California is preparing to say sorry for its role in mistreating Japanese Americans during World War II.
On Thursday, lawmakers in the state will vote to pass a resolution issuing an official apology, which follows the 78th anniversary of the Japanese concentration — also known as the Day of Remembrance.
President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 9066 (E.O. 9066) on Feb. 19, 1942, marking the beginning of forcing more than 120,000 people of Japanese descent into 10 concentration camps in the western part of the country.
Of these camps, two were built in California, namely Manzanar and Tule Lake.
Introduced by Japanese-born Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), House Resolution No. 77 (H.R. 77) aims to make California apologize “for its past actions in support of the unjust exclusion, removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, and for its failure to support and defend the civil rights and civil liberties of Japanese Americans during this period.”
At the time, not only did California house two concentration camps, but state officials also led the crackdown on Japanese Americans.
“Every year during the years I’ve been in the California Legislature, I’ve introduced a resolution to commemorate the Day of Remembrance, that I know many communities across the country observe to remember the lessons of Executive Order 9066,” Muratsuchi told the Pacific Citizen.
“While our nation’s capital is hopelessly divided along party lines and President Trump is putting immigrant families and children in cages, the California Legislature, with H.R. 77 will be issuing an official, bipartisan measure for its own actions taken that led to the incarceration of over 120,000 loyal Americans of Japanese ancestry behind barbed wire.”
I introduced HR 77, an official apology by the Assembly for legislation actions that led to the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. I will be introducing the H.R. on Feb 20th as part of the annual Day of Remembrance celebrations. https://t.co/xCpkQsKT8R
— Asm. Al Muratsuchi (@AsmMuratsuchi) February 10, 2020
The resolution also describes racist laws that preceded the incarceration, such as the California Alien Land Law of 1913, which prohibited immigrants of Japanese descent — and other Asians — from purchasing or leasing land and other properties.
In 1945, lawmakers approved a $200,000 grant to the attorney general’s office to investigate and prosecute those who may have violated the law, many of whom ended up in prison.
The federal government, under President Ronald Reagan, already issued a formal apology (Civil Liberties Act) in 1988, which also compensated survivors $20,000 each. H.R. 77, on the other hand, offers no compensation but serves as an official acceptance of accountability of the state of California.
“We like to talk a lot about how we lead the nation by example,” Muratsuchi said, according to the Associated Press. “Unfortunately, in this case, California led the racist anti-Japanese American movement.”
“Star Trek” actor George Takei, who was interned as a child with his family in Tule Lake, praised the move but called it “overdue.”
“Welcome, yet long overdue,” he wrote on Twitter, adding a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.
Welcome, yet long overdue.
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” — MLK, Jr.https://t.co/pIJkd6s0ZT
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) February 17, 2020
Feature Images via U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (left) and U.S. Department of the Interior (right)