1992: Defying internment, Gordon Hirabayashi went to the Supreme Court instead | KUOW News and Information

1992: Defying internment, Gordon Hirabayashi went to the Supreme Court instead

Mar 28, 2017

In 1942 when Japanese-American citizens were sent to internment camps, University of Washington student Gordon Hirabayashi (1918 - 2012) openly defied the order.

He turned himself in to the FBI, was convicted for curfew violation and sentenced to 90 days in prison. He challenged the conviction all the way to the Supreme Court, which unanimously ruled against him in Hirabayashi v. United States in 1943.

But 40 years later, uncovered documents showed evidence of government misconduct—the government knew there was no military reason for the exclusion order but withheld that information from the United States Supreme Court.

With this new information, Hirabayashi’s case was reheard by the federal courts, and in 1987 a court overturned his criminal conviction.

In this 1992 interview with Ross Reynolds Hirabayashi talks about his decision and his defiance.

Interview highlights:

“People felt if the government was removing people, there must be a good reason for it. I wanted something done to erase that cloud. The Supreme Court finding a way to uphold that constitutionally, that was an embarrassment to me as a citizen.”

Could it happen again? "I believe it would be more difficult to intern people because of ancestry. But I have no hesitation in feeling under similar kinds of hysteria the courts could find ways to uphold that kind of action."

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