A disappointing comparison during the 70th anniversary of EO 9066

ORDERS FOR EXCLUSION — On a brick wall beside an air raid shelter poster, exclusion orders were posted at First and Front streets directing removal of persons of Japanese ancestry from the first San Francisco section to be affected by forced relocation. The order was issued April 1, 1942, by Lt. Gen. J. L. DeWitt, and directed forced relocation from this section by noon on April 7, 1942. photo by Dorothea Lange/ UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library

In 2008 I voted for President Obama hoping for comparisons with Franklin D Roosevelt, a Democratic president who entered office amid a financial crisis and who used the federal government to help working people find and keep jobs. However, I did not expect or want my comparison to extend to FDR’s signing 70 years ago of Executive Order 9066, which authorized the military round-up and removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast.

On December 31, 2011, after expressing some misgivings, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (the annual defense budget) with a provision that allows the President to authorize the military to imprison civilians indefinitely anywhere in the world, including American citizens, without charging or putting them on trial.

Although President Obama states he will not indefinitely detain U.S. citizens without a trial, by his authorization of the NDAA, he has made it easier for future administrations to do so.

Furthermore, any protections granted to an American citizen may be sidestepped if current legislation, the “Enemy Expatriation Act,” making its way through Congress is passed and signed into law.

This legislation would allow the government to strip citizenship from Americans “engaging in or supporting hostilities against the United States.” It does not seem farfetched to imagine that criticism of our country’s fight against terrorism or a contribution to a Muslim charity will one day be used as a reason to exile an American.

Join a conversation about the NDAA and Enemy Expatriation Act on Densho’s Facebook page and let me know what you think. Or you can e-mail me directly with your thoughts at tom.ikeda@densho.org.


Tom Ikeda is the founding executive director of Seattle-based Densho. Using Web technology, Densho (www.densho.org) provides access to over 600 video testimonies, 10,000 historical documents and photographs, and in-depth teacher resources to explore principles of democracy and promote social justice. The views expressed in the preceding commentary are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.


  1. […] citizen. Writer Will Kaku of Discover Nikkei, playwright Soji Kashiwagi, and the Densho Project’s Executive Director Tom Ikeda make strong cases for disturbing parallels to contemporary American society, most notably the […]

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