More than six decades after World War II, the California Legislature has passed a resolution calling the U.S. government's treatment of Italian Americans following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor a "fundamental injustice."
While the federal government's forced internment of Japanese Americans is more widely known, thousands of Italian Americans also were characterized as enemy aliens and forced to leave their homes or endure other hardships.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 95, characterizing such treatment as unjust, passed the Assembly and Senate this week without a dissenting vote.
"The Legislature formally acknowledges the events of World War II represented a fundamental injustice against Italian Americans, deeply regrets these acts, and reaffirms its commitment to preserving the rights of all people," the resolution said.
SCR 95 is needed to "help repair the damage to the Italian American community, and to discourage the occurrence of similar injustices and violations of civil liberties in the future," the resolution read.
Sen. Joe Simitian, a Palo Alto Democrat who proposed SCR 95, said Congress took similar action earlier this decade.
"The treatment during World War II of people who were unjustly considered 'suspicious' because of their ethnic background was a sad chapter for our state," Simitian said in a written statement.
Simitian noted that 10,000 Italian Americans were forced to leave their homes during WW II - and greater numbers were required to carry identification cards, were subject to curfew, or faced travel restrictions.
In some cases, property belonging to Italian Americans was seized and law-abiding immigrants were denied their livelihoods, such as fishing along the coast, Simitian said.
"For survivors of that experience and their descendants, I hope this resolution will provide a long-due measure of recognition and respect," he said.
Restrictions on Italian Americans were lifted on Oct. 12, 1942, less than a year after they had been enacted.
Simitian said he introduced SCR 95 at the request of a constituent, Chet Campanella, in the senator's annual "There Oughta Be A Law" contest. Campanella's parents were subject to curfew and searches of their home, Simitian said.
"Given America's ongoing conflict abroad, the World War II experience is an important reminder of the need to respect the role and rights of those who have ties abroad," Simitian said.
PHOTO CREDIT: An Assembly staff member installs an exhibit Aug. 16, 1998, at the state Capitol about the internment of Italian Americans in the United States during WWII. (The Sacramento Bee file photo/ Randy Pench)