On 19 February 1942 US President Franklin D Roosevelt authorised Executive Order 9066, instigating the forced internment of Japanese Americans in camps. Prompted by Japan's unprovoked attack on the US Fleet moored at Pearl Harbor, upwards of 120,000 civilians were uprooted from their homes and sent to prison camps. On the island state of Hawaii, around one-third of the population were affected. The order was extended to those who were as little as 1/16 Japanese; orphaned infants with 'one drop of Japanese blood' could be rounded up for transport.
These camps were overcrowded. According to an official report, inmates were housed in "tarpaper-covered barracks of simple frame construction, without plumbing or cooking facilities of any kind." The US Census Bureau assisted Order 9066 by divulging confidential information on ethnicity.
President Jimmy Carter launched an investigation into the wartime internment in 1980, appointing a Commission to investigate whether or not the policy has been justified. The Commission issued a report entitled 'Personal Justice Denied,' which stated there had been very little evidence of loyalty to Imperial Japan among the hardworking Japanese Americans singled out as potential traitors. The Commission concluded that the driving factors behind the internment were "racial prejudice, war hysteria and the failure of political leadership."
Eight years later, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act which not only apologised for the policy on behalf of the US Government, it authorised reparations of $20,000 to each camp survivor and their heirs.
A figure of $1.6 billion was paid out to over 82,000 Japanese Americans who had been interned for no other reason than their ethnicity.