‘They would be proud’: Japanese internment camp survivor reacts to Legislature’s apology

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) -- After almost 80 years, the California Legislature apologized for the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, as well as other laws it passed against Japanese immigrants.

Eighty-four-year-old Marielle Tsukamoto remembers life inside a Japanese internment camp.

“Those rights were taken away from us just in a snap of a finger,” Tsukamoto told FOX40.  

Tsukamoto was sent to the Jerome War Relocation Center in Arkansas when she was just 5 years old.

“We didn’t like our rooms. We didn’t like the food. We didn’t like the conditions,” she said. “But we could go out and play.”

When President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, Tsukamoto said her family had to leave everything at their farm in Florin behind.

“We had nothing to do with it,” said Tsukamoto. “My grandparents had left Japan in the 1890s.”

But Tsukamoto said they were lucky.  

“Because someone named Bob Fletcher was an honest and honorable man. He worked the farm, paid the taxes, paid the mortgage for our farm and two others,” explained Tsukamoto.

Even after the war, she said life was not easy for many Japanese Americans who were only given bus fare to return home. Many of them had nothing left back home.

“And there were people that committed suicide because they had no place to go,” said Tsukamoto.

While Japanese internment was a federal issue, Assemblyman Albert Muratsuchi said the California Legislature did pass bills that mistreated Japanese Americans.

“A Senate resolution that called for the dismissal, the firing of all Japanese American state employees,” said Muratsuchi.

That’s why he authored a resolution apologizing for past state leaders’ unjust laws, even the ones before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“In 1913, passed the Alien Land Law, which prohibited Japanese immigrants from owning land,” said Muratsuchi.

Tsukamoto was one of several internment camp survivors on the Assembly floor for Thursday’s emotional vote. It was a moment in which she was thinking of her family and all the others who were sent to those camps with her.

“I thought about people like my parents and the soldiers in the 442 that fought so hard. And I thought to myself, 'They would be proud,'” said Tsukamoto.

The lawmakers and internment camp survivors also expressed a worry that history could repeat itself. They drew similarities between Japanese internment and the separation of migrant families trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

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