In Highlandtown, life changed overnight. Federal agents across the country immediately arrested 98 Italian “aliens,” including ten in Baltimore. The agents identified their targets with the help of the Census Bureau. [LINK]
Italian-Americans had faced prejudice for decades by the time the order was drafted, says Guglielmo. Italians were the biggest group of immigrants to the United States who passed through Ellis Island for much of the late 19th and early 20th century; between 1876 and 1930, 5 million Italians moved to the U.S. Not without backlash: By the 1920s, pseudo-scientists and polemicists in the 1920s popularized the notion that Italians were a separate race from Anglo-Americans. [LINK]
The same chill settled in Connecticut. One morning in spring 1942, federal officers knocked on the door of a New Haven home. The man who opened the door, Pasquale DeCicco, was a pillar of his community and had been a U.S. citizen for more than 30 years. He was taken to a federal detention center in Boston, where he was fingerprinted, photographed and held for three months. Then he was sent to another detention facility on Ellis Island.
Still with no hearing scheduled, he was moved again to an immigration facility at Fort Meade, Maryland. On July 31, he was formally declared an enemy alien of the United States. He remained at Fort Meade until December 1943, months after Italy’s surrender. He was never shown any evidence against him, nor charged with any crime.
EO 9066 not only allowed the government to arrest and imprison “enemy aliens” without charges or trial—it meant their homes and businesses could be summarily seized. On the West Coast, California’s attorney general Earl Warren (later the Chief Justice of the United States) was relentless in registering enemy aliens for detention.
Even Joe DiMaggio’s parents in Sausalito weren’t spared. Though their son, the Yankees slugger, was the toast of New York, General John DeWitt, a leading officer in the Western Defense Command, pressed to arrest Joe’s father, Giuseppe, who had lived in the U.S. for 40 years but never applied for citizenship papers. DeWitt wanted to make a point: “No exceptions.”
2 minute video summary. [LINK]