In 1942 Japanese American Fred Toyosaburo Korematsu refused to voluntarily relocate to an internment camp as mandated by Executive Order 9066. He was arrested, and his case was eventually brought to the Supreme Court where in a 6-3 decision, the Court sided with the government and deemed the exclusion order of Japanese-Americans, regardless of citizenship, constitutional.
President Gerald Ford formally ended Executive Order 9066 in 1976 and apologized for the internment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans:
We now know what we should have known then — not only was that evacuation wrong but Japanese-Americans were and are loyal Americans.
President Gerald Ford
Korematsu's conviction was overturned in 1983 when it was revealed that the government had willingly withheld evidence in the case which contradicted the necessity for the forced internment of Japanese-Americans. In 1988, President Ronald Regan cited "racial prejudice, wartime hysteria and a lack of political leadership" for the Japanese internment (The Civil Liberties Act of 1988). In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded Korematsu with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' most distinguished civilian award.
Today would have been his 98th birthday and is recognized in California, Hawaii, Florida, and Virginia as Fred Korematsu Day.
Today, the U.S. is also reeling from the effects of another executive order.
Eerily similar to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's executive order from 1942, President Trump's Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements executive order:
Suspends entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days.
Indefinitely bans all Syrian refugees.
Blocks entry into the United States for 90 days for Iranians, Iraqis, Libyans, Somalians, Sudanese, Syrians, and Yemenis.
It is not a coincidence that these are predominantly Muslim countries and this executive order sends a blatantly clear message: Muslim immigrants and refugees are not welcome in this country.
However, this ban also negatively affects individuals with green cards and visas and travelers from these particular countries. In the case of award-winning Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, whose dramatic thriller The Salesman is nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign-language film, he cannot attend the Oscars this year because of Trump's ban, and on Sunday released a statement expressing dismay over Trump's order. Citing similar circumstances, Iraqi filmmaker Hussein Hassan withdrew his visa application and will not attend the North American premiere of his film Reseba (The Dark Wind) at the Miami Film Festival.
Barring individuals, a great many of them refugees and allies, from entering the country because of perceived "risk factors" and "threats" is an American strategy with links to the past, but that does not make it any less terrible. In the coming days and weeks following this executive order, in addition to contacting your local representatives and senators and supporting peaceful protests and organizations like No One Left Behind, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), we must continue celebrating varied and diverse stories. Sharing perspectives, particularly immigrant and Muslim perspectives, actively works against "othering" or "demonizing" targeted communities.
Support artists, filmmakers, musicians, and writers from the countries under President Trump's executive order.
For example, Farhadi's film The Salesman is still available in select theaters and is up for pre-order on Amazon Video with a release for Summer 2017.
Farhadi's first Academy Award-winning film A Separation (2011) is available for immediate streaming on Amazon Video, YouTube, and iTunes and Hassan's film Reseba will still be featured at the Miami Film Festival this March.
Currently available selections on Netflix include films and documentaries such as God Grew Tired of Us (2006; Sudan/USA), The Road to Fallujah (2008; Iraq/USA), About Elly (2009; Iran), Return to Homs (2013; Syria), A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014; Iran), 50 Feet from Syria (2015; Syria), Taxi (2015; Iran), Very Big Shot (2015; Lebanon), Under The Shadow (2016; Iran/UK), and The White Helmets (2016; Syria/UK).
Support and share projects that tell immigrant stories.
For example, buy a ticket to see an encore performance of Allegiance, the Broadway musical based on George Takei's childhood experiences at Rohwer War Relocation Center in Arkansas and the Tule Lake Segregation Center in California. Encore showings air in local cinemas on Sunday, February 19th at 12:55 PM local time. Fittingly, February 19th is also the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, now observed as the Day of Remembrance.
In observance of Fred Korematsu Day, it seems especially poignant to stand in solidarity with the people who are unfairly targeted by rash and reckless policies and to support the people who want to tell their stories.
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