Hope and California: Two Minority Perspectives
The effect of this agreement, however, was counter to the goals of the anti-Japanese movement. Rather than cutting off immigration from Japan, the agreement resulted in a steady stream of Japanese women entering California. Soon thereafter children were born; thus, increasing the Japanese population, rather than decreasing it. Arranged marriages were the cultural norm for Japanese society. The practice allowed male issei (Japanese born) immigrants to marry and summon their brides to join them in this country. For those disposed to such prejudicial sectarianism, this bolstered the stereotype of Japanese being sneaky and untrustworthy — even though the provisions of the Gentlemen’s Agreement were being scrupulously maintained.
Beginning in January 1909 and continuing through World War II, every year saw the introduction of anti-Japanese bills to the California legislature. As the Japanese American population increased through the immigration of male issei brides and the birth of nisei (American born) children, anti-Japanese forces alleged that the Japanese birth rate was three times as high as the general population’s. The fact that Japanese females in prime childbearing years were compared with white women from ages 15 to 45 was not mentioned. Again, their inability to assimilate was charged and the resultant Immigration Act of 1924 was passed, with a complete cessation of immigration from Japan. This cultural embargo was in effect until 1952 and the passing of the McCarran-Waleer Immigration and Naturalization Act. This Act, which passed in Congress over President Truman’s veto, allowed Japanese and other Asian immigrants to become naturalized citizens for the first time.
In the wake of the Japanese military attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt enacted the most egregious legislative perpetration on Japanese Americans — akin to the institutionalized slavery of Blacks (albeit much abbreviated by comparison) — with the signing of Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. Borne from the baseless fear of internal espionage, this Executive Order granted the Secretary of War authority to designate “military areas” from which to exclude certain people (i.e., those of Japanese descent). This set into motion the eventual incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans. Executive Order 9066 was rescinded in 1944, and the last internment camp was closed in March 1946.