Based on prior experience, the framers of our Constitution understood the value of dispersing power and authority amid the assorted governing divisions in order to circumvent corruption. For this reason, a process of checks and balances was written into our system to guarantee that no singular branch of government became too powerful. The perception of balance in our administration, however, deserves scrutiny from time to time, as a few historical events have revealed dubious legal concepts embedded in our system. These events force us to question and inspect certain actions taken by government officials and the Judiciary alike. The internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War is one such example. By tracing this historical event, we are able to examine how the respective powers of the President and the Supreme Court interplay - for better or for worse - and how they are put into action.
--“First of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Such were the words spoken by Franklin Delano Roosevelt himself during his inaugural speech in 1933; a speech in which he addressed a weary country suffering the debilitating effects of the Great Depression. But… that was well before World War II - and long before Executive Order #9066. Time, and perhaps pressure, would cause Roosevelt to forget those words many years later.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the country was immersed in fear. Some citizens developed unfounded suspicions that Japan was planning a full-scale attack on the West Coast. Civilians and military officials alike grew increasingly uneasy about the loyalty of the Japanese residing in that region. They petitioned the Federal Government to authorize the removal of all inhabits that were of Japanese descent. Although there was no proof that this group of ethnic individuals posed a threat, their removal was in fact authorized by way of Executive Order #9066, issued by President Roosevelt on February 19, 1942.
Executive Orders are not specifically mentioned in the Constitution, yet the authority to issue such orders can be traced to Article II, Sections 1 and 3 of the Constitution. These sections respectively grant the President "executive power" and direct the President to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." To accomplish said execution of laws, the President gives instructions through Executive Orders. Subsets of these orders are commands known as National Security Directives and are given specifically with the safety of our Nation in mind. Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution further empowers the President to issue Security Directives by designating him Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces. The latter title gives the President great leeway in determining what defensive measures are appropriate during times of war. During such times, the President is authorized to grant additional authority to the military in the interest of protecting the nation – a situation we now know as a National Security State. While in a National Security State, the military possesses great power and provides protection against all internal and external threats, real or imagined. Thus, Executive Order #9066 enabled the military to take control of certain areas by labeling them “defense zones.” This in turn, gave military leaders the unrestrained ability to exclude from these zones whomever they perceived as a threat. The targets, of course, were the Japanese, and in the name of National Security, the Japanese were selected for exclusion and subsequently driven from their homes into internment camps.
Over half of those forced into the camps were legal, American citizens and were therefore entitled to all the rights and...