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As members of the Trump administration have raised the specter of a Muslim registry and instituted a immigration ban against people from Muslim majority countries, they have cited the unconstitutional incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II as the precedent. As the documentary And Then They Came for Us demonstrates, the registration and incarceration of Japanese Americans was one of the worst violations of constitutional rights in American history. The U.S. government lied about the threat of espionage to justify the incarceration. Not a single person was ever convicted of espionage or treason. As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 which was signed by President Roosevelt on Feb. 19, 1942, the film documents through the use of photos taken by Dorothea Lange and others, the damage this order did to 120,000 people, two thirds of whom were American citizens. Featuring George Takei and many others who were incarcerated, And Then They Came for Us, ...Written by
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I would like to say that what happened to the Japanese Americans in the United States during WWII was heartbreaking and unlawful. I do not diminish their tragedy with these comments.
The comparison that the director makes to President Donald Trump's travel ban is ridiculous and incomparable. First, Muslim is not a race, it is a religion. You cannot speak of racism when comparing a religion to the Japanese race.
Second, the travel ban of people from Middle Eastern countries is not the same as rounding up Japanese Americans and putting them in internment camps. These are completely two different situations. I can see how you can compare feelings of fear and see how these feelings led people to do horrible things, but the actions themselves taken are very different.
Third, it is not fair to look at historical incidents of atrocity and say that you could have done any better. Looking back on this event, it is easy to believe that we would have been more moral and upstanding in the face of this situation. However, we were not there. We did not witness the horrors of Pearl Harbor or experience the terrifying reality of being forced into a world war. Now, perhaps with the passage of time and the history that has shaped our country, we would not have placed these innocent people in internment camps if we faced the same situation today. But we will never know. We can look back at history and condemn what has happened to learn from it, but we must not be too quick to believe that our morality would have been any stronger in a past we did not live.
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