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Legalizing Detention: Segregated Japanese Americans and the Justice Department’s Renunciation Program - Part 9 of 9

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The government pursued a hard line, determined to challenge the bid of each renunciant who sought restoration of citizenship. In bleak contrast to Goodman’s decision to restore citizenship en masse, the DOJ began sorting renunciants into 22 categories of offenses it characterized as serious enough to deny restoration of citizenship.1 Collins wound up spending many years battling the negative administrative classifications the DOJ assigned to his thousands of individual clients.

Collins faced opposition not only from the DOJ, but from the National Office of the American Civil Liberties Union, headed by Roger Baldwin.2 In 1945, the national office pressured the Northern California ACLU branch to halt representation of the renunciants, causing Collins to cease relations with the national office.3 Baldwin then urged the Los Angeles ACLU legal representative, Abraham Lincoln Wirin, to file three separate cases of “loyal” Japanese Americans who claimed that their renunciations resulted from coercion and duress by other Japanese Americans. Known as the Murakami cases, these individual cases threatened the chance of success for the thousands of clients represented by Collins.4

Wirin’s theory of duress blamed the disillusioned young Japanese Americans who filled the ranks of the militant pro-Japan organizations—groups that appeared to have the sanction of camp administrators and were allowed to dominate the Tule Lake center. Collins sought to protect and restore U.S. citizenship to the entire group of Japanese Americans who renounced, including those whom the DOJ characterized as “troublemakers” and “disloyals.”5

“Wirin and these people in Southern California wanted to relieve the government of pressure by filing this individual action—blaming the people in camp, rather than the government,” explained attorney Tetsujiro “Tex” Nakamura. For several decades, Nakamura worked with Collins on Abo v. Clark, doing outreach and liaison work with the Tule Lake Defense Committee, a group that was organized to communicate and provide legal representation to the thousands of renunciants.

Collins’ basic argument was that all imprisoned Japanese Americans were victims of duress, explained Nakamura, and that the duress was caused by the government’s removal and incarceration program, not by other Japanese Americans. The government-created duress took many forms, including removing people from their homes without hearings, and four years of incarceration, including two years under the oppressive and chaotic conditions at the Tule Lake Segregation Center.

Wirin’s handling of the Murakami cases as individual actions, and the lack of coordination between the two attorneys, led to Collins’ mass case being broken into thousands of separate cases, with Collins’ practice nearly overwhelmed with the David and Goliath-like cause of the renunciants.6 Given such choices, one might expect the bitter feelings that Wirin drew from the Collins camp. Wirin’s actions in the renunciation cases remain a puzzle, particularly in the context of his dedicated and long-standing efforts on behalf of Japanese American civil rights, including defense of the Nisei draft resisters, the 1942 Wakayama habeas corpus cases, and his work in eliminating anti-Asian alien land laws.

The DOJ persisted in its efforts to lay blame for the renunciations on the pro-Japan groups, and in 1956, DOJ announced it would restore citizenship to those willing to blame their renunciation on “the coercive influences which have been judicially determined to have existed at the Tule Lake Center.”7 The DOJ offered restoration of citizenship if a wife was willing to blame their husband for coercion, and to those who served or offered to serve in the American armed forces.8 It restored citizenship to persons who stated “yes-yes” on the loyalty questionnaire and renounced between December 18, 1944 and January 29, 1945, if they also stated that they would continue to fight renunciants disloyal to the US.9

Even after ceremonies were held at the Department of Justice on May 20, 1959, marking the government’s end to the restoration of citizenship program, Collins continued to fight. He fought for another nine years on behalf of the renunciants who were excluded from the government’s amnesty program. Due to the heroic and largely unsung efforts of Collins and his staff, nearly all of the 5,461 who renounced at Tule Lake regained their citizenship. Those in Japan were able to return to the U.S. By spring of 1959, of the 5,409 who applied for restoration of their citizenship, thanks to Collins’ persistence and tenacity, 4,987 were successful.10 Collins continued to fight for the remaining renunciants, and Nakamura estimates that when Collins concluded his efforts—begun November 13, 1945 and ended March 6, 1968—only 40 or 50 of those who sought restoration of their citizenship had not regained it.

The 1944 renunciation law was never ruled on by the Supreme Court; leaving the constitutionality of depriving native-born Americans of their citizenship unresolved. Although the renunciants were legally vindicated by the U.S. Government, many express a sense of being shunned and treated as though they did something wrong because they refused to comply with the government’s demand to prove loyalty. Consequently, they avoid talking about their time at Tule Lake, a subject area filled with powerful feelings of stigma and shame.

Despite the lack of public acknowledgment for his work on behalf of the renunciants, Collins is revered by those for whom he fought so long and hard. When Collins died suddenly on July 16, 1974, many grateful renunciants shared Michi Weglyn’s sentiment: “He lives on in the memory of thousands who were the beneficiaries of his fierce dedication to justice.”

2004 Tule Lake pilgrimage ceremony with then-Assemblyman George Nakano presenting Wayne Merrill Collins, the son of Wayne Mortimer Collins, with California State Assembly recognition for his father's work to restore U.S. citizenship to the thousands of Nisei who were stripped of their birthright while imprisoned at Tule Lake. l to r: Bill Toru Nishimura, Wayne Merrill Collins, Hon. George Nakano, Hiroshi Kashiwagi, and Hitoshi Naito. Photo courtesy of Tule Lake Committee.


1. Donald E. Collins, page 130-31.

2. Weglyn notes that the National office of the ACLU took a position similar to that of the JACL which refused assistance to the “disloyals” at Tule Lake: that aiding “disloyals” would only add to existing prejudices on the West Coast and that priority ought to be given to protecting the rights of “loyals.” Notes for Chapter 13, page 321. See also Native American Aliens, Donald E. Collins, Chapter 9, footnote #35 citing Justice at War, Peter Irons, 1983. Discusses close ties between the national office of the ACLU and the Roosevelt administration that resulted in interference in Japanese American cases. Collins notes that “While not mentioned by Irons, this hindrance extended to the efforts of Wayne Collins, Ernest Besig, and the Northern California Branch of the ACLU to aid the renunciants.”

3. Wayne Merrill Collins, Klamath Falls, OR, July 4, 2004 presentation at the Tule Lake Pilgrimage 2004.

4. Donald E. Collins, pages 134-37.

5. Oral interview with Tetsujiro “Tex” Nakamura, former staff of Wayne M. Collins who served as liaison to the Tule Lake Defense Committee. Barbara Takei and Judy Tachibana, Los Angeles, April 16, 2003.

6. Donald E. Collins, page 136-37.

7. RG 60, Box 211- Acc. 65A-663, DOJ File 146-54-0 B190-29/1/3. August 13, 1956, DOJ press release.

8. Donald E. Collins, page 142.

9. RG 60, Box 211- Acc. 65A-663, DOJ File 146-54-0 B190-29/1/3. August 13, 1956, DOJ press release.

10. Donald E. Collins, p. 142.



Akashi, Motomu. Betrayed Trust: The Story of a Deported Issei and His American-born Family During WWII. Bloomington, IN, AuthorHouse 2004.

Burton, Jeffery F., Mary M. Farrell, Florence B. Lord, Richard W. Lord. Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites. Tuscon, AZ, Report number 74, Publications in Anthropology, Western Archeological and Conservation Center, 1999.

Christgau, John. Collins versus the World: The Fight to Restore Citizenship to Japanese American Renunciants of World War II. Pacific Historical Review, Vol. LIV, February, 1985, No. 1. Pp. 1-31.

Christgau, John. Enemies: World War II Alien Internment. Ames, Iowa, Iowa State University, 1985.

Chuman, Frank F. The Bamboo People: The Law and Japanese-Americans. Del Mar, CA, Publisher’s Inc., 1976.

Collins, Donald E. Native American Aliens: Disloyalty and Renunciation of Citizenship by Japanese Americans during World War II. Westport, CN, Greenwood Press, 1985.

Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. Personal Justice Denied. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1982.

Drinnon, Richard. Keeper of Concentration Camps, Dillon S. Myer and American Racism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.

Girdner, Audrie and Loftis, Anne. The Great Betrayal: The Evacuation of the Japanese-Americans During World War II. New York, NY, Macmillan Company, 1969.

Grodzins, Morton. Americans Betrayed: Politics and the Japanese Evacuation. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1949.

Grodzins, Morton. The Loyal and The Disloyal. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1956.

Hankey (Wax), Rosalie. Doing Fieldwork: Warnings and Advice. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1971. Midway Reprint, 1985.

Hayashi, Brian Masaru. Democratizing the Enemy: The Japanese American Internment. Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2004.

Ichihashi, Yamato. Morning Glory, Evening Shadow: Yamato Ichihashi and his internment writings, 1942-45, edited, annotated and with a biographical essay by Gordon Chang. Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press, 1997.

Ichioka, Yuji. Views from Within: The Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Study. Los Angeles: Asian American Studies Center, University of California, Los Angeles, 1989.

Irons, Peter. Justice At War: The Story of the Japanese Internment. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Kashima, Tetsuden. Judgment Without Trial: Japanese American Imprisonment during World War II. Seattle, University of Washington Press, 2003.

Kashiwagi, Hiroshi. Swimming in the American: A Memoir and Selected Writings. San Mateo, CA, Asian American Curriculum Project, Inc. 2005.

Kiyota, Minoru. Beyond Loyalty: The Story of a Kibei, translated from the Japanese by Linda Klepinger Keenan. Honolulu, HI, University of Hawaii Press, 1997.

Kumei, Teruko Imai. Skeleton in the Closet: The Japanese American Hokoku Seinen-dan and Their “Disloyal” Activities at the Tule Lake Segregation Center during World War II. The Japanese Journal of American Studies, No. 7, 1996. Pp. 67-102.

Lim, Deborah. The Lim Report: A Research Report of Japanese Americans in American Concentration Camps during World War II, 1990. Kearny, NE, Morris Publishing, 2002.

Miyakawa, Edward T. Tule Lake. Victoria, B.C. Canada, Trafford Publishing, 2002.

Mueller, Marnie. The Climate of the Country. Willimantic, CT, Curbstone Press, 1999.

Muller, Eric L. Free to Die For Their Country: The Story of the Japanese American Draft Resisters in World War II. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Robinson, Greg. By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2001.

Shirai, Noburu. Tule Lake: An Issei Memoir. Sacramento, CA, Muteki Press. 2001.

Spicer, Edward H., Asael T. Hansen, Katherine Loumala, and Marvin Opler. Impounded People: Japanese-Americans in the Relocation Centers. Tucson, AZ, University of Arizona Press, 1969.

TenBroek, Jacobus, Edward N. Barnhart, Floyd W. Matson, Prejudice, War and the Constitution. Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1968.

Thomas, Dorothy S., and Richard Nishimoto. The Spoilage. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1946.

Tule Lake Committee and John R. Ross and Reiko Ross. Second Kinenhi: Reflections on Tule Lake. Tule Lake Committee. San Francisco, CA, 2000.

Turner, Stan. The Years of Harvest: A History of the Tule Lake Basin. Eugene, OR, 49th Avenue Press, 1988.

Weglyn, Michi, Years of Infamy, The Untold Story of America’s Concentration Camps. New York, William Morrow, 1976.

Yamamoto, Eric K., Margaret Chon, Carol L. Izumi, Jerry Kang, Frank H. Wu. Race, Rights and Reparation: Law and the Japanese American Internment. New York, NY, Aspen Publishers, 2001.

Other materials:

Federal Bureau of Investigation. Summary of Information, War Relocation Authority and Japanese Relocation Centers. FBI Headquarters files, August 2, 1945, pp 1-196. Declassified 9-18-91. National Archives II, College Park, MD. RG 60, Entry 38B, WWII FBI Files 62-69030-710, Box 81, 650/230/32/38/5.

Western Defense Command. Supplemental Report, Vol. I-III. Appendices I & II, Chronology 26 June 44 – 10 Oct. 45. Unpublished confidential Report of the Western Defense Command. December 22, 1953. National Archives II, College Park, MD. RG 499, Entry 290, Box 9, 319.1.
Opinion of U.S. District Judge Goodman filed in Abo v. Clark and Furuya v. Clark. Filed April 29, 1948. 77 F. Supp. 806. (N.D. Cal. 1948) (Goodman, J.)

Interview with Tetsujiro “Tex” Nakamura, Barbara Takei and Judy Tachibana, April 16, 2003, Los Angeles, CA.


* This article was originally published in the Journal of the Shaw Historical Library, Vol. 19, 2005, Klamath Falls, OR.

* * *

* Barbara Takei will be a presenter for “The Tule Lake Segregation Center: Its History and Significance” session at JANM’s National Conference, Speaking Up! Democracy, Justice, Dignity on July 4-7, 2013 in Seattle, Washington. For more information about the conference, including how to register, visit

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© 2005 Barbara Takei

California citizenship civil rights concentration camps Daihyo Sha Kai Hoshi Dan (pro-Japan group) imprisonment incarceration lawyers no-no boys renunciation Sokuji Kikoku Hoshi Dan Tule Lake concentration camp Tule Lake Segregation Center United States Wayne Mortimer Collins World War II World War II camps Years of Infamy (book)
About this series

For the 25th anniversary of the Japanese American Redress legislation, the Japanese American National Museum presented its fourth national conference “Speaking Up! Democracy, Justice, Dignity” in Seattle, Washington from July 4 to 7, 2013.  This conference brought fresh insights, scholarly analysis, and community perspectives to bear on the issues of democracy, justice, and dignity. 

These articles stem from the conference and detail the Japanese American experiences from different perspectives.

Visit the conference website for program details >>

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About the Author

Barbara Takei is a Detroit-born Sansei whose introduction to the Asian American movement in the late 60s was Grace Lee Boggs and the Detroit Asian Political Alliance. She puzzled over the missing stories of Japanese American dissent against the unjust incarceration for decades, but it wasn’t until her first Tule Lake pilgrimage in 2000 that she realized peaceful protest during WWII was erased by demonizing it as “pro-Japan disloyalty.” For the past two decades, she has served as an officer on the non-profit Tule Lake Committee and devoted herself to preserving Tule Lake as the site of Japanese American civil rights resistance.

Updated January 2023

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