Taken Into Custody: the Internment of German and Italian Americans during World War II
The passage of the Civil Liberties Act of
1988, and the subsequent offering of an apology and $20,000 to each of 75,000
Japanese Americans and Japanese aliens who were relocated or interned
involuntarily during World War II, excludes all mention of persons of European
ancestry who were interned between 1941 and 1948. The final report
of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, which led
to the passage of this legislation, had concluded:
No mass exclusion or detention, in any part of the country, was ordered against American citizens of German or Italian descent. Official actions against enemy aliens of other nationalities were much more individualized and selective than those imposed on the ethnic Japanese.
It is important to note that only one chapter out of the report, which is over 400 pages long, deals with the internment of German Americans, and there is almost no mention of the internment of other Europeans. The only mention of a Latin American connection to the “Alien Enemy Program” came in a 10 page long appendix, of which only a few sentences are dedicated to peoples of European ancestry. This lack of acknowledgement by the United States Government has led to vast misperceptions and misinterpretations about the situation that German and Italian Americans found themselves in during the war. On the fiftieth anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, on both the NBC Nightly News and the “McNeil-Lehrer News Hour”, it was stated that no European Americans had been interned during WWII. Despite these misperceptions, the facts remain. European-Americans made up fifty-six percent of all persons interned and sixty-four percent of all persons arrested by the FBI as enemy aliens during the war. Although the actual numbers may differ slightly depending on the source, according to a letter sent on August 9, 1948 by W.F. Kelly, the Assistant Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the total numbers of peoples selectively interned by the Alien Enemy Program are as follows :
During World War II, the United States Government secretly arrested and detained thousands of German and Italian Americans, citizens and aliens, and even went so far as to take Latin American Germans into custody; this violation of civil liberties was not unprecedented; however, in most cases, it was unjustifiable.
Relocation vs. Internment
There is a distinction between relocation and internment that must be made in order to fully understand the history of civil liberties during World War II. In order to fully comprehend how the predicament of German and Italian Americans during World War II was different from that of Japanese Americans, the difference between relocation and internment and how these methods of segregation were used must be understood. Relocation and internment were two very different things. Relocation began in February of 1942, just after the United States declared war on the Axis powers. For the first few weeks of the war, relocation was a voluntary program for all enemy aliens: Germans, Italians, and Japanese in the designated security zones on the West Coast relocated to places inland. On February 19, 1942, Executive Order 9066 was issued by President Roosevelt, and the control of the relocation program was handed over to the Army. Beginning in late February, after Executive Order 9066 was issued, the War Relocation Authority was created, and relocation became mandatory. By this point the Army had determined, for reasons of logistics and public sentiment, that this permanent relocation would be used only with the over 110,000 Japanese residing in the West Coast security zones. The army had a difficult time persuading Japanese Americans and Japanese aliens to move inward, mostly due to the difficulties of moving on short notice. By March, relocation became mandatory for the West Coast Japanese, and relocation quickly turned into a program of mass internment. Japanese American and aliens were forced into “relocation” camps on the West Coast, due to the growing hostility they faced there and wherever they would have relocated voluntarily. These camps were seen to be temporary housing, until the people could be brought inland. The only way a person could leave a camp was either by signing a loyalty oath, or joining the military. No Germans or Italians were subject to forced relocation; all “enemy aliens” of European descent who relocated did so voluntarily and without assistance of the government.
Internment was very different from relocation, and the situation that internees of German, Italian, and Japanese decent found themselves in was indistinguishable from one another. A system of selective internment was established for those individuals who the Federal Bureau of Investigation considered to be “potentially dangerous”. Mass internment was avoided, due to the problems that arose because of the anti-German hysteria and consequent mass internment that took place during the First World War. This is not to say that some parts of the U.S. Government were not pushing for mass internment of all persons with any ancestry in Axis countries. In fact, the commander of the Western Defense Command, General John DeWitt, pushed for mass internment. Some in the Army even advocated extending mass internment to the East Coast. After months of fighting within the bureaucracy, the decision was made that the mass internment would only be applied to the West Coast Japanese, due to their more manageable numbers. The Japanese Americans and aliens who were victims of mass internment were held in what the military called “relocation” camps. Germans and Italians would be spared mass internment, despite the fact that most in the administration considered them to be more dangerous, mostly because of their large numbers and greater importance to the economy. This did not exclude Germans and Italians from “selective” internment, which was imposed against individuals of any “enemy” descent. Since the internees had been arrested with some sort of cause (although most of the time they had little or no idea what that cause was), the internees could not leave for any reason until the Government decided that they could. Germans, Italians, Japanese, and a few other Europeans were all picked up and held for a variety of reasons, in a number of internment camps scattered across the United States. As the program went on and space became scarce, some selective internees were held in camps with Japanese who were victims of the mass internment. There were no concerns about holding the two populations together. Overall, the internees were not limited to being from a certain area of the United States, and they could be aliens, American citizens, or even non-United States citizens from South of the border.
German and Italian Internment: the Policy and the Process
The precedents that set the stage for internment during World War II were established during the First World War. Anti-German hysteria swept through the United States during World War I. At that point in time the German American community was much smaller than it would grow to during later years, and the immigrant community was more isolated than it would later become. In 1917, when the United States declared war on Germany, there were eight million first and second generation Germans out of a total population of ninety-three million. German Americans were forced to assimilate into American culture, or face extreme reactions from their neighbors. Monuments and public buildings were renamed to create distance from all things German, and there was even an attempt to rename sauerkraut “Liberty Cabbage”.
Due to the increasing war hysteria and anti-German sentiment, regulations on German Americans increased dramatically. By April of 1918, President Wilson had issued twenty regulations that extended to all enemy aliens. All German born peoples could not own guns, radios, or explosives. They even had to register themselves at the post office and carry a registration certificate with them. This hysteria resulted in the United States Government’s mass internment of German legal resident aliens and German Americans. This mass internment was based upon the Alien Acts, passed in 1798, under the first Adams administration. Congress later passed the Espionage Act of 1917, and a few other strict laws intended for enemy alien control. In 1917-1918, approximately 6,500 ethnic German civilians were interned across the country, and the numbers grew progressively until the end of the war. Many of the internment camps would be used again for the same purpose during the Second World War. By late 1918, one of the primary camps in Tennessee held about 4,000 civilians. This type of mass internment would be avoided with the Germans in the Second World War, but the actions taken in 1917 and 1918 set a precedent for what would eventually happen. One interesting legacy of World War I internment may have had some impact on World War II internment: the Wilson administration delegated organizational authority for alien enemy control to J. Edgar Hoover, at that time a lawyer in the Justice Department’s Bureau of Enemy Aliens. This assignment gave Hoover experience that he would later apply as Director of the FBI.
The legal status of aliens had not been concretely defined by the United States Government when the enemy alien question was raised again during WWII. Aliens were given equal protection under the law during the inter-war years, but when war broke out in Europe in 1939, the freedoms that aliens residing in the United States had enjoyed began to be infringed upon. Up to that point, the United States Government had provided much protection to aliens under the Fourteenth Amendment. Aliens were prohibited from voting, holding public office, or obtaining certain professional licenses, but there were few other restrictions. They were able to sign contracts, own or inherit property, sue and be sued, and were required to pay taxes. By the time America entered the war, and the FBI was considering detention of any individual of enemy descent who had “American citizenship, whether by birth or naturalization,” the rights of aliens had been rescinded, and even the rights of naturalized citizens were being infringed upon. The position would even be upheld by the Supreme Court after the war in Johnson v. Eisentrager (1949). The first move to limit the freedom of aliens was the Alien Registration Act of 1940. Under the law all aliens were required to go to a U.S. Post Office and register themselves with the Federal Government. Aliens were fingerprinted, photographed, and required to fill out a registration form that would be sent to the Justice Department. At the end of the four month period that was given for registration to occur over 4.9 million aliens had registered. In all, 315,000 German citizens, 695,000 Italians, and 91,000 Japanese would register with the Justice Department.
On September 9, 1939 Roosevelt created the Emergency Detention Program, giving the Justice Department the power to “arrest and detain those persons deemed dangerous in the event of war, invasion, or insurrection in and of a foreign enemy.” The mounting pressure from the European war was pushing the government in an extreme direction. Attorney General Cullen Murphy was quoted in mid September of 1939 as saying that “There will be no repetition of the confusion and laxity and indifference of twenty years ago.” FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover instructed FBI field offices to review their files for potentially dangerous persons, particularly those with German or Italian sympathies. What the President was not aware of, was that Hoover had already begun secretly compiling a list three years prior to the order given by Roosevelt. Hoover’s previous actions had stemmed from a request by Secretary of State Cordell Hull in March of 1933. The Secretary had asked Hoover to investigate German Nazi groups in the United States, because the German embassy had received a threat against Hitler. Hoover used this precedent, along with a request from the White House, to collect intelligence on the ideas and associations of Americans and aliens; this intelligence would eventually materialize into a list of potential subversives. The Custodial Detention Index (CDI), as it was called, was comprised of the names of people who the FBI considered to be capable of subversive activities, and who would be arrested and interned at the outbreak of war; this, of course, was illegal during a time of peace. When an accusation was made against a person, that person would then be investigated and potentially put on the list. Many of the accusations were baseless and came from weak sources. When a person’s name was placed on the CDI it was on it until the person was proved to have died. It was easy to get a name on to the Index, but virtually impossible to take a name off.
In response to Roosevelt’s order, the Justice Department’s Special Defense Unit began compiling its own list of potential subversives. Called the “ABC” list, it classified potentially dangerous Europeans by their potential danger to the United States. Individuals placed on the list were labeled as Category A, B or C. Category A were leaders of Axis organizations, category B were “less dangerous” members, and category C were sympathizers. Despite the articulated categorization, a person’s “danger” to society ended up being based primarily on that individual’s commitment to his/her native country, rather than the individual’s potential to do harm to the United States. For example, individuals classified as category A could be people who were leaders of cultural organizations, category B could be people who simply held membership in non-political cultural organizations, and category C individuals could be persons who gave money to or somehow expressed support for pro-Nazi or pro-Fascist organizations. The anti-immigrant hysteria was growing as Europe sank deeper into a war that the United States drew ever closer to.
Once the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the door was opened to completely violate the civil liberties of any individual of “enemy alien” descent whom the United States Government considered “potentially dangerous”. This included both enemy aliens and citizens of enemy alien descent, naturalized or native. Almost immediately after the bombing, the relocation and internment programs began. Roosevelt issued Proclamation 2525 immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, giving government agencies the authority to detain enemy aliens and confiscate enemy alien property. Most naturalized citizens of enemy alien descent were protected from this type of action if the government did not have probable cause; however, American citizens of enemy alien descent were still subject to relocation. On December 8, 1941 in an FBI memo, Hoover listed the numbers of Germans to be selectively interned: 636 German Aliens, 1,393 American Citizens sympathetic to Germany, and 1,694 Persons of German descent whose citizenship was unknown would be considered for what he called custodial detention. From December 7 through December 10, before war had been declared with Germany, 857 Germans, and 147 Italians were arrested by the FBI. Hoover was even given the authority to arrest without warrants, until “the more dangerous had been apprehended.” It must be stated that some of the people apprehended in the first days of the war were actually spies, and some of these spies were not even of “enemy ancestry”. But regardless of spies that were arrested with legitimate cause, enemy aliens were arrested only on the basis of suspicion.
Enemy aliens and many naturalized citizens of German, Italian, and Japanese descent, were all restricted from coastal security zones, and encouraged to relocate in the early days of the war (not until the creation of the War Relocation Authority in late February 1942 was relocation focused on the Japanese). Some public officials, such as General John DeWitt of the Western Defense Command, were in favor of mass internment of all enemy aliens. DeWitt recommended, first on December 19, 1941 and many times thereafter, that all enemy aliens (regardless of nationality) who were older than fourteen years be removed to the interior for the duration of the war. Ultimately, the Japanese would be the only people that suffered mass exclusion for the duration of the war; the government opted for a process of selective internment for European Americans. This happened for a variety of reasons. Historian Stephen Fox explains four main concerns of government officials: 1) unjustifiable intolerance of European Americans would be far too reminiscent of the mass internment during the First World War; 2) alienating German and Italian aliens as well as German and Italian Americans might cause a loss of support among the children of these people, who were expected to be patriots; 3) internment would cause turf wars in the bureaucracy, leading to a disconnect between the government and military, and; 4) the sheer numbers of European Americans that would potentially be interned would be too many to handle and the populations of Germans and Italians were also a valuable part of the economy that would be difficult to remove (the Japanese were fairly isolated). The large population and economic value of the European Americans that would be interned was the largest concern of many government officials. Despite the reservations about mass internment, the government would eventually selectively intern 10,905 Germans and 3,278 Italians, most of them aliens, shipping them off to one of over fifty prison camps across the country.
In response to the growing anxiety among the “enemy alien” population, the Justice Department published a series of informational pamphlets to be distributed at every post office. One pamphlet, published in February 1942, was forty-five pages long and included over two hundred questions and answers about the rights of aliens. Some material covered indicated that aliens were to be treated quite differently from the way they had been treated during peace time. Some questions discussed were: “Are aliens of enemy nationalities permitted to travel by plane? (Answer: No alien of enemy nationality is permitted to make any flight of any nature in an airplane or other aircraft),” and “Is an alien of enemy nationality who makes his living by the use of photographic equipment required to surrender such equipment? (Answer: Yes. However, he may apply for a special permit.)” The legal rights of aliens were being drastically narrowed.
On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. This was an unprecedented move that allowed the government to move aliens and citizens against their will. The order stated that people of “enemy ancestry” could be moved, regardless of their citizenship. This order provided for alien enemy hearings without due process, and allowed the government to exclude and intern anyone deemed a “security risk”.
The Alien Enemy Hearing Boards were established in February of 1942, after Edward J. Ennis was appointed to head the Alien Enemy Control Unit. Ennis worked with Attorney General Francis Biddle and INS Chief Earl Harrison to create the process of selective internment. Ennis created civilian hearing boards, the Alien Enemy Hearing Boards, and suggested that each be comprised of three people: a representative from the local U.S. Attorney’s Office, a representative from the INS, and a representative from the FBI. The hearing boards would hear cases and forward their recommendation to the Attorney General’s Office in Washington for approval. The board could recommend one of three things: 1) unconditional release; 2) parole; or 3) internment in an enemy alien camp. It was soon realized that there were not enough representatives to make up the over ninety boards that were eventually needed, so prominent local citizens were asked to sit on the boards. The hearings were adversarial, and were closed to the public. The process may have varied slightly, depending on the location, but the hearings generally used the same procedure. The accused person was not allowed to have a lawyer present, and they were not allowed to speak, except to answer the questions of the board. They were usually allowed to bring a friend or relative to serve as a witness to their character. Sometimes the hearings would take place through a translator, which made communication difficult. The board members had to make decisions about what they perceived the person’s loyalty to be; they generally ruled on the side of the government if they had any doubts.
There were a number of reasons that the boards could decide to recommend internment for an enemy alien or a citizen of “enemy ancestry”. The decisions could be based on anything from hearsay to membership or leadership in a cultural organization. If an individual was arrested s/he might have to wait months in the custody of the War Department before their hearings were scheduled, and even if the board recommended against internment or parole, the Justice Department could overrule the board without any explanation. Very few of the accused were set free without restrictions. In mid-1942 one high-level, Justice Department official stated that “internments have run about 50 percent of the cases heard; 33 percent have been placed on parole, and 17 percent have been released.” Although the government professed to obey the Geneva Convention of 1929 in treatment of the internees at all times while they were in the camps, the violation of civil liberties without explanation was enormous in the process to intern them. Under the Geneva Convention prisoners were to be provided a good standard of living, including food, shelter, good hygiene, and medical care. The internees were treated well in an attempt to encourage the Axis powers to treat American prisoners abroad well. This is one indication of the United States’ perception that the aliens were connected to the enemy powers. As the war moved into Southern Europe, and the Fascists in Italy submitted to the Allies in September of 1942, the wartime restrictions on Italian Americans were lifted (this did not, however, mean automatic release for those in internment camps). The announcement was made in New York City on Columbus Day. After the restrictions on Italians were lifted, so too were the mandatory expulsion orders for Italians and Germans in the West Coast security zones.
After the restrictions on the Italians were lifted the Justice Department announced new regulations for internment; five categories of people who were not to be arrested: German and Italians over 70 years in age; hospital patients, orphans, the deaf, dumb, and blind; relatives of men who had died in the line of duty in the armed forces; people waiting for citizenship papers; and refugees. Despite the restrictions, arrests continued and Germans were paroled and interned until the end of the war.
As the war neared its end, the United States government had to determine what to do with the internees. Two paths were chosen: 1) release those persons deemed non-threatening, and; 2) continue to detain those considered a threat. Both Germans and Italians still remained in custody (the Italians interned before Biddle’s announcement were kept in custody). The detainees considered the most dangerous were labeled as deportees and sent back to their native countries, either voluntarily or involuntarily. After the war ended, the camps were slowly phased out, and the internees were let out slowly. The detainees were sometimes kept on for another two years. The remaining internees helped to disassemble the camps, and return them to their former use. The roundup ended there.
Latin American Connection
One part of the internment program during World War II that usually gets overlooked is its connection with Latin America. Over 4,000 German nationals were brought from Latin America to be interned in the United States during World War II. The State Department maintained surveillance over potential enemies south of the Border before and during the war. The Military Intelligence Division of the War Department issued a classified report listing exact numbers of Latin Americans taken to the United States. According to the report 6,610 individuals were listed, 4,058 were German, 2,264 were Japanese, and 288 were Italian.
This cross-hemisphere internment program was something that the United States was willing to put a lot of time and effort into. The Office of Strategic Services began investigating Latin American pro-Nazi sentiment in 1941. After Pearl Harbor, almost all Latin American nations (except Chile and Argentina) broke all ties with Axis powers and agreed to participate in an internment program with the United States. At the Third Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the American Republics at Rio de Janiero in January of 1942, the United States pressured the Latin American countries into an agreement for a custodial detention plan that would span the hemisphere. The American delegation drafted what would become Resolution 17, an agreement under which each country would detain any potentially subversive individuals, and deport those individuals to the United States when sufficient domestic facilities suitable for detention were not available or non-existent. Resolution 17 also created the Governing Board of the Pan American Union to establish the Emergency Advisory Committee for Political Defense (CPD), as a coordinator of defense against Axis espionage. The CPD would be the chief policy making body for cross-hemisphere internment during the war.
Throughout the war the CPD served as the “defender” of the Western Hemisphere against German world domination. Any German presence in Latin America was taken to be some sort of “fifth column” plot to assure German dominance in the hemisphere. The United States saw its influence in Latin America as necessary in order to uphold the Monroe Doctrine, the 19th century declaration of a Western Hemisphere free from European influence. The CPD issued a number of resolutions during the war, the most important of which being Resolution 20. Resolution 20 set out criteria for an individual to be considered “dangerous”. An individual must only show a “predisposition” to aid the enemy by : 1) affiliation or support of an Axis group, 2) conduct that shows that the individual was likely to participate in espionage or sabotage, 3) distribution of totalitarian propaganda or encouragement of others to act in support of the Axis powers; 4) adherence to a totalitarian philosophy or have a sympathy for it, and 5) “any other conduct” that might threaten the security of an American Republic in support of an Axis state. These criteria were very broad; they left substantial power to the Latin American countries, and the decisions to intern were left up to the discretion of the government officials. The CPD recommended against the Latin American countries sending “dangerous” persons back to their respective Axis country, and instead advocated for the individuals to be sent to the Unites States for internment. Most Latin American countries agreed to the temporary internment of the deported aliens in the United States until they could be sent back to their native countries through an exchange program. Mexico, Venezuela, Columbia, and Ecuador insisted on a guarantee from the United States on this point; some Caribbean countries and Peru sent their deportees without any limitation.
The Latin American governments did most of the work on their own, but the United States did help with intelligence gathering. FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover created the Special Intelligence Service (SIS) to work out of U.S. embassies in order to help Latin American countries with their non-military intelligence gathering. Despite the low level of language proficiency in Axis languages, the SIS was sometimes limited in the amount of information they could get from a suspect. For this reason the SIS relied heavily on informants. Informants were paid for their reports against potential subversives, and most reports were based on suspicion or speculation. This system left open the possibility for business competitors, or others who would have an interest in deporting someone, to give false or misleading reports that would result in government action. The reports were rarely verified, mostly due to the language difficulties, and the suspicion was usually enough to intern, due to the vague CPD guidelines for classification as a “dangerous” enemy alien.
This deportation-internment program between the United States and Latin America existed for a variety of reasons. Historian Arnold Krammer suggests three main reasons. The first reason is that there was a dangerous Nazi presence in Latin America. This seems just about as likely as “fifth column” activities in the United States. The German populations, for example, in many Latin American countries were very large, but individual membership in Nazi organizations only comprised about 3 to 5 percent of these populations. Many Latin American governments were sympathetic to the fascists in Europe. The danger of Axis supporters in Latin America leading to the downfall of a U.S.-friendly government may have not been an enormous threat, but the United States feared that if any Latin American government fell to the Axis powers, then it could result in a similar situation to what occurred in Europe: the entire continent could fall to the Axis. Consequently, maintaining Allied, and particularly United States, dominance over Latin America was one of the primary reasons for U.S. intervention.
The second reason Krammer proposes is the more immediate idea of building repatriation exchange program with Axis countries. As the Axis powers conquered more area, Americans in the area were taken as prisoners. A memo from the State Department put it bluntly: “Inherently harmless Axis nationals may be used to the greatest possible extent. We could repatriate them, we could intern them, or we could hold them in escrow for bargaining purposes.” The United States Government was able to repatriate these individuals, because they had been classified as “illegal aliens”, despite the fact that they were taken against their will. In total, 2,584 people, out of the over 4,000 brought from Latin America, were repatriated, voluntarily or not. The rest remained in internment in the United States.
The final reason for the roundup in Latin America is the desire of the United States to gain an economic advantage in Latin America. There was an obvious business interest in Latin America, and the Germans were the obvious competition. Latin American countries stood to benefit by participating in the internment program because the governments could confiscate alien properties, and would also be entering into lend-lease agreements with the U.S. in exchange for their cooperation with the internment program. The CPD served as the defender of American interests in, what many officials called "America's Backyard".
The United States and the cooperating Latin American countries had different motivations for participating in the deportation-internment program. The United States was interested in protecting its dominance in the Western Hemisphere, and saw this program as a way to enforce the Monroe Doctrine. The United States Government wanted an anti-Axis Latin America, as well as a pool of aliens that could be traded with the Axis powers for American citizens abroad. Latin American countries were interested in the benefits of allying with the United States, such as lend-lease agreements and increase American trade. Latin American countries also stood to benefit from the property of internees, which they would confiscate. The Latin American governments were not ardently anti-Axis; instead they cooperated with the U.S. in order to reap the benefits of such a partnership. Despite the different interests, both sides were satisfied with the deal. The Latin American countries were given the freedom to do as they wished, as long as the United States was assured that enemy aliens were being suppressed.
Latin Americans were taken from their homes or places of work in a variety of ways, yet the patterns remain the same. Government officials from the Latin American country would arrest the individuals, regardless of their nationality (many times they didn’t even tell the individual to bring identification), and then hold them until they could be transported to the United States. The detainees were strip searched, and sprayed with DDT, before being loaded in the cargo holds of Army ships and brought to the U.S. mainland. They were given a bucket for a toilet and locked inside the ship’s cargo hold to prevent escape. The ships could take a month or longer to arrive, sometimes stopping at different locations, and the detainees almost never got the chance to see sunlight.
When the detainees arrived in the United States they were interned without so much as a hearing. The nationality of the individual was never taken into consideration; the Latin American governments were left that responsibility, which they hardly ever did. As a result, many Jews, who had fled persecution in Europe, were interned and brought to the United States as potential subversives. Even when U.S. officials determined that the individual was Jewish, s/he was usually kept in the internment camps. It is very likely that at least some of the repatriates that were sent back to Germany during the war were Jews.
Once the Latin Americans were interned, they were sorted to determine who would be repatriated. In total, only about half of the Latin American internees were repatriated, due to disagreements with the British and the increased danger for the ships at the end of the war. By war’s end the State Department realized that it was not going to be able to repatriate all of the Latin American detainees, as was hoped. The U.S. did not want to send the detainees back to Latin America. In October of 1945, the Alien Enemy Control Section of the State Department was established to review the cases of Latin American internees on an individual basis, through hearings and the decision of the assistant secretary for American Republic Affairs. The State Department decided to release all detainees who were not considered dangerous. When the Latin American Republics protested against their citizens being held after the war was over, the State Department finally paroled all Latin American internees. In March 1947, the deportation-repatriation program was ended.
The arrest and detainment of thousands of German and Italian citizens and aliens, from two continents, during World War II was a gross violation of civil liberties. Although the actions taken may have been based on precedents, in most cases they were not justifiable. Up to the present day, the United States Government’s only official position on the internment of German and Italian Americans and Latin Americans is that there is no position. There have been past court cases, challenging the determination of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians that resulted in the recognition of the Japanese Civilian experience, but they have been unsuccessful. Legislation regarding both the German and Italian experiences has been introduced, but most has not gotten anywhere. One piece of legislation regarding the creation of a Commission to examine the civil liberties violations of Italian Americans went as far as a hearing. As this continues, the individuals who were detained and interned are aging, and many have passed away. This program forever changed many families, especially Latin American families, yet the entire issue is ignored as if it never happened. It is important that this lack of recognition on the part of the Federal Government does not create resentment and debate between the Japanese American and the European American communities that were victimized, about which experience was worse. The actions to relocate, intern, deport, and repatriate were gross violations of wartime civil liberties, and the American people must make sure that this does not set precedent for action in the future.