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Cultural Diversity Eth/125 Japanese American

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Japanese Americans

When my Great Grandfather was sixteen, he emigrated from Japan in order to support his parents and to learn skills that would benefit his country. He chose California, rather than Hawaii; another common port of call for Japanese immigrants, as his destination and settled in with his fellow immigrants working in agriculture. In 1907, two years after he arrived, the United States passed the "Gentlemen's Agreement" forbidding any new laborers from entering the country. This law did not prohibit the immigration of current immigrant's children or spouses. My Great Grandfather worked very hard for many years before he had enough money to marry. The first time my Great Grandfather saw my Great Grandmother was in a photograph! His parents and her parents arranged their marriage while she was still in Japan, they met in person for the first time already considered husband and wife. In their first picture taken together in 1911, they look a little afraid, but subsequent pictures show they grew to care for each other very much. A few years later my Grandfather was born, the same year my Great Grandfather's parents died. Great Grandfather decided to stay in the United States at that point, and abandoned his plans of returning to Japan. In 1913, the United States passed a law prohibiting Japanese immigrants from owning any land. This law, called the Alien Land Law, allowed Japanese immigrants to lease land for up to three years, but they were not allowed to buy land; even for their American born children. In spite of all the limiting laws and general discrimination, my Great Grandfather prospered. My Great Grandparents had several more children, established strong roots in the Japanese American community and enjoyed a modest sort of success and level of comfort.

December 7, 1941 changed everything for my Great Grandparents and every other Japanese immigrant in the United States. This was the date that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and the United States officially entered World War II. In the weeks following the attack over 2,000 Japanese leaders were rounded up and detained, including one of my Great Grandfathers close friends. The situation for Japanese Immigrants only became worse in the following year. Executive Order 9066 was signed February 19, 1942, 6 days later the entire community of Terminal Island was expelled, including natural born citizens. Japanese people were "urged" to turn themselves and their property over to the United States before they were forced to. They were stripped of their belongings, herded into internment camps, forced to undergo strip searches and long interrogations. My Grandfather, along with his parents, his wife and my father were sent to an internment camp called the Tule Lake Relocation Camp. All this was done under the pretext of "protecting" the United States, and yet no people of Italian or German ancestry were rounded up. From an article published many years later "The "military necessity" excuse was further contradicted by the fact that babies, children, bedridden old people, blind or paralyzed persons -- people incapable of committing acts of sabotage or espionage -- were also incarcerated. Even orphans in institutions and children adopted by White families were imprisoned if they



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