Paper Example on Korematsu v. United States

Published: 2021-07-16
622 words
3 pages
6 min to read
Harvey Mudd College
Type of paper: 
This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

The case of Fred Korematsu occurred at a time when the relationship between Japan and the United States was at a loggerhead with the two countries warring against each other and Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor. The anxiety of the war led to the then President Franklin Roosevelt to issue an executive order to remove certain specified individuals from certain areas with the claim that those areas needed to be converted into military areas. The target group to be relocated was the Japanese and Japanese-American community living in the US, alien and non-alien. Korematsu, who was American-born by Japanese parents, defied the order leading to his arrest and conviction by the Supreme Court. The case provided varied arguments among lawyers, with some upholding the ruling by Supreme Court and others dissenting. This essay will analyze the provided opinions to the case, focusing on the three themes presented in this case, that is, race, national security, and the constitutionality of the internment.

The relocation of the individuals of Japanese ancestry was said to be a matter of national security by the government. Justice Hugo Black delivered the opinion of the court and he believed that the conviction of Korematsu was justified. Mr. Hugo claimed that the move was a military measure to eliminate any possible threat to the national security as had been described in the Executive Order No. 9066, 7 Fed. Reg. 1407 that had been issued when the country was at war with Japan. The military and the Congress had come up with a judgment that there were disloyal members of Japanese origin and therefore, measures such as the internment were necessary. Mr. Hugo argued that the relocation, and, therefore, Korematsus arrest and conviction were constitutionally right and, therefore, upholds the ruling of the Supreme Court.

From another angle, the exclusion order and the ruling of the court were seen as racial discrimination. Justices Owen Roberts, Frank Murphy, and Robert Jackson presented arguments dissenting the courts ruling. In their arguments, they maintain that the order violated the rights of Korematsu as an American citizen. Owen Roberts argued that the case was not for the safety of the individual or the community as alleged by Hugo Black, but rather a conviction based on sole ancestry, without evidence or inquiry of his loyalty and good disposition towards the United States. Frank Murphy refers to a report by the Commanding General in which the General seemed to condemn all individuals of Japanese descent by terming them subversive and belonging to an enemy race, with no evidence of disloyalty from the people.

The constitutionality of the internment was put under scrutiny and questioned. Justice Robert Jackson challenges the judicial process that was used to convict Korematsu. He argues that a judicial construction of the due process clause that would sustain such exclusion order was a more subtle blow to liberty than the promulgation of the order itself. He agrees that a military order could be issued that may be unconstitutional in times of military emergency, but if a judicial opinion rationalizes such an order that segregates a certain people based on their race, the court automatically validates the principle of racial discrimination in criminal procedure.

In summary, the ruling against Korematsu was an infringement on his constitutional right to live and work where one will. If justice was to be followed, his test for loyalty could have been conducted first before he was arrested. Failure to conduct these investigations shows that this was a racial discrimination case regardless of the innocence or danger of these people. In light of civic engagement, Korematsu does not portray the best example. Instead of attempting to disguise himself through plastic surgery, he should have protested the order openly to challenge it.


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