SACRAMENTO — The state Assembly demanded Monday that a congressman from North Carolina resign as chairman of a homeland security subcommittee for suggesting that locking up about 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry during World War II was the right thing to do.
The Assembly also demanded that Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.) apologize for remarks he made in a Feb. 4 radio program, in which he said some people of Japanese ancestry probably were "intent on doing harm to us, just as some of these Arab Americans are probably intent on doing harm to us."
Coble, who has drawn national criticism for his comments, said in the broadcast that Japanese descendants were put behind barbed wire and gun towers for four years to keep them safe from potential harm from angry citizens.
In an unusual show of bipartisanship, the lower chamber adopted a resolution (AJR 30) calling for the apology and resignation on a 70-0 vote. The measure, by Assemblywoman Carol Liu (D-La Canada Flintridge), called Coble's commentary "insulting, inflammatory [and] inaccurate."
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered Japanese descendants, most of them U.S. citizens, removed from their homes and businesses as threats to national security and placed in isolated, barely habitable camps, many of them in California.
In a related action, the Assembly passed and sent to the Senate on a 55-14 vote a bill (AB 781) that would authorize schools to grant high school diplomas to former internees whose education was cut short by being sent to camps.
The bill, introduced by Assemblywoman Sally Lieber (D-Mountain View), would also apply to veterans of World War II and the Korean War whose education was interrupted by military service.
Assemblymen George Nakano (D-Torrance) and Alan Nakanishi (R-Lodi), who as children were interned with their families, said they deplored Coble's comments.
Nakano said that Coble, as chairman of the House subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security, was in a position to make far-reaching decisions on how this country treats some American minorities in the post-Sept. 11 era.
Assemblyman Ray Haynes (R-Murrieta) pierced the bubble of bipartisanship, charging that the resolution actually represented "partisan sniping" aimed at a Republican member of Congress.
Haynes, who condemned Coble's remarks as "stupid," argued that many Democratic officeholders had engaged in racist actions and commentaries but had not been censured, including Roosevelt, who signed the internment order.
But Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson (D-Culver City), an African American, reminded Haynes that many things had changed since Roosevelt's era, including people's outlook on race.