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San Diego apologizes for supporting WWII detention camps

The San Diego City Council rescinded a resolution it passed 80 years ago in support of the incarceration of Japanese Americans in prison camps during World War II.

During a meeting Tuesday, council members called the camps and the 1942 resolution supporting them racist and unjust.

“We can acknowledge the wrong that the city committed,” council President Sean Elo-Rivera said.

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The council also approved a formal apology to Japanese Americans, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Leaders of the local Japanese American community praised the council’s decision, noting how residents sent to the camps lost their property, their opportunities for education and their dignity.

During World War II, more than 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry — regarded as a threat to national security because of their ethnicity — were forcibly relocated to 10 camps in the western U.S. and Arkansas.

Among those incarcerated were more than 1,900 San Diego County residents of Japanese descent, according to the Union-Tribune.

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The council’s actions were requested by the San Diego chapter of the Japanese American Historical Society.

Kay Ochi, the society’s president, said the camps and the council’s resolution supporting them reflected the prejudice and fear of the time. Her parents, U.S. citizens, were incarcerated from 1942 to 1945 in Arizona.

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“The trauma of that racist act, the shame that it brought upon the Japanese American community to be targeted as spies, was deep and painful,” she said. “You are reaffirming your commitment — the city’s commitment — to the promises of the Constitution.”

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