Seventy-eight years ago Wednesday, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an order to send Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans to internment camps. Most of the 120,000 people forced from their homes came from California.

On Thursday, the California Assembly passed a resolution to apologize for its role in their removal.

“We like to talk a lot about how we lead the nation by example,” Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D) told the Associated Press. “Unfortunately, in this case, California led the racist anti-Japanese American movement.”

Though the internment policy was executed by the federal government, Muratsuchi told the San Francisco Chronicle that the California government helped by firing Japanese American state employees and by passing a law banning people of Japanese ancestry from owning farmland.

Les Ouchida was 5 years old, born an American citizen, when his family was forced to leave their home in Florin, Calif., where his father had a successful strawberry shipping business.

First, they were taken to Fresno, then sent to an internment camp in Jerome, Ark., where they spent most of World War II.

Ouchida started grammar school in the camp. His older siblings played baseball, but there wasn’t much else to do. He remembers the cold in the winter and the communal bathrooms, where there were no dividers between toilet seats.

“They put a bag over their heads when they went to the bathroom,” so they could pretend they had privacy, he told the AP.

Several cases opposing the internment made their way to the Supreme Court, the most famous filed by Fred Korematsu. Korematsu lost his case, which is still regarded as one of the high court’s worst decisions.

But the same day he lost, a Japanese American woman named Mitsuye Endo won. As The Washington Post’s Lori Aratani reported, the court avoided the constitutional questions in her case but said anyone who had pledged loyalty to the United States had to be freed.

Law professor Amanda L. Tyler, who has studied the case extensively, found an internal court document that suggested the court tipped off the federal government that it was about to lose the case. The day before the decision came down in December 1944, the Roosevelt administration announced it would voluntarily close the camps.

It was more than a year until the last person was freed.

Ouchida’s family was transferred again to Gila River, Ariz. When they were finally released, they took a Greyhound bus back to their hometown.

As they drove through the outskirts of Sacramento, “I still remember the ladies on the bus started crying, because they were home,” Ouchida said.

But freedom didn’t mean going back to their old lives. Ouchida’s dad’s business was gone.

“When we went to camp, he had 20 trucks, and he went to work every day with a suit on,” Ouchida said in a video interview with the Elk Grove school district in Sacramento County.

His dad tried to get things going again with two trucks but was unsuccessful. “It had a real bearing on his health. I think he drank too much. He died at the age of 59,” Ouchida said.

In 1988, the federal government officially apologized for the internment camps and provided $20,000 in reparations to every person who was interned.

So why is the State Assembly making this move now, more than three decades after the federal apology?

The resolution references “recent national events” as inspiration. Many former internees and their descendants have found common cause with migrant children who have been detained by the Trump administration. They have also criticized the Supreme Court for upholding Trump’s ban on people traveling from mostly Muslim countries.

Karen Korematsu, daughter of Fred Korematsu, told The Post in 2018: “The court has once again abdicated its role in safeguarding fundamental freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution.”

As for the State Assembly’s apology, Ouchida told the AP, “Even if it took time, we have the goodness to still apologize.”

Read more Retropolis: