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California Lawmakers To Vote On Resolution Apologizing For State's Role In Japanese American Incarceration

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This morning, the state Assembly is expected to pass a resolution apologizing for California’s role in the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.

It was the federal government that forced more than 110,000 Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans into camps. But California leaders were also complicit, said State Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), who introduced the resolution.

"California led the nation in fanning the flames of racism and immigrant scapegoating against Japanese Americans," Muratsuchi said.

Decades before the war, California lawmakers passed a law that banned Asian immigrants from buying farmland. During the war, they wanted Japanese Americans with dual citizenship to forfeit their U.S. citizenship. And they called for the firing of Japanese American state employees who were “disloyal.”

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"We learned over the years that our rights are fragile, and it must always be monitored and fought for," said Gann Matsuda, a spokesman for the Manzanar Committee. "That’s been the history of this country."

The Manzanar Committee leads annual pilgrimages to the camp of the same name in the Owens Valley where Japanese Americans were incarcerated. Matsuda said their experience is relevant today in an age of Islamophobia and the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border.

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