Hirabayashi v. United States

320 U.S. 81, 63 S. Ct. 1375 (1943)



Distinctions between citizens solely because of their ancestry are by their very nature odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality. For that reason, legislative classification or discrimination based on race alone has often been held to be a denial of equal protection.


A man was convicted for violating the Act of Congress of March 21, 1942, by knowingly disregarding a curfew order imposed by a military commander on persons of Japanese ancestry within a prescribed military area. Questions certified were elevated to the Supreme Court of the United States.


Was the curfew order constitutional?




Promulgation of the curfew order by the military commander involved no unlawful delegation of legislative war powers, where the executive order pursuant to which the curfew order was established and standards to which the curfew order was to conform were approved by Congress in enacting the statute. The curfew order was an appropriate exercise of war powers, as a defense measure implemented for the purpose of safeguarding an important military area from the danger of sabotage and espionage by sympathetic persons of Japanese ancestry, at a time of threatened air raids and invasion by Japanese forces. Further, the curfew order was not an unconstitutional discrimination against persons of Japanese ancestry, because the surrounding circumstances of the war and of Japanese communities in the United States afforded substantial basis for the military commander's conclusion that persons of Japanese ancestry required differentiation from others.

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