California Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared Feb. 19, 2023 as “A Day of Remembrance” for Japanese American evacuation during World War II.
In a proclamation released Sunday, Newsom honored the Japanese American citizens who were forced to evacuate from their homes and incarcerated by the U.S. government during the war.
“This stain on our history should remind us to always stand up for our fellow Americans, regardless of their national origin or immigration status, and protect the civil rights and liberties that we hold dear,” Newsom said in his proclamation. “I ask that all Californians join me in solemn remembrance of the issuance of Executive Order 9066 on this day in 1942.”
Executive Order 9066 was signed Feb. 19, 1942, exactly 81 years before Newsom’s proclamation.
The order authorized the forced removal of thousands of Japanese Americans on the West Coast from their homes and into internment camps.
“A decision motivated by discrimination and xenophobia, the internment of Japanese Americans was a betrayal of our most sacred values as a nation that we must never repeat,” Newsom said in the proclamation.
Campus history professor Hidetaka Hirota said Executive Order 9066 is only one of the many discriminatory practices that Japanese Americans have faced in the United States.
Hirota noted that there have been hostile sentiments against Japanese people in California since the start of Japanese immigration to the West Coast at the turn of the 20th century.
“The incarceration of Japanese Americans should be understood from this longer history of anti-Japanese sentiment,” Hirota said. “It didn’t emerge out of nowhere; it was built on earlier practices.”
The first of of these practices, as mentioned by Hirota, was the Gentlemen’s Agreement in 1907 between the U.S. and Japanese governments that restricted the issuing of passports to Japanese laborers so that they could not enter the U.S.
Later on, the California Alien Land Law of 1913 prohibited immigrants ineligible for naturalization, which mostly meant Asian immigrants, from owning land, Hirota said. The Immigration Act of 1924 virtually suspended Asian immigration to the U.S. by limiting the number of immigrants allowed entry on the basis of national origin while excluding Japanese immigrants entirely.
“Discrimination has been an enduring legacy among Japanese Americans, and there is an enormous sense of injustice in the Japanese community,” Hirota said.
According to Hirota, Newsom’s proclamation is a step in the right direction for the American government’s recognition of its past wrongdoings.
He said he believes that while the U.S. government has been able to recognize its injustices against Japanese Americans, it should not just be limited to this context.
“The incarceration of Japanese Americans is part of the history of disregarding citizens’ and immigrants’ rights,” Hirota said. “A broader willingness to recognize the past and present disregard of American people is definitely needed.”