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We Must Not Treat Muslims as We Treated the Japanese

We Must Not Treat Muslims as We Treated the Japanese

The terrorist attacks on 9-11 have frequently been analogized to Pearl Harbor. In many ways, the analogy is apt. Just as that attack launched us into World War II, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have launched us into a new kind of war, against terrorism. But waging this sort of borderless war poses great risks, not only to the soldiers commanded to fight but also to core American values. In this way, Pearl Harbor raises other disturbing memories, those of the internment.

Like the recent explosions on the East Coast, the bombing of Pearl Harbor on 12-7, shattered our feeling of national security. How could this have happened? Ordinary individuals, prominent journalists, and government officials soon started pointing the finger at the Japanese in America. Viewing these “Orientals” as incurably foreign, speaking foreign languages, perpetuating foreign cultures, practicing foreign religions (Shinto, Buddhism), American society could not distinguish between the Empire of Japan and Americans of Japanese descent. As General DeWitt, in charge of the Western Defense Command, put it, “A Jap’s a Jap.” In testimony, he elaborated: “[R]racial affinities are not severed by migration. The Japanese race is an enemy race and while many second and third generation Japanese born on United States soil, possessed of United States citizenship have become ‘Americanized’ the racial strains are undiluted.” As government reports rushed to the conclusion that Japanese Americans aided and abetted the attack, the wheels of the internment machinery began turning.

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which a…

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…l happen if we make such mistakes today? Consider another analogy with the internment. In Hirabayashi, the Court noted that because American society had discriminated against the Japanese legally, politically, and economically, they had been kept from assimilating and integrating into mainstream society. Exactly right. But then, the Court went on the explain-in an entirely rational but still disturbing way-that therefore the Japanese posed a greater national security risk. This presents a horrible Catch-22: Because America has treated you badly, you have reason to be disloyal; therefore, America has reason to treat you still more badly, by restricting your civil rights. In our public and private response to the horrors of 9-11, will we force another group of Americans into the same impossible situation? I hope that by learning the lessons of 12-7 we will not.

Terrorism – Foreign Students do Not Threaten National Security

Foreign Students do Not Threaten National Security

In response to the horror of the September 11 terrorist attacks, America has demanded action, and we have gotten it. In addition to the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan and the ongoing federal investigation of the events surrounding the World Trade Center attacks, we have seen a flurry of legislative and executive action designed to increase our domestic security. Yet not all of this activity has been without controversy. From Bush’s executive order authorizing the use of military tribunals to try non-U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism, to Attorney General John Ashcroft’s call for the questioning of thousands of Middle Eastern men, government actions are sparking a crucial debate: to what extent are we willing to sacrifice civil liberties and individual rights in the quest to make our country safer?

For many students here at the university, this question is not just a matter of abstract debate. Because several of the suspects in the September 11 attacks (as well as in the previous World Trade Center bombing) are thought to have entered the United States on student visas, the relative freedom of international students to study here may soon be restricted.

In the wake of the attacks, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) called for a six-month moratorium on student visas, a proposal that was subsequently dropped under strong pressure from representatives of U.S. universities. Yet the international student visa process remains under strict scrutiny.

The Visa Entry Reform Act, currently in the Senate Judiciary committee, proposes a number of measures to toughen up the immigration and visa system. Of particular interest are two components of the bill: the implementation of a monitoring program for foreign students, and the denial of foreign student visas to nationals of “state sponsors of international terrorism.” The monitoring program would ensure that students pass a background check before arrival, and are actually enrolled in a degree program once they arrive. As such, it is a reasonable response to the real threat of terrorism which we confront. It is the second component to which I wish to object.

The countries which the State Department considers to be state sponsors of terrorism are Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Cuba, North Korea and Sudan. Over the last four years, we have had hundreds of students from these countries enrolled at the university.

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