Americans' Misuse of 'Internment'
14 Seattle J. Soc. Just. 797 (2016)
42 Pages Posted: 22 Sep 2016
Date Written: September 5, 2016
This law journal article is part of an ongoing scrutiny of words used to minimize the injustices of the United States’ wartime imprisonment of over 110,000 Japanese Americans. Many Americans call the War Relocation Authority’s mass incarceration of the west coast Japanese American community an “internment.” But “internment” is a term of art in the international law of war that does not apply to the mass incarceration. Internment targets selected aliens, not an entire community. Its misuse for the mass incarceration falsely implies legal protections for U.S. citizens who had none, and lends false moral acceptability to an action that members of all three branches of government have condemned.
Finally, misusing “internment” for mass incarceration frustrates accurate discourse: it ignores the actual internment of over 7,000 selected Japanese American immigrants, obscures the government’s transformation of over 5,000 Japanese American citizens into alien internees, and obfuscates the transformation of one place of mass incarceration, Tule Lake, into an internment camp. The article concludes that we as lawyers and Americans should use “internment” only with its original and correct meaning.
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