A Nation of Immigrants

Visiting Gila River Relocation Center

"To undo a mistake is always harder than not to create one originally..."

"To undo a mistake is always harder than not to create one originally but we seldom have the foresight. Therefore we have no choice but to try to correct our past mistakes and I hope that the recommendations of the staff of the War Relocation Authority, who have come to know individually most of the Japanese Americans in these various camps, will be accepted. Little by little as they are checked, Japanese Americans are being allowed on request to leave the camps and start independent and productive lives again. Whether you are a taxpayer in California or in Maine, it is to your advantage, if you find one or two Japanese American families settled in your neighborhood, to try to regard them as individuals and not to condemn them before they are given a fair chance to prove themselves in the community.

"A Japanese is always a Japanese" is an easily accepted phrase and it has taken hold quite naturally on the West Coast because of fear, but it leads nowhere and solves nothing. A Japanese American may be no more Japanese than a German-American is German, or an Italian-American is Italian, or of any other national background. All of these people, including the Japanese Americans, have men who are fighting today for the preservation of the democratic way of life and the ideas around which our nation was built."

Editor's Note: In 1943, Eleanor Roosevelt visited the Gila River Relocation Center in Arizona.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt's singing of Executive Order 9066 initiated the removal of Japanese-Americans from the West, which was deemed a military zone.  This order outraged Eleanor Roosevelt.    
Appalled by the conditions and the imprisonment of American citizens, Roosevelt publicly condemned the internment of Japanese-Americans.  This excerpt is from the draft of an essay written for Collier's Magazine.