Holly Yasui was far away when a federal judge in Brooklyn ruled last June that the government had wide latitude to detain noncitizens indefinitely on the basis of race, religion or national origin. The ruling came in a class-action lawsuit by Muslim immigrants held after 9/11. But Ms Yasui, an American citizen of Japanese ancestry, had reason to take it personally.
Her grandparents were among thousands of Japanese immigrants in the United States who were wrongfully detained as enemy aliens during World War II. And her father was one of three Japanese-Americans who challenged the government’s racial detention and curfew programs in litigation that reached the Supreme Court in the 1940s.
Now, Ms Yasui, along with Jay Hirabayashi and Karen Korematsu-Haigh, a son and a daughter of the two other Japanese-American litigants, is urging an appeals court in Manhattan to overturn the sweeping language of the judge’s ruling last year.
The ruling “painfully resurrects the long-discredited legal theory” that was used to put their grandparents behind barbed wire, along with the rest of the West Coast’s Japanese alien population, the three contend in an unusual friends-of-the-court brief filed today in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
In recent years, many scholars have drawn parallels and contrasts between the internment of Japanese-Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the treatment of hundreds of Muslim noncitizens who were swept up in the weeks after the 2001 terror attacks, then held for months before they were cleared of links to terrorism and deported.