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The American Dream is concept that was chased by many in the 1900s. Consisting of owning a home, having a family, and working a nice job, these formulated the ideal lifestyle. For many Japanese immigrants, the American Dream was a significant incentive to move to America as the idea of owning land and being able to use it was especially appealing.
However, the Japanese immigrants were not welcomed kindly. Racism was prevalent and rampant throughout the country and many neighborhoods tried desperately to keep Japanese people away from their neighborhoods, homes, and even schools. The book, The House on Lemon Street, explains the case of Jukichi and Ken Harada, a couple who moved to the United States and bought a house on Lemon Street. Almost immediately, the couple faced scrutiny and oppression from their neighbors and eventually the problem turned into a Supreme Court case titled the People of California v. Jukichi Harada. In the end, the Haradas won the case and the right to stay in their own house. But, others weren’t so lucky.
A slew of legislation pieces and laws were passed that prevented Japanese immigrants from partaking in the American Dream. For example, in the 1800s Californian officials tried to control Japanese immigrants and tax them but were unsuccessful due to the Passenger Cases of 1849 where it was determined that Congress would handle immigration. One major law that took place was the Law of 1913 that stated that aliens who were eligible for citizenship were granted the same property rights as American citizens but due to previous laws, Chinese and Japanese immigrants could not become naturalized citizens and were thus excluded from owning land. These laws were not created on the grounds of concern but racism. Racism ran wild during this time and Japanese people were prohibited from simple lifestyles simply due to their appearances. It’s disgusting to note that the racism didn’t just come from individuals but was supported by congress and congressmen and the President. They bought into the hysteria and hype and instead of doing what was good for the people, they did what they needed to do to please the people.
When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Japanese-Americans faced severe discrimination and the constant fear that they would suddenly become the enemy. It’s sad to state that while many of them instantly declared their fierce loyalty to the U.S. and proved it by trashing many valuables from their homeland, they were not given the same response. Instead, President Roosevelt signed into action his Executive Order 9066 which effectively put the Japanese immigrants into concentration camps. This broke my heart when I read about it because it reminded me of the Holocaust. Sure, we didn’t kill off the Japanese immigrants but we treated them like animals and labeled them as the enemy without any evidence to go off of.
Immigration is still a hot topic today. With President Obama, America took a more welcoming stance and he sought to undo the damage we as a nation had inflicted on so many people years ago. For President Obama, to succeed as a nation we must overcome and recognize our differences but come together to continue living and improving this country we all call home. On the other hand, President Trump has taken a more strategic outlook on this situation, similar to Roosevelt. For President Trump, immigrants could pose a security threat to our nation and America needs stronger border protection and more stringent immigration rules. His take on the situation is understandable: in recent years there have been more and more terrorist attacks and we do need to work on keeping our nation safe. However, America has been shaped by immigrants and I personally do not believe that we will solve our problems by shutting immigrants out. At the end of the day, people are people. We all come from different places and may hold different values but at our cores I believe that every human wants to be part of a society, succeed, and support their family. And for many immigrants such as the Japanese, America was the ideal place to do this. Our treatment of the Japanese people was nothing more than racism and I think that President Obama was correct when he said “we may not look the same and may not come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction- towards a better future for our children and grandchildren.”
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