The Rise and Fall of America's Concentration Camp Law

Civil Liberties Debates from the Internment to McCarthyism and the Radical 1960s

Masumi Izumi
Book Cover

HC: $69.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1724-4
Publication: Sep 19

Ebook: $69.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1726-8
Publication: Sep 19

270 pages
6 x 9
3 halftones

Dissecting the complex relationship among race, national security, and civil liberties in “the age of American concentration camps”

Read a blog entry by the author

Read the Introduction (pdf).


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 Yet the Act was never enforced before it was repealed in 1971.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.


"Izumi presents a compelling argument, claiming that US lawmakers, gripped by the fear of a communist (rather than Japanese) incursion, relied on the legal precedents created by the internment to institute America’s only preventive detention law—one aimed at potentially subversive individuals or groups.... The frequent inclusion of excerpts and illustrations from contemporary sources will help make the text more accessible for some readers.... (T)his is a welcome addition to both American and legal history. Summing Up: Highly recommended."
— Choice

Interrogating the law and politics of the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans (World War II), the 1950 Emergency Detention Act (McCarthy era), and the 1971 congressional repeal of the Emergency Detention Act (civil rights and anti–Vietnam War era), Izumi’s masterful historical study of so-called ‘preventive detention’ to protect national security illuminates the politics and dangers of ‘shadow concentration camps’ in contemporary America. Thoroughly researched and beautifully presented, this book underscores the ‘need to value civil liberties for all, especially at a time when those in power propagate the idea that the repression of liberties is necessary to keep us safe.’” —Eric K. Yamamoto, Fred T. Korematsu Professor of Law and Social Justice at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and author of In the Shadow of Korematsu : Democratic Liberties and National Security

“The Rise and Fall of America’s Concentration Camp Law is a significant addition to the literature in American history and law. Centering on the 1950 Emergency Detention Act, which authorized the president and the attorney general to institute preventive detention of U.S. citizens, this book’s notable contribution is in demonstrating that the act’s provisions were largely inspired by the official confinement of Japanese Americans during World War II, which formed a conscious precedent. Based on extensive research in government archives, this study’s findings are compelling.”—Greg Robinson, Professor of History at the University of Quebec at Montreal and author of The Great Unknown: Japanese American Sketches

Table of Contents

A Note on Terminology

Introduction: The Emergency Detention Act: A “Concentration Camp Law”
1. Alienable Citizenship: Race, Loyalty, and the Mass Incarceration of Japanese Americans
2. Legalizing Preventive Detention: The Passage of the Emergency Detention Act of 1950
3. The Shifting Ground of Civil Liberties: McCarthyism, the FBI, and the Supreme Court in the Age of Concentration Camps
4. Quiet Americans No More: The Expansion of Political Dissent and the Grassroots Campaign to Repeal Title II
5. Recommitting to Civil Liberties: The Repeal of Title II and the Passage of the Non-Detention Act
Conclusion: A New Age of Concentration Camps?


About the Author(s)

Masumi Izumi is a Professor of North American Studies in the Department of Global and Regional Studies, Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan.


In the Series

  • Asian American History and Culture edited by Cathy Schlund-Vials, Rick Bonus, and Shelley Sang-Hee Lee

    Founded by Sucheng Chan in 1991, the Asian American History and Culture series has sponsored innovative scholarship that has redefined, expanded, and advanced the field of Asian American studies while strengthening its links to related areas of scholarly inquiry and engaged critique. Like the field from which it emerged, the series remains rooted in the social sciences and humanities, encompassing multiple regions, formations, communities, and identities. Extending the vision of founding editor Sucheng Chan and emeriti editor Michael Omi, David Palumbo-Liu, K. Scott Wong and Linda Trinh Võ, series editors Cathy Schlund-Vials, Rick Bonus, and Shelley Sang-Hee Lee continue to develop a foundational collection that embodies a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to Asian American studies.