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California Assembly Apologizes to Japanese Americans for WWII Wrongs

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The California State Assembly unanimously passed a resolution Thursday morning apologizing for how it treated Japanese Americans in World War II.

That's when more than 110,000 people were incarcerated at camps around the country, including two in California: Manzanar and Tule Lake.

"It's clearly the right thing to do," said House Speaker Anthony Rendon of the resolution.

And a reminder, Rendon said, to do better.

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"We need to make sure that the actions we take on this floor are not acts of racism against our own citizens, or racism against others for that matter," Rendon said.

During the war, the Assembly fed xenophobia by pushing for Japanese American dual citizens to give up their U.S citizenship, and for "disloyal" Japanese American state employees to be dismissed.

Joyce Nakamura Okazaki was at her home in Seal Beach on Thursday when she heard of passage of the resolution sponsored by Democratic Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi of Torrance.

Okazaki was seven years old when her family was sent from their home in Boyle Heights to the Manzanar camp in the Owens Valley. Now 85, she remembers boarding a train with her mother.

"I said, 'Why can’t we go to Union Station?'" Okazaki recalled. "But she never answered me. You know, I was just a kid."

She felt badly for her parents, college graduates whose lives were put on hold.

"They lost their freedom, their place that they lived," Okazaki said. "Their future was kind of limited."

Okazaki and her mother and sister were famously captured in one of the portraits Ansel Adams took during a trip to Manzanar.

After leaving Manzanar in 1944, her parents never spoke of the experience, Okazaki said. But she thinks they would have appreciated the apology if they were still alive.

"It's long overdue," she said.

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Next, a similar resolution from state Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, will be going before the Senate's judiciary committee.