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Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) reintroduced the Neighbors Not Enemies Act, which if passed would repeal the Alien Enemies Act of 1798, on June 1, 2021. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/cc).

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) reintroduced the Neighbors Not Enemies Act, which if passed would repeal the Alien Enemies Act of 1798, on June 1, 2021. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/cc). 

Omar Revives Bill to Repeal Law Cited to Justify Trump Muslim Ban, WWII Japanese Internment

"The Alien Enemies Act of 1798 is rooted in the xenophobic history of our country... It is that same xenophobia that has fueled the thousands of anti-Asian incidents and crimes this past year."

Brett Wilkins

Asserting that "no one should be targeted based solely on their religion, ethnicity, or national origin," Rep. Ilhan Omar on Tuesday reintroduced a bill that, if passed, would repeal an 18th-century law that was cited to justify former President Donald Trump's Muslim ban and the imprisonment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II.

"As an American of Japanese ancestry and a survivor of concentration camps U.S. style, it is past time we repeal the last vestiges of the archaic laws known as Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798."
—Mike Honda, former U.S. congressman

The Neighbors Not Enemies Act (pdf)—which was first introduced by Omar (D-Minn.) in January 2020—would fully repeal the Alien Enemies Act (AEA) of 1798, the only surviving law among the four Alien and Sedition Acts signed by then-President John Adams. 

The laws restricted criticism of the federal government, raised the residency requirement for U.S. citizenship from five to 14 years, and targeted foreign nationals deemed dangerous or from hostile nations, among other highly controversial provisions. 

According to a press release from Omar's office:

The AEA allows the president to determine how and if all foreign nationals from a specific country should be "apprehended, restrained, secured, and removed." The Act was used during World War II to detain and deport German, Japanese, and Italian immigrants. More recently... Trump used the law to justify the Muslim ban. The AEA grants the president extreme executive powers to target an entire group based only on their nationality.

"No one should be targeted based solely on their religion, ethnicity, or national origin," said Omar in a statement. "This xenophobic law is dangerous and must be taken off the books."

"We must close all policy loopholes to prevent more pain to be inflicted on our communities," added Omar. "It's way past time we put this hateful law in the dustbin of history where it belongs."

David Inoue, executive director of the Japanese American Citizens League, said that "the Alien Enemies Act of 1798 is rooted in the xenophobic history of our country and has been used to justify the mass incarceration of Japanese and Japanese Americans during [World War II] and more recently, the Muslim ban."

"It is that same xenophobia that has fueled the thousands of anti-Asian incidents and crimes this past year," added Inoue. "We are long past the time when we should have removed this antiquated law and urge swift passage of the Neighbors Not Enemies Act."

Former Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), who in 1942 at the age of one was interned at Camp Amache in Colorado, said in a statement that he supports the Neighbors Not Enemies Act.

"As an American of Japanese ancestry and a survivor of concentration camps U.S. style, it is past time we repeal the last vestiges of the archaic laws known as Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798," said Honda. "I am proud of Rep. Omar for leading this vital piece of legislation."

The Neighbors Not Enemies Act is co-sponsored by 40 Democratic House members and is supported by dozens of advocacy organizations. The Hill reports the original iteration of the bill never received a vote in the House. 


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