Rep. Engel Statement On Fred Korematsu And The Parallels Between 1940's Internment Camps And Today
Washington D.C.—Congressman Eliot L. Engel issued the following statement:
“It’s fitting that today would be Fred Korematsu’s 98th birthday. Korematsu was a Japanese-American civil rights activist who was jailed for fleeing the Japanese internment camps during World War II under Executive Order 9066. Mr. Korematsu sued the U.S. government, arguing that mass internment of ethnic minorities violated the U.S. Constitution. In 1944, he lost that argument in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. That the Supreme Court of the United States could sign off on mass detention of an ethnic minority should remind us all: this has happened here before, and it can happen here again.
“The President’s Muslim ban – which the White House has said that they plan to expand in the future – undermines our values in the same ways as Japanese internment camps did in the 1940s. And just as it was in the 40’s, it is fear and ignorance that are the driving forces behind these compromises of our values, masked under the veil of ‘security’. These men, women, and children who seek refuge here only want the same things as we do: a chance at a better life, lived free. But the administration has denied them that chance, with an executive order so brazen that it is obvious they are playing the same prejudicial games the U.S. played with refugees and ethnic minorities 75 years ago.
“From turning back the Jews on the St. Louis to Japanese internment and beyond, we have witnessed these moments of profound darkness in our country before. It takes only a handful of officials at the highest levels of government to turn these repulsive ideas into the official policy of the United States. I am relieved that the Courts have put a hold on deportations under this ban, and I am grateful for the thousands who have stood up across the country to protest the President’s actions. But Mr. Korematsu’s story reminds us all how important the Supreme Court is, and it reminds us how easily we can fall into these horrible patterns if we do not stay vigilant.”