Meditation Monday - The Danger of Dehumanizing Detention

Tomorrow is the 77th anniversary of a sad and tragic time in American history. On February 19, 1942 President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 resulting in the detention of over 100,000 citizens of Japanese descent in isolated interment camps for nearly three years. The following brief description comes from the feature “This Day in History”

Ten weeks after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal of any or all people from military areas “as deemed necessary or desirable.” The military in turn defined the entire West Coast, home to the majority of Americans of Japanese ancestry or citizenship, as a military area. By June, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans were relocated to remote internment camps built by the U.S. military in scattered locations around the country. For the next two and a half years, many of these Japanese Americans endured extremely difficult living conditions and poor treatment by their military guards.

On December 17, 1944, U.S. Major General Henry C. Pratt issued Public Proclamation No. 21, declaring that, effective January 2, 1945, Japanese-American “evacuees” from the West Coast could return to their homes. During the course of World War II, 10 Americans were convicted of spying for Japan, but not one of them was of Japanese ancestry.

In our present challenge to develop a comprehensive immigration policy, this anniversary of Japanese interment calls us to never dehumanize any group of people, especially those who are in the minority or who are marginalized. Our current President’s declaration of a National Emergency in order to obtain more funding for a wall at our southern border along with the previous disastrous policy of family separation combine to dehumanize many men, women, and children who are trying to exercise their legal right to seek asylum in our country. This should be an especially urgent concern for any of us who profess the Judeo-Christian belief that all people are made in the image of God. True justice is never dehumanizing.

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