In 1988, President Ronald Reagan—the president whom Donald Trump and most of the Republican presidential candidates have said they admire the most—signed the Civil Liberties Act into law. This law recognized that the internment of Japanese Americans in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor was “without adequate security reasons” and was instead “motivated largely by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”
I was an infant in 1942 when my family and I were forcibly imprisoned at the Amache internment camp in Colorado. I spent the next three years of my life living behind barbed-wire fencing. Even after we were released, I, along with other Japanese-Americans, faced anti-Japanese slurs and insults in a post-World War II America. We developed a sense that somehow we had done something wrong. It was my father who helped me realize that our “crime” was simply being of Japanese ancestry. In a post-Pearl Harbor craze, this lineage was sufficient for the federal government to pass orders to detain and imprison an entire segment of American society—we were guilty solely by association.