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Advice on Unintended Consequences

The author, Greg Robinson points out the negative consequences of Roosevelt’s decision to intern people of Japanese descent, both citizens and non-citizens, that they were adversely affected by the internment and suffered “economic hardships, social ostracism, and arrest of family and community.”[1] I believe that when an entire ethnic group, religion or nationality of people are characterized as dangerous, traitorous, disloyal, or “incapable of being true Americans” the peace and freedom of not just that group, but the peace and freedom of all groups is jeopardized because the same policies of discrimination can easily be applied to others once they achieve success against one group.[2]

Following 9/11, we saw these same attitudes of mistrust and fear applied to Muslim communities throughout the United States. We heard from national and local leaders that Muslims are terrorists and must be stopped. Our new security measures enacted at airports have been accused of “unfairly profiling, questioning, searching and detaining passengers simply for ‘looking’ Muslim.”[3] Even though these measures have been proven to be ineffective, national leaders continue to defend the programs.[4] Following the recent terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, a new wave of Islamophobia is sweeping the nation which is being encouraged by Donald Trump’s calls to ban all Muslim travel to the United States.[5] This sort of irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric fans the flames of hate crimes, bigotry and discrimination and perpetuates the misconceptions and ignorance held by so many of our fellow citizens.

An arbitrary enactment of measures designed to keep citizens safe, however vague it sounds, can be used to exclude, discriminate or ostracize one or more groups of people. When Executive Order 9066 was enacted the “text did not specifically mention Japanese Americans, the West Coast, evacuation, or internment. Nevertheless, nobody inside or outside the government had any doubt that the purpose of the order was to give the army the power to remove the Japanese Americans from the Pacific Coast.” [6] This ‘nod and wink’ towards pacification to those who were influenced by the rumors and insinuations against the Japanese resulted in a collective attitude that all people of Japanese descent were guilty of disloyalty and had committed crimes serious enough to warrant incarceration.[7]

When national or even local leaders go on the record saying things that are untrue about a group of people, there are always unintended consequences. This sort of speech is dishonest and irresponsible and undermines our democracy. Throughout this campaign cycle, Donald Trump has repeatedly mischaracterized Mexican immigrants and has called for a mass deportation of 11 million Latino families because “the Mexican government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.”[8] The Washington Post analyzed these and other Trump statements about immigrants and gave them “4 Pinocchio’s”, their worst rating when it comes to truthfulness. In fact, Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank said, “immigrants in general – unauthorized immigrants in particular – are a self-selected group who general come to the U.S. to work. And once they’re here, most of them want to keep their nose down and do their business, and they’re sensitive to the fact that they’re vulnerable”.[9]

Such was the case with Japanese Americans. Most were loyal, hardworking people who despite their cultural connections to Japan had no intentions of disloyalty, sabotage or collusion with the Japanese. They were deemed to be disloyal “not from any judicial finding or any reliable evidence of their individual or collective involvement in espionage or sabotage. In fact, not a single documented case of any such activity had come to light.”[10] The characteristics which doomed them were their racial identity, ancestry and appearance.[11]

These racialized policies not only endanger those that they directly effect. They also have negative consequences for the rest of the country. They undermine our democracy and create permanent, or at least, long standing underclasses who are denied full citizenship rights. Despite these obvious results, there is another less apparent outcome. These policies distract people’s attention from other national problems and they seek to create an “us vs. them” mentality which prevents people from coming together to work towards democracy and equality for all.



Diamond, Jeremy. “Trump on Latest Iteration of Muslim Ban: ‘You Could Say it’s An Expansion’”. CNN Politics. July 24, 2016.

Hee Lee, Michelle Ye. “Donald Trump’s False Comments Connecting Mexican Immigrants and Crime”. The Washington Post. July 8, 2015.

Jenkins, Jack. “Anti-Muslim Profiling at Airports Goes Beyond the TSA”. Think Progress. January 20, 2016.

Robinson, Greg, By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans.

Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2001.

[1] Greg Robinson, By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans. (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2001), 127.

[2] Robinson, By Order of the President, 121.

[3] Jack Jenkins, “Anti-Muslim Profiling at Airports Goes Beyond the TSA”, Think Progress, January 20, 2016,

[4] Jenkins, “Anti-Muslim Profiling”, Think Progress.

[5] Jeremy Diamond, “Trump on Latest Iteration of Muslim Ban: ‘You Could Say it’s An Expansion’”, CNN Politics, July 24, 2016,

[6] Robinson, By Order of the President, 108.

[7] Robinson, By Order of the President, 131.

[8] Michelle Ye Hee Lee, “Donald Trump’s False Comments Connecting Mexican Immigrants and Crime”, The Washington Post, July 8, 2015,

[9] Ye Hee Lee, “Donald Trump’s False Comments”, The Washington Post.

[10] Robinson, By Order of the President, 108.

[11] Robinson, By Order of the President, 108.

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