During wartime, emotions are heightened and governments stand on edge. Militaries are trained to take action against anyone or anything that stands in their way. Rash decisions are made and consequences are considered in the aftermath. The United States’ participation in WWII was no exception to this recurring pattern. In the midst of the most destructive war in history (“World War II”), President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. This course of action led to the eventual internment of more than 120,000 people; 77,00 of those imprisoned were American citizens. All along the west coast, Japanese-Americans were removed from their homes, farms, and places of work. They were sent to internment camps spread out across the western interior of the country where social status, family life, and work life were all flagrantly disrupted. Surprisingly, this was legal at the time (Howard-Hassman).
The actions taken against Japanese Americans were overlooked for a number of years after the war. The issue was avoided until a social movement in the 1970’s which served as the catalyst for advocating to compensate all Japanese-American inhabitants of internment camps. In response to the outcries, the U.S. government acknowledged their errors in the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. In the years that followed, each interned individual was awarded $20,000 in reparations. With about 80,000 individuals claiming compensation, it cost the U.S. government approximately $1.6 billion in reparations paid to the majority of the affected Japanese-Americans (Howard-Hassman).
The reparations movement for Japanese-Americans was successful for many reasons. First and foremost, the claimants were easily identifiable. The American government was clearly responsible for the harm inflicted. The time period was finite and the cause of the harm was easily demonstrated by Japanese-Americans. Finally, the period of time between the internment and the allotment of reparations was approximately 30 years. Due to this, a majority of the actual victims were still alive to receive reparations, rather than awarding compensation to relatives or descendants. The Japanese-American reparations movement was very well organized and was seen as an overall success (Howard-Hassman). However, this was only a partial success. While $20,000 seems to be a significant endowment, most victims still suffered a major net loss. As brought up by Melissa during class, there were also emotional and personal losses that money cannot account for. Therefore, the Japanese American reparations movement is a good basis for a successful reparations program, yet still falls short of the ideal.