Marilyn Miller
Tulane University, New Orleans, USA


Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in late 1941, the United States enacted a new version of the Alien Enemy Act originally signed in the 18th century, allowing for the forced displacement and detention of civilians considered enemies or potential enemies both within and beyond its borders.  Under the Latin American Alien Enemy Control Program, some 31,0000 men, women, and children of European and Japanese descent were apprehended and interned in the U.S. and in fifteen other countries in the Americas between 1941-1946, ostensibly to protect hemispheric security during wartime. The secret program revealed the myth of inter-American harmony associated with the Good Neighbor policy, violated individual rights, and ultimately failed to contribute to U.S. national security. It also contributed to inter-American relations marred by prejudices based on country of origin, beliefs in Latin American inferiority, and the privileging of political or economic expediency over human rights.  As this U.S.-sponsored forced displacement of persons commonly featured separation of family members, long-term detention without access to a hearing and other conditions common in the contemporary era, it offers important lessons for U.S.-Latin American relations at the border zone in our own time.

Keywords: Alien Enemy Control Program, World War II, hemispheric security, Good Neighbor policy, detention, internment, family separation, displacement.