California Attorney General Formally Apologizes for AG Involvement in Treatment of Japanese Americans During, After World War II

Attorney General Rob Bonta

By The Vanguard

OAKLAND, CA – California Attorney General Rob Bonta this week, in a public statement, issued a formal apology acknowledging the California Attorney General’s Office’s past complicity in the unjust deprivation of Japanese Americans’ civil rights and civil liberties during and after World War II.

“Today, my office formally apologizes for its past use of legal tools to deprive a generation of Japanese Californians of their liberty and financial security during the World War II era,” said AG Bonta. 

He added, “The forced relocation and incarceration of Japanese American citizens remains among the darkest periods of our history, and the suffering it caused Japanese American families across California is incalculable. While we can never erase the horrors of the past, we must take steps to atone for past wrongs by answering the call for accountability, truth and reconciliation, racial healing and transformation.

“The California Attorney General’s Office deeply regrets its past complicity in these heinous violations of civil rights, and with this apology, recommits to its mission of protecting and defending civil liberties for all Americans.”

The AG statement noted that, in 1942, “President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which targeted and imprisoned more than 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry who primarily lived on the West Coast. Former California Attorney General Earl Warren testified before Congress in support of this order and enforced the California Alien Land Law of 1913, which took possession of agricultural land owned by Japanese American families.

“In 1943, California Attorney General Robert Walker Kenny formed a special unit within the Attorney General’s Office to enforce the California Alien Land Law. The California Alien Land Law prohibited Asian immigrants from purchasing or leasing land until 1952, when the California Supreme Court declared the law violated the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Bonta admitted that in 1944, “the California Attorney General’s Office joined the states of Washington and Oregon in submitting an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in Korematsu v. United States, supporting the imprisonment of Fred Korematsu — a national civil rights hero who fought against the wrongful incarceration of Japanese Americans — despite the lack of any evidence that he posed a security threat. The Attorney General’s Office recognizes today that this was unequivocally incorrect.”

Bonta’s statement added, “As racism, fear, and xenophobia continue to threaten our fundamental freedoms,” he “remains fully committed to fighting for the safety and inclusion of all of California’s diverse communities,” noting the following actions by his office:

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