This blog post was written by Nery Alcivar-Estrella, a 2022 summer intern at the Utah State Archives and Records Service. She is working on her Master of Library and Information Science degree at the San José State University School of Information and is particularly interested in the intersection of librarianship and archival work.
In this blog post, I examine records from the collection entitled “Davis County Sheriff Alien Enemy Registration Forms, 1941-1945” provided by the Utah State Digital Archives. This collection holds alien enemy registration forms and other listings required for the second registration program, the Presidential Proclamation (2537). Compiled by the Davis County Sheriff, the records provide information about individuals and families of Japanese descent. Furthermore, the term diaspora is used. Diaspora in this context refers to the ethnic community of Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans who experienced displacement and were pressured to relocate through migratory movements. Through this framework, I analyze three records in order to track the diasporic experiences of individuals and families of Japanese descent, particularly their journeys from the West Coast to work sites in Utah. I’ll unpack how these diasporic experiences invoke space-related issues of relocation, (im)mobility, and detention.
Even before the United States became immersed in World War II, federal agencies like the FBI were already preparing for the nation’s entry. Under the direction of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, federal agencies had begun to surveil not only immigrants from enemy nations but also their American-born children. According to the sociologist Tetsuden Kashima (2003), the efforts “made during the attack on Pearl Harbor and for months into 1942- were not spontaneous happenings but were the culmination of coordinated preplanning by federal agencies.” In addition, Congress passed the Alien Registration Act of 1940, which prohibited participating in organizations that conspired against the United States. Along with being fingerprinted, foreign nationals had to register information like biographical data, address, occupation, and citizenship status (Kashima, 2003).
After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the United States declared war on Japan, which sparked harsh measures against immigrants, especially those of Japanese descent. Following the Alien Registration Act, President Roosevelt announced the Presidential Proclamation (2537) on January 14, 1942, which required the second registration of non-U.S. citizens from enemy countries. Immigrants from Italy, Germany, and Japan had to report to the United States Department of Justice to register for a Certificate of Identification for Aliens of Enemy Nationality (Peters & Woolley). Soon after, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. This Order forced the removal of 120,000 people of Japanese descent from the West Coast inland to government-sponsored temporary detention centers, internment camps, and work sites (Kamp-Whittaker, June 2020).
After thoroughly reviewing the registration records, I noticed that many individuals and families had moved to Davis County, Utah after Executive Order 9066. One of these individuals, Kintaro Endo, whose registration is pictured here, left his home in San Fernando, California on March 5, 1942 and arrived in Davis County, Utah the following day. His departure date serves as a clue to better understand his diasporic experience. The public historian and archaeologist April Kamp-Whittaker explains that Executive Order 9066 created “a framework for Japanese Americans to either ‘voluntarily’ relocate outside of the exclusion zone or be forcibly relocated. ”On March 29, 1942, Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans were to undergo a mandatory evacuation. Since Mr. Endo departed prior to this deadline, it is likely that he was one of 9,000 individuals who left the West Coast before the state began enforcing relocation and incarceration (Kamp-Whittaker, November 2020).
Mr. Endo’s registration form contains another interesting note, which reads “Permit issued by U.S. District Attorney Wm. Fleet Palmer of Calif.” Far from being a “voluntary” choice, Mr. Endo had no alternative but to relocate outside of the prohibited zone where he previously resided. In fact, the U.S. District Attorney of southern California, William Fleet Palmer, surveilled Mr. Endo’s movement and ultimately approved it by issuing a permit. Although Mr. Endo traversed through states and eventually arrived at Davis County, his migratory journey was significantly restrained. Despite his ability to travel, Mr. Endo’s relocation resulted in compromised mobility and a loss of autonomy.
Note that Mr. Endo resided where he worked at “John Child’s Farm at Route #1 Clearfield, Utah.” Many of the records in this series indicate that Japanese Americans arrived to take up jobs as laborers on farms or in factories. The historian, Sandra C. Taylor, confirms that evacuees were mainly offered jobs in agriculture, railroads, mining, packing, and canning as well as domestic work (1991). The Davis County Clipper newspaper article titled, “Japanese Arrive To Assist In Harvesting Crops,” and published on September 25, 1942, promotes the idea of hiring Japanese immigrants and/or Japanese Americans as farm workers. The article explains that the labor situation in Davis County was dire, and it could be alleviated by employing laborers of Japanese descent. Most white communities in Utah were not easily convinced, and were cautious of the arrival of potential enemies from the West Coast. Despite this racism, white business owners recruited hard-working Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans, recognizing that this source of labor was essential to their economy (Taylor, 1991).
Unlike Kintaro Endo, many other individuals and families were not able to bypass incarceration. Many, like George Endow and his family, were relocated first to internment camps. Endow’s second registration form was included in a letter addressed to Sheriff Holbrook and states that his family “are all on indefinite leave from Manzanar Relocation Center.” The form verified that the family obtained permanent employment with the Central Mercantile Company in Syracuse, Utah.
George Endow’s second registration form represents the journey of an intergenerational family, including grandparents, adult children, and even a grandchild. As for the elders, Takaharu and Teru Endow began their diasporic journey after leaving their homeland, Japan. The rest of the American-born family members first became displaced when they were evacuated to the Manzanar Relocation Center.
The War Relocation Authority never intended to keep evacuees incarcerated throughout the entire war. As argued by Taylor (1991), “Voluntary release and an admission of error would have been the fairest way to resettle the internees.” That said, “the WRA, itself a creature of racism, prejudice, and fear, and responsive to those sentiments among the white population, could not go that far. To do so might have revealed how discriminatory and totally unnecessary the whole evacuation had been” (p. 173). As a result, Japanese Americans like the Endow family were subjected to tedious procedures for their release, including but not limited to permit applications, loyalty screenings, and re-registration forms.
The social theorist, Michel Foucault, demonstrates how the ruling class preserves power through institutional spaces, such as incarceration centers, to maintain hegemonic ideologies. Foucault explains that spatial confinement is closely associated with “automatic and anonymous power, for although surveillance rests on individuals, its functioning is that of a network of relations [that extends] from top to bottom” (pg. 176). Foucault’s theory allows us better to understand the Endow family’s experience of spatial confinement. Their incarceration demonstrates the issue of downward mobility, particularly because their movement became completely stifled. In spite of their immobilization, the Endow family fought for their liberation by enduring a bureaucratic process that guaranteed greater freedoms, including release and resettlement.
On a final note, Eishichi Miyagishima’s registration form reveals that he worked at John Blood Farm in Kaysville, Utah. In contrast to the previous records presented in this blog, this form does not provide information regarding Mr. Miyagishima’s age, family members, or relocation details. Additionally, it is not clear whether he arrived in Utah after leaving his home or in an internment camp. Instead, an important note reads, “Eishichi Miyagishima was killed in the summer of 1942 on the John Blood Farm by farm machinery accident. After his death, his family moved to the Will Gailey Farm in Kaysville, Utah, and they are still residing there.”
Even at the time, many understood resettlement as a plan that perpetuated the exploitation of Japanese laborers. Although the WRA directed employers to pay fair wages and provide suitable living arrangements, these provisions were not enforced, which resulted in poor working conditions. In fact, the WRA received complaints of low pay, graveyard shifts, housing issues, poor ventilation, segregation, and violent attacks (Taylor, 1991). Since Mr. Miyagishima’s record does not provide details, it is difficult to delineate the context that informs his tragic accident. There is a possibility that he endured dangerous working conditions. But, it is certain that the experience of forced diaspora, which led to his resettled occupation, was partly the cause of Mr. Miyagishima’s untimely death.
For many Japanese Americans, resettlement provided a second chance away from the rampant racism of the West Coast and the harsh conditions of internment camps. In regard to the resettlement of the Endows, their family remained intact and gained freedom from camp life. On the other hand, Mr. Miyagishima’s family did not have the same outcome. Rather, their experience of resettlement devastated their family life and extended their diasporic journey. As the record notes, the family moved to yet another farm after the death of Mr. Miyagishima, thereby prolonging their displacement.
Unpacking the concept of diaspora by highlighting experiences of forced resettlement, compromised mobility, and even incarceration helps to contextualize the Japanese American experience in the United States during the Second World War. Echoes of this experience continue to exist in the dominant discourses that attack, criminalize, and dehumanize Asian Americans. It is imperative to understand diasporas, so that we may not resort to the dehumanization of ethnic communities.
- Japanese Arrive to Assist in Harvesting Crops. (1942, September 25). Davis County Clipper. https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6v1302n
- Kamp-Whittaker. (2020). Diaspora and Social Networks in a World War II Japanese American Incarceration Center. International Journal of Historical Archaeology, 25(3), 828–850.
- Kamp-Whittaker. (2020). World War II Japanese American Internment in the American Southwest. The Kiva (Tucson, Ariz.), 86(2), 223–232.
- Kashima, T. (2003). Judgment without trial : Japanese american imprisonment during world war ii. University of Washington Press.
- Peters, G., & Woolley, J. T. (n.d.). Franklin D. Roosevelt, Proclamation 2537—Certificates of Identification Required of Alien Enemies . The American Presidency Project. Retrieved June 15, 2022, from https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/proclamation-2537-certificates-identification-required-alien-enemies
- McWilliams, C. (1944). Prejudice Japanese-Americans Symbol Of Racial Intolerance. Universal Library. https://archive.org/details/prejudicejapanes008160mbp/page/n9/mode/2up
- Taylor. (1991). Leaving the Concentration Camps: Japanese American Resettlement in Utah and the Intermountain West. Pacific Historical Review, 60(2), 169–194.