Identity

Remembering Internment Camps, Lawmakers Aim to Ban Identity-Based Detention

A new bill introduced by Tammy Duckworth, Mazie Hirono, and Mark Takano will ban the US from detaining individuals on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.
February 20, 2019, 6:39pm
Tammy Duckworth and Mazie Hirono

Senators Tammy Duckworth and Mazie Hirono and Congressman Mark Takano have reintroduced a bill which aims to prohibit imprisonment and detainment on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. The Korematsu-Takai Civil Liberties Protection Act of 2019 (S. 505) draws on the history of thousands of Japanese-Americans who were forced into internment camps during WWII and aims to ensure that, in the future, there are legal structures in place to prevent "unlawful detention based solely on a protected characteristic" by the US government.

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According to a statement on Senator Duckworth's website, the act "would prohibit imprisonment or detainment of citizens solely on the basis of who they are, not what they’ve done."

The bill, originally introduced in December of 2017, is named after Fred Korematsu, an American civil rights activist of Japanese descent who challenged President Franklin Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066 and the resulting internment of Japanese-Americans in 1944, and the late US Congressman from Hawaii Mark Takai. Though Korematsu lost his case against the Supreme Court in 1944, the Supreme Court tossed out its prior ruling as "objectively unlawful" in 2018, years after Korematsu's death.

The act was introduced just days before the Day of Remembrance, an annual reminder of the lives impacted by FDR's February 19 signing of Executive Order 9066. While it, too, remembers the victims of American internment camps during WWII, it is meant to protect communities that the Trump administration has targeted in recent policies. "Over the past two years, Donald Trump and his administration have pursued divisive policies and rhetoric that demonize the Muslim community and other marginalized groups," said Senator Hirono in a press release. "By repudiating the Supreme Court’s precedent in Korematsu, this legislation makes clear that a travesty like the Japanese internment should never happen again."

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“We cannot allow what my parents, grandparents, and 115,000 other Japanese Americans underwent during World War II to ever happen again in our country,” said Congressman Takano, whose family members were forced into an internment camp during WWII. "The rhetoric and policies being promoted by this administration are a cause for concern and further emphasize the need for this legislation. In honor of Congressman Takai and Fred Korematsu, we must ensure that no person is ever a target of despicable policies that are discriminatory and un-American.”