty, JACL leaders informed on Issei leadership, urged compliance with expulsion, and opposed all test cases.

It's been called the "dirty underside of loyalty"--the actions of JACL leaders to advocate segregation, and more.

The Draft
Many saw the reopening of Selective Service for the Nisei as the restoration of a civil right: if they could be drafted, then they must be equal Americans.


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Copyright 2000 Frank Abe and ITVS. All Rights Reserved. MKM