Japanese Americans Interned During World War II Got A Formal Apology

Supermajority Education Fund

February 21, 2020

The State of California formally apologized for its role in the incarceration of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II yesterday. In a unanimous 72-0 vote, the State Assembly passed HR-77, a measure that condemns the state’s “failure to support and defend the civil rights and civil liberties of Japanese Americans” and “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.” 

Sponsored by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, the apology comes nearly 80 years after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the military to inter Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans in detention centers in 1942. While the federal government formally apologized for internment in 1988, Muratsuchi’s bill is the first time California has officially acknowledged its role. The bill’s vote occurred on the day after the 78th anniversary of Roosevelt’s executive order, a date now widely known as the Day of Remembrance.

“78 years ago today, Executive Order 9066 incarcerated my family & over 120,000 other Americans in an act of fear – simply because of our ethnic heritage,” California Congresswoman Doris Matsui tweeted on January 19. “The internment of Japanese Americans was an act of bigotry, racism & injustice that went against our founding principles.”

“This is long overdue. But I think it is something that is very necessary, particularly for those who are still alive for those who survived the camps,” David Inoue, the executive director of the Japanese American Citizens League, told Supermajority News. 

Inoue added that it was also significant that the text of HR-22 draws a direct line between the circumstances that lead to Japanese American incarceration and family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border today. The Japanese Americans weren’t the first to be oppressed and discriminated against in this country, and we weren’t the last,” he said, noting that many community members feel particularly strongly about issues affecting children at the border because they had also experienced family separation.

In recent years, groups like Tsuru for Solidarity and the Crystal City Pilgrimage Committee have been speaking out about the current policies at the border and the generational trauma that often follows. Inoue said he hopes the wording of California’s apology would inspire Americans to examine the state of human rights in the country today and speak up against injustice.

Whether it is with immigrant children who are separated from their parents, whether it is Muslim families that aren’t able to reunite because of our Muslim ban, what are we doing today to try to stop these policies?” he asked.