The Honorable Howard Coble
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Representative Coble:
We are writing to express strong concerns about comments attributed to you that justify President Roosevelt's wartime decision authorizing the establishment of internment camps for Japanese Americans and other legal residents of Japanese ancestry. We believe your justification demonstrates a serious lack of understanding of the misguided government policies which led to the wartime internment of 120,000 people.
President Roosevelt's 1942 Executive Order authorizing the relocation and confinement of Japanese Americans during the World War II years is a deep stain on our nation's most cherished democratic traditions and constitutional respect for due process of law. As our nation now faces unprecedented terrorist threats and challenges, we must learn from mistakes in our nation's past as we seek to properly balance individual rights and national security.
There should be no confusion over whether our government's wartime internment policies were ill-conceived and illegitimate. As you know, in 1980 Congress established the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment. The Commission held national hearings and heard from hundreds of witnesses and government officials in compiling their report, Personal Justice Denied. The Commission report concluded: "The personal injustice of excluding, removing and detaining loyal American citizens is manifest. Such events are extraordinary and unique in American history. For every citizen and for American public life, they pose haunting questions about our country and its past."
As the new Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, it is very likely that you will face a range of issues involving the need to balance civil liberties, the rights of immigrants, and legitimate national security concerns. Your new leadership position in the Congress on this issue demands a greater level of sensitivity -- and a commitment to avoid discriminatory mistakes of the past. We urge you to apologize for these ill-conceived remarks.
Abraham H. Foxman