Inference or Impact? Racial Profiling and the Internment's True Legacy

31 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2003

See all articles by Eric L. Muller

Eric L. Muller

University of North Carolina School of Law


In the debate about racial and ethnic profiling in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, critics of the administration's policies have frequently argued that the government has made the same fundamental error as the Roosevelt administration made when it forced 110,000 Japanese Americans into camps during World War II. This is a powerful rhetorical strategy, but is it an accurate one? What was the "fundamental error" of the Japanese American internment?

In this article, Professor Muller argues that the fundamental error of the internment was not the inference of suspicion that the government drew from the fact of Japanese ancestry, but the enormity of the deprivations that the government imposed on the basis of that inference. Seen this way, the internment recedes as a rhetorical device, which allows for a more careful and subtle debate about whether the socio-legal landscape has changed enough in the past 60 years to prevent a civil liberties tragedy like the internment from recurring. Professor Muller concludes that that landscape has not changed enough to ensure that national-origin-conscious enforcement strategies will not leap from minor to massive intrusions.

Suggested Citation

Muller, Eric L., Inference or Impact? Racial Profiling and the Internment's True Legacy. Available at SSRN: or

Eric L. Muller (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States
919-962-7067 (Phone)
919-962-1277 (Fax)

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics