In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

73 The most common sentiments expressed by Italian internees in letters home and in appeals to government officials ­ were disillusionment with the U.S. government over their internment and the feeling that the hearings pro­ cess was unjust.1 Since the aliens ­ were not notified of specific charges of misconduct, disloyalty, or even of suspicious activity, they did not know what they had done wrong.2 The absence of formal charges did not afford them an opportunity to defend themselves at hearings before alien ­ enemy hearing boards by presenting evidence that might have explained the activity that came ­ under suspicion, possibly saving themselves from internment . The Justice Department’s litigation files reveal the types of be­ hav­ ior that would convince a hearing board that a subject deserved internment, specifically reports of proclamations of loyalty to the Fascist cause or, worse, statements to that effect during the ­ actual hearing. But it is far more difficult to discern a pattern in the types of favorable information that would result in a subject’s parole or release. Avowing entire sympathy with the United States could work to one’s ­ favor.3 Yet many civilian internees’ efforts to prove their loyalty to the United States in alien ­ enemy hearings ­ were unsuccessful in convincing officials that they had the potential to be good American citizens. Often they could not overcome FBI reports of Fascist sympathies and anti-­ American dispositions. Tribunals had considerable discretion to credit certain aspects of an investigative rec­ ord and to discredit ­ others in reaching a decision on a subject. Thus, alien ­ enemy hearings in the selective internment pro­ cess served to define concepts of loyalty and allegiance to the United States and what it means to be a good American citizen. The following examination of the Justice Department’s litigation files of specific alien enemies—­ chosen for ­ factors such as the internee’s ­ legal status , profession, age, or gender—­ and of the files of hearing board members in Boston and New York City reveals both the efforts of the Justice Department to provide fair hearings and the despondency of internees who felt they had no opportunity to prove their innocence. Complaints about the pro­ cess from internees and even hearing board members who ­ were confused about ­ whether they ­ were making final decisions or recommendations impacted the extent of evidence required by the attorney general. chapter three The Strug­ gle for Justice in the Internment Pro­ cess 74 Chapter Three Eventually the Justice Department issued a series of remedial instructions to the hearing boards, beginning in February 1942 and continuing through 1943. ­ Those instructions are in many ways the best evidence that the alien­ enemy hearings could have been uniformly fairer. Unfortunately for the majority of Italian internees who ­ were interned within the first six months of the alien ­ enemy hearing program, attempts to inject greater due pro­ cess into the hearings did not affect earlier determinations of internment. Some of the case studies below illustrate the types of defective pro­ cess that the Justice Department addressed, such as the lack of formal charges against the subjects, while ­ others exhibit the failure of the board to admit testimony favorable to the subject. In other instances, cultural biases of board members and the po­ liti­ cal influence of witnesses compromised institutional standards and prevailed over objectively mea­ sur­ able threats, sometimes serving to disadvantage a subject and at other times positively affecting outcomes, such as in cases where Italian American hearing board members or government attorneys ­ were involved. Still other cases offer narratives of hearing boards grappling with the meaning of due pro­ cess as it pertained to ­ enemy aliens and striving for a contextualized adjudicatory pro­ cess, and of the Justice Department carefully reviewing board recommendations. Cases where multiple hearings ­ were held, particularly when individuals ­ were interned longer, not only gave subjects the opportunity eventually to address the government’s concerns, but also allowed boards to examine more thoroughly the be­ hav­ ior and mind-­ set of the subjects. In addition to setting forth discrepancies between what the Justice Department expected hearing boards to do and how ­ those boards actually functioned, this chapter reveals the tension between ­ legal guarantees for­ enemy aliens and what internees felt would be a just pro­ cess for deciding­ whether they posed a danger to society. The fact that hearings ­ were provided at all—­ when neither U.S. nor international treaty law required them for nationals of countries at war with the United States—­ indicates a...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.