Study Guide

Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi & Minoru Yasui in Executive Order 9066: The President Authorizes Japanese Relocation

By Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi & Minoru Yasui

Now we're going to hear about some people being awesome and fighting back instead of people abusing their power and being racist. Refreshing, huh?

A Bold Move in the Name of Justice

A U.S. citizen by birth, Seattle native Gordon Hirabayashi was a Japanese American who refused to submit to unfair internment resulting from E.O. 9066. His defiance of evacuation orders and other government-sanctioned injustices against Japanese Americans led to his arrest by the federal government in 1942.

The legal proceedings following his imprisonment culminated in the Supreme Court case Hirabayashi v. United States, in which he attempted to appeal the guilty verdict for violating the rules governing Japanese Americans in the military exclusion areas. The court ruled against him, and he was handed a 90-day sentence to be served at an Arizona labor camp. (Source)

Supremely Unfortunate

The same day the Supreme Court ruled on Hirabayashi v. United States, it also ruled on a related case called Yasui v. United States. (Source)

Under strikingly similar circumstances, Minoru Yasui of Hood River, Oregon, was arrested when he sought to defy military area restrictions in order to test their constitutionality. Like Hirabayashi, his case skyrocketed up the judicial ladder to the top rung.

And, like Hirabayashi, the court ruled against him. In the end, he was sent to an internment camp, anyway.

Some Unsolicitous Behavior

Years later, in the 1980s, evidence was discovered that the Office of the Solicitor General had been a big, unethical jerk and withheld important information from the Supreme Court during the rulings on Hirabayashi v. United States and Yasui v. United States. The information that it failed to share was a government report citing Japanese Americans posed no significant threat of sabotage against the United States.

As in, they weren't dangerous. Like, not at all.

The absence of this report directly influenced not only the final verdict of Hirabayashi's and Yasui's respective cases, it also created a precedent for the legality and necessity of the policies enacted by E.O. 9066.

But it was just one big lie.

This revelation, upsetting as it was, prompted the overturning of both convictions 44 years after the fact. It was a personal victory for both men and a landmark victory for Japanese Americans.

During the Obama administration, both men received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, for their contributions to civil rights.