4.2

Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens and Non-Citizens

Standard 4.2: Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens and Non-Citizens

Describe the rights and responsibilities of citizens as compared to non-citizens. (Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for History and Social Studies) [8.T4.2]

FOCUS QUESTION: What Are the Rights and Responsibilities of United States Citizens and Non-Citizens?

Table showcasing the Rights and Responsibilities of US Citizen
Image from the website of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Department of Homeland Security | Public Domain

The Bill of Rights (the Constitution’s first 10 amendments) set forth the rights (protections under the law) of Americans. But those rights come with responsibilities (obligations that citizens are expected to perform) such as paying taxes, serving on a jury when called, defending the country, and participating in the democratic process. Exercising one’s rights and fulfilling one’s responsibilities are the features of active and engaged citizenship in this country. 

Non-citizens also have rights and responsibilities as members of American society, but their situations are complicated by legal rules and political pressures.

What are the rights of citizens and non-citizens? The modules for this standard explore that question by outlining specific rights and responsibilities, examining the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and considering whether Fred Korematsu or other individuals who fought for civil rights and civil liberties should have a national day of recognition.

1.INVESTIGATE: The Rights of Citizens and Non-Citizens

93% of the people living in the United States are citizens; 7% are non-citizens (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2020). One recent estimate puts the number of non-citizens at 22.6 million (CAP Immigration Team & Nicolson, 2017).

The rights of individuals under the Constitution apply to citizens and non-citizens alike.

Timeline of Rights Established

Timeline of Rights Established by the Supreme Court
Image from Office of the U.S. Attorney, District of Minnesota | Public Domain

Non-citizens, no matter what their immigration status, generally have the same rights as citizens when law enforcement officers stop, question, arrest, or search them or their homes. Since the Constitution uses the term "people" or "person" rather than "citizen," many of the "basic rights, such as the freedom of religion and speech, the right to due process and equal protection under the law apply to citizens and noncitizens. How those rights play out in practice is more complex" (Frazee, 2018, para. 6-7).

Suggested Learning Activities

*This activity is designed to demonstrate what rights Americans are guaranteed as citizens along with the reality that these rights are not universal for all people (even legal immigrants to the country). It intended as a way for students to think critically and creatively about what rights all people should have. It is based on a learning plan developed by University of Massachusetts Amherst teaching interns Conor Morrissey and Connor Frechette-McCall in Fall 2019.

Online Resources for the Rights of Citizens and Non-citizens

2. UNCOVER: Internment of Japanese Americans during World War II

Following the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 which mandated moving 120,000 Japanese-Americans from their homes to one of 10 internment camps in the western part of the United States. Most of the people relocated were U.S. citizens or legal permanent resident aliens.  

Farm workers at Manzanar Relocation Center

Farm workers, Manzanar Relocation Center, Ansel Adams Photograph, 1943
"Farm workers and Mt. Williamson" by Ansel Adams
Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs Division under the digital ID ppprs.00370
Public Domain

The internment camps, officially called "relocation centers," were located in California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, and Arkansas. Over 50% of those interned were children. To learn about the camps, view Building History 3.0: An Interactive Explorations of the Japanese American Incarceration in Minecraft.

Constitutional safeguards given to United States citizens were ignored or bypassed in the name of national defense. People were detained for up to four years, without due process of law or any factual basis, and forced to live in remote camps behind barbed wire and under the surveillance of armed guards.

Image preview of a YouTube video
Watch on YouTube https://edtechbooks.org/-JaiK

Actor George Takei, of Star Trek, and his family were imprisoned in Rowher, Arkansas, as documented in his autobiography To The Stars (1995). Takei and three co-writers have since collaborated on They Called Us Enemy, a graphic memoir about his experiences in the camp (2019).

In 1944, two years after signing Executive Order 9066, President Roosevelt revoked the order. The last internment camp was closed by the end of 1945.  There was no official apology from the United States government until passage of The Civil Liberties Act of 1988. In 1991, President George H. W. Bush wrote a letter of apology to each surviving internment camp member who also received a $20,000 check from the government (Letter from President George Bush to Japanese Internees).

Largely forgotten today were the experiences of Japanese-American soldiers who fought for the United States in western Europe. Many of these soldiers were Nisei (American-born children of Japanese immigrants), and former members of the Hawaii National Guard. They experienced the contradiction of fighting to liberate Europe and close down German concentration camps while other Japanese-Americans were interned in camps at home. Learn more about the hidden history of Japanese-American Soldiers in World War II from the website Re-Imagining Migration.

Japanese-American Infantrymen

Japanese-American infantrymen of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team hike up a muddy French road in the Chambois Sector, France, in late 1944.
"442 regimental combat team" | Public Domain

Suggested Learning Activities

  • Analyze Primary Sources
  •  Analyze Multimedia Sources
    • How did Japanese Americans respond to their internment?
      • Children of the Camps is a PBS documentary (and accompanying website) about the experiences of six Japanese-Americans who were detained as children.
      • Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project offers multimedia materials including a slideshow and videos as well as oral histories from Japanese Americans who were imprisoned during World War II.

  • Design a "Righting a Wrong Poster" About Internment Camps  
  • Take a Position
    • Should internment camps have been used on Japanese Americans, many of whom were U.S. citizens, after the attack on Pearl Harbor?
      • Write 1-2 paragraphs answering the question and cite at least 3 pieces of evidence.
        • Split the class into two groups and have one group research reasons for the use of internment camps and the other group research issues and unfair treatment that resulted from the camps.
        • Share findings and discuss whether or not the internment camps should have been used after hearing both sides. 
      • What alternatives could the U.S. government have used instead of internment camps?

  • State Your View
    • Should constitutional safeguards given to United States citizens be ignored or bypassed in the name of national defense?

Online Resources for Japanese Internment

3. ENGAGE: Should Individuals Who Fought for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Have a National Day of Recognition?

In 1942, a 23-year-old Japanese American named Fred Korematsu refused an order to move to one of the government’s wartime internment camps. He was arrested, convicted, and jailed for his actions. Along with two other resistors, he appealed his case to the Supreme Court which upheld his conviction. That conviction was eventually overturned in 1983.

Photo of Fred Minoru and Gordon.png
"Gordon Hirabayashi, Minoru Yasui, and Fred Korematsu"
by family of Fred T. Korematsu is licensed under CC BY 2.0

To honor his fight for civil rights and civil liberties, Fred Koresmatsu Day was enacted in California in 2010. It was the first state-wide day in the United States to be named after an Asian American. Hawaii, Virginia, and Florida have since passed laws honoring Fred Korematsu to perpetuity. Learn more at It's Fred Korematsu Day: Celebrating a Foe of U.S. Internment Camps, and Honoring a Japanese-American Who Fought Against Internment Camps.

Deciding to honor someone for their historical efforts has large political implications in the United States today. Despite its racist history, there are states and communities that continue to celebrate the Confederacy and Confederate war heroes with days of recognition (Southern Poverty Law Center, 2019). At the same time, there are individuals and groups who fought for civil rights and civil liberties but who remain neglected or omitted from history books and state-level history curriculum frameworks.

Students can be effective advocates for honoring those who fought for civil rights and civil liberties. In the early 1980s, students from Oakland Tech High School class of 1981 - "The Apollos" - engaged in a four-year campaign to get the state of California to establish a day honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Their efforts were successful when California became the fourth state to have a MLK Day (the national holiday was established in 1986). In 2109, students at the school wrote and performed a play about the efforts of the Apollos (California High School Students Who Lobbied for State MLK Holiday Honored in Oakland Tech Play).

Suggested Learning Activities

  • Present Your Analysis
    • Why has the U.S. failed to fully recognize individuals like Fred Koresmatsu who stood up for American ideals?

  • Nominate an Individual for a State or National Day of Recognition
    • Who would you nominate for a State or National Day of Recognition for efforts to achieve civil rights and civil liberties? Select an individual and write a persuasive essay (or design a video) to send to a local or national elected official.

Standard 4.2 Conclusion

In the United States, every citizen has rights and responsibilities as a member of a democratic society. Non-citizens have rights too, although they differ from those of citizens. INVESTIGATE explored the specific rights of citizens and non-citizens. UNCOVER focused on the suspension of citizenship rights during the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. ENGAGE asked whether days of recognition should be given to Fred Korematsu or other women and men who fought to establish and preserve civil rights and civil liberties throughout American history.

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