On Feb. 20, the California State Assembly passed HR 77, a resolution that officially “apologizes to all Americans of Japanese ancestry” for supporting their forced removal and incarceration during World War II.
The bill includes the history around Executive Order No. 9066, the executive order authorizing the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans, more than two-thirds of which were native-born American citizens. The order was signed by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Feb. 19, 1942.
“The redress movement started in the 1970s… to see an official apology and restitution from the government,” says Chabot College history professor Kay Fischer. More than 500 Japanese Americans testified in congressional hearings, which led to a 1982 commission report and eventually the 1988 Civil Liberties Act.
“The report stated it was racial prejudice, war hysteria and failure of political leadership that led to the policy of mass incarceration,” Professor Fischer continues.
HR 77 also mentions the actions of California’s legislature in 1943, when it recommended Congress remove U.S. citizenship from Japanese dual citizens and to take and redistribute the “implements and commodities” left behind by Japanese Americans while they were incarcerated.
The bill was authored by Assembly Member Albert Muratsuchi, a Democrat from the 66th district, who represents part of Los Angeles County.
In the past, Muratsuchi had led the Assembly’s annual commemoration of Feb. 19 as “the Day of Remembrance” but said that this year he “wanted to do something different.”
Muratsuchi wants California to “lead by example,” he told the Pacific Citizen. “[O]ur nation’s capital is hopelessly divided along party lines and President [Donald] Trump is putting immigrant families and children in cages.”
Six Japanese Americans who had been incarcerated under EO 9066, as well as descendants of two others, were present as special guests when the bill passed by unanimous consent.
A similar bill, SR 72, is being drafted in the California State Senate. The Assembly and Senate are currently adjourned until May 4 due to the COVID-19 health crisis.
Professor Fischer developed the Asian American History series for the college. Her upcoming classes on the subject include Ethnic Studies 10 in the summer semester, and Ethnic Studies 42 and History 42 in Fall 2020.