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Power and the People The U.S. Census and Who Counts

Japanese Americans in World War II and the Census

The Census Bureau cooperated with US military agencies during World War II to aid in the internment of 110,000 people with Japanese ancestry as part of a reprehensible domestic security campaign. These disclosures were legal at the time under the Second War Powers Act, but would now be illegal. The political climate following the September 11 attacks and the recent heated immigration debates have sparked fears, even as communities recognize the importance of being accurately counted.

Western Defense Command Area: 1940. Japanese (and Japanese American) population.
Bulletin 3 - March 16, 1942
A Washington Post article, "Secret use of census info helped send Japanese Americans to internment camps in WWII," reports on how the US Census Bureau provided names and addresses of individuals of Japanese ancestry during World War II that led to their incarceration.

People of Japanese ancestry were evicted from their homes and farms throughout the western United States in the World War II relocation program.

The Census Bureau provided statistical information to the Army to assist with the internment of 110,000 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry from 1942 to 1945.

In 2007, researchers Margo J. Anderson and William Seltzer uncovered evidence that the US Census Bureau had provided names and addresses of some individuals of Japanese ancestry during World War II, not just aggregated data as they had long claimed.

Former mayor of San Jose and Congressman Norman Mineta (‘53) was interned as a boy for several years at the Heart Mountain internment camp in Wyoming. The Mineta family was relocated from their home in San Jose, at which they were recorded in the 1940 Census. As Congressman, Mineta was instrumental in passing the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which provided apologies and reparations to Japanese Americans interned during the war.

The 1940 census lists the Mineta family of San Jose and indicates Japan as the place of birth for the Mineta parents.
Norman Mineta and his family were living in San Jose, California when they were forceably removed to Heart Mountain in Wyoming during World War II.

Though it is now illegal for the Census Bureau to share individually identifiable data, fears remain. Yet an undercount of disadvantaged or marginalized communities means they will not receive their fair share of services, funding, and political representation.

I'm told that through the census of 2010 billions of dollars will flow to states and municipalities during the next decade and the dollars will help build schools, health facilities and finance other needs. If this is accurate then why shouldn't my community gets its share? Such resources will not only help my community but my children and grandchildren too. For those reasons, I plan to be counted and to ensure my neighbors and loved one are counted too.

– Hope Morris, Queens, NY “What the census means to me.” Holder, W. Everybody's Caribbean Magazine. Brooklyn, NY (Feb/Mar 2010)

There remains a grave amount of uncertainty and distrust within the Hispanic community surrounding how the government will utilize Census information.

– “Strength in Numbers?” Gomez, A. & Matthews, L. La Prensa San Diego. San Diego, CA (Jan 8, 2010)