Seventy-eight years ago on February 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 authorizing the relocation and internment of Japanese Americans just months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
About 120,000 men, women, and children were moved to 10 camps across the western U.S., including two in California.
Now, in a unanimous vote, the California Assembly has issued a formal apology for its role in actively rounding up and sending its residents to internment camps during World War II.
Their apology is not the first, however.
Nearly three decades prior, in the 1988 Civil Liberties Act, President Ronald Reagan formally apologized to Japanese American survivors “on behalf of the Nation.” The act provided $20,000 to survivors and acknowledged that the internment was “motivated by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”
Al Muratsuchi, the Assembly member who introduced the 2020 resolution, believes that the state of California owes those citizens a separate apology.
“Unfortunately, during the years leading up to World War II, California was at the forefront and led the nation in so many ways in fanning the flames of racism and immigrant scapegoating against Japanese Americans,” Muratsuchi tells NPR.
Calling the internment “a stain on our history,” California Governor Gavin Newsom has declared February 19 a day of remembrance in the state.
The resolution, formally issued on Thursday, recognized that “EO9066 inflicted upon more than 120,000 Americans and residents of Japanese ancestry a great human cost of abandoned homes, businesses, farms, careers, professional advancements, disruption to family life, and public humiliation.”
Unlike the Civil Liberties Act, the current resolution does not include any compensation the Associated Press reports, but “apologizes to all Americans of Japanese ancestry 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.”
Les Ouchida, whose family was held in an internment camp during the war, told the Associated Press that he holds no animosity to the U.S. or California government.
“Even if it took time, we have the goodness to still apologize,” he said.