California’s Attorney General apologized Wednesday for his office’s historical role in justifying the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.
Rob Bonta called it a “grave injustice… motivated largely by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria and a failure of political leadership.”
In 1942, then-Attorney General Earl Warren testified before Congress in favor of the forced removal of 120,000 Japanese Americans from their homes to barracks behind barbed wire. Warren also supported the taking of farmland from Japanese Americans under the Alien Land Law.
The following year, State Attorney General Robert Kenney launched the Alien Land Unit to enforce that racist law and in 1944, Kenney filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court fighting Fred Korematsu’s efforts to challenge the constitutionality of the forced imprisonment.
“During times when some seek to fan the flames of xenophobia, hate, and intolerance,” Bonta wrote in his apology, “it is not enough to simply refrain from throwing stones. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: ‘A time comes when silence is betrayal.”’
He said it was important to confront past errors as a “modern revival of Alien Land Laws” in several states and the resurgence of anti-Asian hate across the country takes place.
“With deep regret for the actions of this Office that contributed to the
suffering of Japanese Americans during that era, I offer this sincere apology and re-commit this Office to the equal protection of the life, liberty, and property of all Americans,” he said.
State Senator Dave Min (D-Orange County) applauded Bonta’s apology.
“The forced displacement and internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II was wrong and the Supreme Court’s decision in Korematsu was wrong. I am grateful to AG Bonta for his leadership and I hope that this apology for one of the most shameful episodes in American and Californian history provides at least a partial reconciliation for those who suffered from this internment, and their descendants, and also serves as a reminder of the need to be vigilant against racism and bigotry of all kinds.”
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