The Emergency Detention Act, Title II of the Internal Security Act of 1950, is the only law in American history to legalize preventive detention. It restricted the freedom of a certain individual or a group of individuals based on actions that may be taken that would threaten the security of a nation or of a particular area. Yet the Act was never enforced before it was repealed in 1971.
Masumi Izumi links the Emergency Detention Act with Japanese American wartime incarceration in her cogent study, The Rise and Fall of America’s Concentration Camp Law. She dissects the entangled discourses of race, national security, and civil liberties between 1941 and 1971 by examining how this historical precedent generated “the concentration camp law” and expanded a ubiquitous regime of surveillance in McCarthyist America.
Izumi also shows how political radicalism grew as a result of these laws. Japanese Americas were instrumental in forming grassroots social movements that worked to repeal Title II. The Rise and Fall of America’s Concentration Camp Law is a timely study in this age of insecurity where issues of immigration, race, and exclusion persist.