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Hirono Re-Introduces “Neighbors Not Enemies” Act to Repeal 18th Century Xenophobic Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) re-introduced the Neighbors Not Enemies Act, which would repeal the Alien Enemies Act (AEA) of 1798—a xenophobic anti-immigrant law that has been used to justify the incarceration of Japanese, German, and Italian Americans during World War II, as well as the Muslim Ban by President Trump in 2017. Representative Omar (D-MN) introduced the House companion version this Congress.  

“The Alien Enemies Act is an 18th century xenophobic law that has been used as legal justification for some of the most shameful decisions made by this country—including the internment of Japanese people during World War II and the former President’s despicable Muslim Ban. There should be nothing partisan about ensuring this country treats immigrants with justice and due process. It’s time to pass the Neighbors Not Enemies Act to repeal the Alien Enemies Act once and for all,” said Senator Hirono.

“It’s way past time we repeal the Alien Enemies Act of 1798, a law that justified Japanese American internment and the Muslim Ban,” said Rep. Omar. “This outdated and xenophobic law is antithetical to our values as a nation and belongs in the dustbin of history. Now is our opportunity to end the targeting of an entire group based only on their nationality and remind the world that here in the United States, we fight for human rights, uphold civil liberties, and care for our neighbors. I’m proud to team up with Senator Hirono to get this hateful, xenophobic law off the books.”

In 1798, President John Adams signed the “Alien and Sedition Acts” which was comprised of four bills targeting immigrants under the guise of war. The original four bills included: The Naturalization Act; the Alien Friends Act; the Sedition Act; and the Alien Enemies Act. Today, the Aliens Enemies Act is the only one that remains in effect. The AEA allows the president to target foreign nationals, international students, and legal U.S. residents of a specific country to be “apprehended, restrained, secured and removed” without due process during wartime.

This Saturday, February 19th, marks the Day of Remembrance, the day in 1942 that President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which led to the unjust and unconstitutional incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans. Repealing the Alien Enemies Act would be a long overdue step to prevent future miscarriages of justice from happening again.

This bill is cosponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ed Markey (D-MA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

“The Neighbors not Enemies Act is long overdue and very much needed. As we look back 80 years to the signing of Executive Order 9066, which granted the military broad power to forcibly remove and relocate nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, we must recognize the role that antiquated policies such as the Alien Enemies Act played in justifying the military's actions under the false pretense of military security. Congress must act to prevent another President from abusing the power granted by this antiquated and unnecessary policy,” David Inoue, Executive Director of the Japanese American Citizens League said.

This bill has been endorsed by: Human Rights Watch, Japanese American Citizens League, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, Center for International Policy, Defending Rights & Dissent, Church World Service, Coalition on Human Needs, Conference of Presentation Sisters, Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC), Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), Islamic Society of North America, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office, Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC), Minnesota Peace Project, Muslim Public Affairs Council, National Immigration Law Center, National Iranian American Council Action, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Poligon Education Fund, Project South, Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment (RISE), Shoulder to Shoulder, The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), The Sikh Coalition, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, UndocuBlack Network, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, Veterans For Peace chapter 27.

Bill text of the Neighbors Not Enemies Act is available here.