At the outbreak of WWII, unlike the smaller population of Japanese Americans, the very large German American population made mass detention unfeasible. However, under the authority of the Alien Enemies Act of 1798, German enemy aliens, immigrants, visitors and a small number of naturalized or native-born German-American citizens were interned. German citizens in coastal areas were evicted on an individual basis. A total of 11,507 Germans and German-Americans were interned during the war, far less than the 110,000 Japanese-Americans interned.
Also, over 4,500 ethnic Germans in fifteen Latin American countries suspected of subversive activities by the FBI were extradited and detained in the U.S. U.S. government WWII policies led to internment, repatriation and exchange of civilians of German ethnicity.
The government was particularly suspicious of naturalized citizens of enemy ethnicity. Citizens could not be interned, so the military threatened those it deemed dangerous with exclusion. Many felt contesting exclusion orders was futile and moved before an order was actually issued. Unlike West Coast Japanese group exclusion pursuant to Executive Order 9066, hearings were required for individual exclusions. Resembling enemy alien internment hearings, these hearings were subject to very limited due process protections, clearly violating the rights of American citizens. If an exclusion order was issued following a hearing, excludees were given little time to depart. Homes were abandoned. Some excludees left their families behind. FBI agents followed them to their new communities. The government often advised police and employers how “dangerous” excludees were, so finding and keeping jobs was difficult. Little or government resettlement assistance was given to excludees. Some contested their exclusion orders in court, protesting the government’s violation of their due process rights. After several federal courts found the military’s actions of questionable constitutionality, the individual exclusion program decreased in popularity. Although more unusual, in lieu of exclusion the government also sought to denaturalize citizens, so they could be interned as enemy aliens or deported.