Following the 1941 Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 establishing the West Coast as a military war zone and authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans. Nearly 120,000 individuals, the majority of whom were American citizens, were relocated to internment camps under the auspice that they posed a threat to national security. Some Japanese Americans openly resisted the order and refused to present themselves for relocation, risking arrest. One such person was Fred Korematsu, a U.S. citizen who in 1944 appealed his arrest to the Supreme Court. In a 6-3 decision, Korematsu’s appeal was denied and internment policy was upheld.
Forced to sell or abandon their property prior to relocation, Japanese Americans collectively lost billions of dollars in assets. In 1948, Congress passed the Evacuation Claims Act, which allowed Japanese-Americans to file claims for loss of property. However, due to the lack of surviving records, the government paid only $31 million in damages. In August 1988, the Civil Liberties Act provided reparations to Japanese Americans and their descendants in the form of $20,000 for each individual who was interned.