“Civil Rights”—for Whom?
This was the “liberal” Supreme Court which was supposed to have struck such great blows for what is known by that much-abused phrase “civil liberties.” It was the Roosevelt Court’s actions—as well as those of the Court of today—in this field which brought, and still brings, great gladness to all the bleedings hearts of the brave new (collectivist) world. But “civil liberties” for whom?
In 1943, a case came before the packed Court involving one William Schneiderman. He was a member of the Communist Party. He was not a native American. He had applied for citizenship and was granted his naturalization certificate. Then it came to the attention of the immigration authorities that he was a communist and had been one when he got his citizenship papers. The government rescinded his naturalization on the ground that he had not taken the oath of allegiance to the United States in good faith. A communist, of course, cannot possibly swear allegiance to the United States in good faith, since his only allegiance is to the communist conspiracy. Schneiderman took the case (Schneiderman v. U.S.) to the Supreme Court, which magnanimously gave him back his citizenship on the ground that, once conferred, citizenship could not be taken away.
Another case (Bridges v. Wixon) involved a notorious alien—Harry Bridges—who came here from Australia and became a powerful West Coast labor leader whose longshoremen’s union was rank with communism. Bridges was prosecuted under the Alien Registration Act, in which Congress declared that any alien who, at the time he came to this country or later, was a member of, or was affiliated with, an organization advocating the forceful overthrow of the government could be deported—sent back to the country from which he came. The prosecution showed that Bridges had worked closely with the Communist Party and had supported its political candidates. But the Supreme Court of the United States, speaking through Justice Douglas, declared this did not constitute “affiliation”—and Bridges stayed.
Bridges finally applied for citizenship—and got it. But it subsequently developed that he had lied in the deportation proceedings which ended with his getting a clean bill of health from the Supreme Court. He was tried, convicted of perjury, and given a jail sentence—and his naturalization was canceled. Once again he appealed to the Supreme Court. And once again the Court freed him—not because he wasn’t guilty, but because the statute of limitations had run out.
So Harry Bridges is still amongst us—a monument to the defense of “civil liberties” by the Supreme Court.
That’s how our “liberal” Supreme Court handled the case of a naturalized communist citizen and an alien, left-wing labor leader. But let us see what happened in the case of not one or two but 120,000 native-born American citizens. This case, and the two mentioned above, all occurred during the Second World War, so it is no excuse to say that the Court must take into consideration the exigencies of wartime.
These 120,000 people were Americans of Japanese descent who lived on the West Coast. Their crime was that they had the same color skin as did the people of a nation with whom we were at war. No doubt there were some traitors amongst them, as there were amongst our German and Italian citizens; and as there were traitors in much greater number working in the interest of our great and noble ally—for the moment—Soviet Russia. But the majority of the Japanese-Americans on the West Coast were loyal American citizens, as was proved by their exemplary behavior under the most trying conditions and the excellent record chalked up by their young men in our armed services.
But President Roosevelt, the patron saint of American “civil liberties,” established a special bureau, the War Relocation Authority, which rounded up all 120,000 of these citizens, routed them from their homes, their farms, and their businesses on the West Coast and impounded them in camps in the interior of the country. He called the camps War Relocation Centers. We were more plain-spoken in referring to the same type of centers in Europe—we called them concentration camps. And Roosevelt did this against the explicit advice of J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI. No one knew better than Hoover the importance of national security in wartime; but he wrote the Attorney-General and the President to call attention to the crime they were committing against American civil liberties. Hoover said the whole operation was based not on public interest but on political pressure and hysteria.
In good time a case involving the constitutionality of this mass uprooting of American citizens came before the Supreme Court. And the Court, which wouldn’t take citizenship from a foreign-born communist or deport an alien, left-wing labor leader, upheld the concentration-camp impounding of thousands of American citizens. The decision (Korematsu v. U.S.) was written by the leftists’ pet defender of “civil liberties”—Justice Black.
This was perhaps the greatest assault on real civil liberties in our history—for, if the President could do what he did to citizens of Japanese ancestry, a President can do it to citizens of German, Italian, Swedish, English, Irish, or any other ancestry, whenever the federal government sees fit to create the occasion. An interesting footnote to this mass assault on civil liberties is provided in the fact that Mr. Roosevelt had the assistance of the then Attorney-General of California—now Chief Justice of the United States, Earl Warren. And the man who headed the so-called War Relocation Authority was Mr. Milton Eisenhower, brother and chief adviser of the President who gave Mr. Warren his Supreme Court post. Between 50 and 60 percent of these displaced Americans of Japanese descent returned to the West Coast states after the war. But they had to start over again from scratch. Congress subsequently voted some money restitution to them, but tenant farmers who had to give up their leases and small-business men who had to close their shops did not get them back. And there is no record that the then Governor of California, Earl Warren—now so solicitous of the “civil rights” of communists—bothered his head about the rights of these native Americans when they returned to his state.
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