2

The internment of Japanese Americans during the 2nd world war is widely known. The US has participated in several wars since then. Are there examples of similar events after the 2nd world war?

Did it happen again that people who were living in the US, but had connections with countries that the US went to war with (e.g. they or their parents being citizens of that country), were either detained or deported en masse? Perhaps they had their green cards revoked or otherwise suffered serious consequences due to their origins?

I am only interested in actions by the government, not any actions or discrimination by the general population.

  • By "consequences", do you mean actions by the federal government (e.g. imprisonment) or by the general population (e.g. slightly increased occurrence of momentary frowning at people who look oriental) – RedGrittyBrick Feb 2 '17 at 14:27
  • @T.E.D. I asked this question because I was thinking about what we might expect if there will be a conflict in the future, perhaps with China or Iran. But such speculation would be off topic here, right? So I tried to research what happened during past conflicts, without much luck. The fact that I didn't find anything doesn't mean that nothing happened, though. It might just mean that I am not that good with Google :-) So I asked here. – Alif Feb 2 '17 at 14:56
  • Do you mean internment of people who were nationals of other countries and not American citizens? (This was also done to Italian and German nationals in WW2.) Or do you mean internment of American citizens (who happened to have the "wrong" ancestry), which is largely what the Japanese-American interment involved? – Peter Erwin Feb 4 '17 at 13:56
  • @PeterErwin Either, for as long as the motivation is that these people are in some way considered to be connected to a country that the US was at war with. I expect that this could more easily happen to citizens of other countries, but I didn't want to exclude US citizens precisely because the Japanese-American internment showed that this can happen too. – Alif Feb 5 '17 at 14:48
4

There don't really appear to be any.

Let's go through a list of major US conflicts since WWII, and list how their nationals were treated during and after.

Korean War - This was a Civil War where the US was helping the non-Communist side. In other words, Koreans were our allies too. No mass incarceration or deportations.

Vietnam War - Same as above. After the war, there was a decade-long refugee crisis involving around 2 million people. The US took in over 100,000 initially, and many thousands thereafter1.

Lebanese Civil War - No mass internements or deportations. The US took in about 60,000 Lebanese war refugees 2.

First Gulf War - Similar to Korea, in that the goal was helping one Gulf state against another. There were (and are) a fair number of Iraqi-Americans at the time3. No mass internments or deportations. All indications at the time were that, Republican Guard aside, most Iraqis didn't even want to fight, and "surrendered" at the first opportunity. Probably the worst effects were (as usual for the region) felt by the Palestinians. In Kuwait they got a double-whammy; 200,000 fled harassment from their Iraqi conquerors, then another 200,000 had to flee when Kuwait's government was restored, due to their anger at the support Palestinians abroad had shown Iraq during the conflict. Probably some of these refugees ended up in the US, but I'm not aware of large numbers of them doing so.

Afghanistan - The goal of this war was essentially to remove a government that was enabling the terrorist group that carried out the 9/11 attacks. Again, we had lots of Afghan allies. There were no mass deportations or internments in the US, although the US did "intern" the Taliban's money. Perhaps that counts?

Second Gulf War - Situation here was similar to the First Gulf war, although this conflict did end up being far messier. Still, no mass internments or deportations in the US.

So in general, I don't believe the experience of mass internments from WWII has been repeated since. To the contrary, the US has a history of taking in large amounts of refugees fleeing such conflicts.


Before we go away thinking warm fuzzy thoughts though, I feel compelled to point out that these conflicts all have something in common, but different than WWII: they were sold at least in part as the US helping out the country in question. They were not conflicts against a nation that was perceived to have the popular support of its own people there for its actions.

The closest I believe the USA has seen to that was during the Iranian hostage crisis. I distinctly remember a lot of anti-Iranian feeling floating around back then, to the point where if I were Iranian, I certainly wouldn't have felt safe. Ratchet that up a few notches for an actual shooting war, and it may well not have been safe to be an Iranian walking around in public. At that point internment talk ("for their own safety") may start making sense to some people.


1 - A suprising amount of the Catholics in my town I discovered on a visit to Catholic Charities are not Spanish-speaking, but Vietnamese. I of course had Vietnamese-americans as classmates back in the 80's as well. In the 90's on the highest-clearance military job I ever worked on, 2 of my 8 fellow engineers were born in Vietnam. I'm not sure I could even count how many I've played soccer with over the years.

2 - Lebanese Americans are now an integral part of our community here. Among loads of other restaurants two of our oldest steakhouses are explicitly Lebanese, as is my tailor, and multiple co-workers.

3 - I personally play soccer with at least three on occasion. Likely more I don't know about.

  • Well you seem to be reading only publicly accessible records (propaganda) . What about the controversial mass incarceration of Muslims directly after 9/11 as us declared war against taliban? Yes Its been denied by the government but which country would showcase it . – user1062760 Feb 2 '17 at 20:54
  • 1
    "Lebanese Americans are now an integral part of our community here." -- There have been Lebanese immigrants coming to the US since the middle of the 19th Century, so they've been "an integral part of our community" since long before the Lebanese Civil War. – Peter Erwin Feb 4 '17 at 13:52
  • @PeterErwin - Quite true. The two most famous Lebanese Steakhouses here in Tulsa both opened in the mid 1950's; 20 years before that war started. – T.E.D. Feb 4 '17 at 16:35
3

Though not a 'shooting war', the Iranian Hostage crisis did result in actions taken against Iranians in the US.

From a statement issued by President Jimmy Carter, on April 7, 1980:

Fourth, the Secretary of Treasury [State] and the Attorney General will invalidate all visas issued to Iranian citizens for future entry into the United States, effective today. We will not reissue visas, nor will we issue new visas, except for compelling and proven humanitarian reasons or where the national interest of our own country requires. This directive will be interpreted very strictly.

(emphasis mine)The full text of the above can be read here.

I am still looking for reliable sources on the number actually deported, but it may have been around 7,000. A court of appeals validated the order in December, 1980. From the Washington Post:

U.S. Justice Department officials said yesterday that 54,486 Iranian students have reported to immigration officials so far and 6,444 were found to be in violation of their visas and were candidates for deportation.

  • Thank you for the answers to both of you, they were both quite useful, even though I can only accept one. – Alif Feb 7 '17 at 8:43
0

No. Because the subsequent wars were "different."

During World War II, Japan (and Germany) represented an existential threat to the United States. If they somehow won, the consequences for America and Americans would have been grave

Not so, for wars such as the Korean War, or the Vietnam war, or smaller "police" actions such as Grenada or Panama. A victory by the "locals" was no threat to the American way of life, and therefore, there were no repercussions against Americans of those backgrounds. In most cases, there were far fewer of them than Japanese-Americans.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.