Neighbors Not Enemies Act (NNEA) Aims to Eliminate Antiquated Law that Led to WWII Mass Incarceration

May 23, 2023

JACL-Arizona is proud to sign on as a supporter of the Neighbors Not Enemies Act (NNEA), a bill led by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and co-sponsored by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI). The bill was first introduced in 2020 and is now being reintroduced. David Inoue, JACL Executive Director, said, “It is past time for the repeal of this antiquated law which has been abused to justify the incarceration of Japanese Americans and more recently the Muslim Ban … It is up to Congress to place a check on the overreaching power of the President and act where the courts have failed the people.” The following is Rep. Omar’s letter to her colleagues in Congress.


Please join me in cosponsoring the Neighbors Not Enemies Act (NNEA) which would strike the xenophobic and antiquated Alien Enemies Act of 1798 that has been used to target innocent immigrants on national security grounds without affording due process rights. In 1798, President John Adams signed 4 laws collectively known as the “Alien and Sedition Acts,” predominantly targeting French nationals living in the U.S. as dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States. These four Alien and Sedition Acts included:

The Naturalization Act of 1798 extending the waiting period for citizenship from 5 to 14 years The Alien Friends Act of 1798 authorized the President to order any alien to leave the country whom he judged dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States (expired 1800)

The Sedition Act of 1798 outlawed publishing criticism of the government (expired 1801); and The Alien Enemies Act of 1798 allows the president to detain, incarcerate, and deport resident aliens during wartime without due process.

While three of the acts have expired or repealed, the Alien Enemies Act remains in effect to this day.

The Alien Enemies Act (AEA) dangerously permits the executive branch extreme powers to target an entire group of foreign nationals, international students, and legal US residents of an “enemy nation” during wartime or if an invasion or predatory incursion is attempted or threatened against the United States by any foreign nation, and the President makes public proclamation of the event. Specifically, the AEA allows the President to determine how, and if, all foreign nationals from a specific country should be “apprehended, restrained, secured and removed” (50 USC 21), bypassing the judicial process, ignoring due process and the right to an appeal. The AEA has been used to justify discrimination against several groups in America. In 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt employed the AEA during WWII to order the detention and deportation of German, Japanese, and Italian citizens and non-citizens. In 2017, President Trump used the AEA as a justification for the misguided Muslim Travel Ban. While war-making powers are allocated to Congress, the executive branch has used the AEA to inflict policies against innocent immigrants who have lived in the US for decades at risk. We’ve seen both Democratic and Republican administrations demonstrate unchecked executive powers, especially regarding their immigration policies of family separation and attacks against Japanese, German, Italian, and Muslim immigrants and refugees.

My one-page bill would simply repeal this outdated and xenophobic law and help us move closer toward an immigration system rooted in justice and due process. For additional information, please contact Maria Martirosyan at


Ilhan Omar

Member of Congress

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