There were many legal issues and battles throughout the interment years, but there were two major legal cases that had a huge impact in challenging the constitutionality of internment (Davenport 2010). “Fred Korematsu made history by challenging the wartime relocation order against Americans of Japanese descent” (Agrast,
In May of 1942, Fred Korematsu actually entered an FBI office and announced that he refused to register for the evacuation and was later arrested on May 30, 1942. For weeks he went to great lengths to stay out of the evacuation by hiding, assuming a different name, and pretending to be Chinese. In September of 1942, Korematsu was found guilty of violating the government’s exclusion order, had to serve
five years of probation, and was transferred straight to the Tanforan assembly center. Tanforan was a former racetrack that had been converted into an assembly center, located south of San Francisco (Agrast, 2005).
On March 21, 1942, an Act of Congress made any violations to the orders of a military commander a misdemeanor (Daniels, 1972). Gordon Hirabayashi, another American citizen, was convicted in
federal court under this act after ignoring a curfew that required all people of Japanese descent on the West Coast to be in their homes by 8:00 p.m. and refusing to register at a processing center (Goldstein, 2012). After refusing to pay $500 bail, in order to keep from being sent to an internment camp, Hirabayashi stayed in jail between May of 1942 until his hearing in October.
In 1944, both the Korematsu and the Hirabayashi’s appeal cases made their way to Supreme Court where both of the verdicts were upheld (Davenport, 2010). Fred Korematsu was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the nation’s highest civilian
honor (Agrast, 2005). Korematsu’s conviction was cleared in 1983 as was Hirabayashi in 1987 (Robinson, 2010).
Photo of Young Fred Korematsu.
January 30, 1919- March 30, 2005
Photo of Young Gordon Hirabayashi.
April 23, 1918- January 2, 2012