Analysis—Chapter 16

The Supreme Court’s delay in ruling against the internment policy is a reflection of the political and cultural atmosphere in America during the 1940s. The Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on color, race, religion, or national origin, was not enacted until 1964, and in the 1940s there was little precedent for establishing the illegality of ethnic discrimination. The first two cases that Wakatsuki mentions were doomed from the beginning because they addressed only the issue of ethnic prejudice, which the courts had never really dealt with before. The Endo case, however, was successful because it eliminated ethnic prejudice from the equation. Endo built her case on the Constitutional principle of habeas corpus, which allows a judge to demand the release of a citizen imprisoned without cause. Endo had signed the Loyalty Oath, and by petitioning for habeas corpus, she asserted her Constitutional right to freedom and forced the Supreme Court to decide in her favor. Because of the air of fear and intolerance in America during World War II, it took one of the oldest American legal precedents to correct the hypocrisy of the United States’ policy of imprisoning its own loyal citizens.