“(Talking of the West) These are people whose histories are spongy with the blood of others. Colonialism, apartheid, slavery, ethnic cleansing, germ warfare, chemical weapons - they virtually invented it all.”

- Arundhati Roy

Image: New York Times

Japanese internment camps were established during World War II by President Franklin Roosevelt. From 1942 to 1945, it was the policy of the U.S. government that people of Japanese descent would be put in isolated camps. This policy was enacted in reaction to Pearl Harbor and the ensuing war. The Japanese internment camps are now considered one of the most atrocious violations of American civil rights in the 20th century.

On December 7, 1941, just hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the FBI rounded-up 1,291 Japanese community and religious leaders, arresting them without evidence and freezing their assets. Military zones were created and Roosevelt’s executive order commanded the relocation of Americans of Japanese ancestry. Canada soon followed suit, relocating 21,000 of its Japanese residents from its west coast. Mexico enacted its own version, and eventually 2,264 more people of Japanese descent were removed from Peru, Brazil, Chile and Argentina to the United States.

The plan was drafted after a report by the leader of the Western Defense Command containing falsehoods about the Japanese population, and initially included the rounding up of Germans, and Italians. Riots, and shootings occasionally occurred at the camps.