Just days ago, an anniversary passed which should never be forgotten. On April 1, 1942, an order was issued by Lt. General J.L. DeWitt which began the forced evacuation and “internment” of people of Japanese descent.
In the following three years, over 100,000 people, including US citizens, were “indefinitely detained” based solely on their racial (Japanese) background. This supposedly made them a threat to national security. Thousands of people of German and Italian descent got the same treatment.
Many lost everything. A few years later, when the federal government offered to pay claims for lost property, the average payout was a paltry $1392.
Much has been written about the horrors of internment during those years, so let’s not belabor the point. But today, when the federal government assumes some new power, those who point out how that power could very-well be abused in fantastic ways are often told, “That won’t happen here!”
April 1st should be a reminder to all of us. It already did happen here.
Unfortunately, the federal government has granted itself similar “indefinite detention” powers today. But the People have an opportunity to learn from history, and do something about it.
In states around the country, legislation is being considered which would severely hamper or even fully block any attempt to arrest and detain people without due process. In Michigan, Montana, Texas and California, votes are coming up soon to move such bills forward.
In December 2011, President Obama signed the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which gave the federal government the power to “indefinitely detain” people, including US citizens. No due process. No access to lawyers. And those who are detained have no idea if they’ll ever be set free.
This is the same kind of power which resulted in mass internment 71 years ago. In 1942, FDR exercised the power via executive order. The ACLU notes that the NDAA codified indefinite military detention into law for the first time in American history.
Although President Obama issued a signing statement saying he had “serious reservations” about the NDAA’s detention provisions, his administration is vigorously defending these powers in federal court. Plaintiffs in that case include leading progressives such as Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and Noam Chomsky.
Last year, a federal judge temporarily struck down these detention powers and issued an injunction ordering the federal government to stop. The case is on appeal, and the powers remain in place while the case continues.
This fact should send chills up your spine: When Judge Forrest asked if the federal government was using indefinite detention during the period that the court ordered them not to, the administration’s attorneys flat-out refused to say they weren’t.
Last fall, Dianne Feinstein introduced an amendment to the 2013 NDAA which would have lessened these powers. It failed. Indefinite detention remains on the books.
A number of states are taking action in response. In Montana, the state house already voted 98-0 to pass HB522, and the Senate will be voting to concur any day. That bill would ban all state agencies from “providing material support or participating in the implementation” of the indefinite detention provisions of the NDAA.
The Michigan State Senate passed a similar bill, SB94, by a vote of 37-0. On Tuesday, April 9, a House Committee will consider moving it another step towards law. That same day, the California Assembly Public Safety Committee will be voting on AB351. This bill would declare indefinite detention a violation of both the US and California Constitutions. More importantly, it would also require the entire state apparatus, and all political subdivisions of the state, to refuse to carry out, assist, or provide any material support to such detention powers.
Last year, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed a similar bill into law. It was supported by a wide coalition including the Japanese American Citizens League. Last month, the San Francisco board of supervisors unanimously passed a resolution supporting similar principles, including a clause to refuse compliance with the federal act. There are now twenty local communities which have done the same.
If these bills become law, a growing number of states will be required to stand down. Passage of AB351 in California or HB149 in Texas could potentially send shockwaves, and lead to even more states doing the same. This will make it incredibly difficult for the federal government to “indefinitely detain.” Whatever the issue, federal actions or raids are generally carried out with significant assistance from state or local law enforcement. Without help from the states, the federal government simply doesn’t have the manpower.
And they know it.
In fact, Fox News contributor Judge Andrew Napolitano recently said that such widespread noncompliance can render a federal act “nearly impossible to enforce.”
And, Rosa Parks proved to us that even when enforcement still happens, saying “NO!” can change the world.
When legislators consider these state bills, which are often referred to as Liberty Preservation Acts, they have an opportunity to follow the Rosa Parks method for liberty. Voting YES is not just the right thing to do. It’s the only thing. Their offices should be flooded with calls in support.
No. We will not comply.