A national immigration crackdown during the Great Depression forced hundreds of thousands of people onto crowded trains to Mexico, and now a state senator wants California to apologize for its role in those mass deportations.
Most of those deported were U.S. citizens and legal residents.
Sen. Joseph Dunn, D-Garden Grove, will present his so-called Apology Act at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee today. His bill, SB 670, would require the state government to acknowledge the illegal deportations took place, apologize to the victims and their families, and construct a small plaque in memory of the deportees—most of whom are elderly or dead.
A second bill, SB 645, which could lead to reparations, is set for a hearing in a separate committee Wednesday.
During the federal government’s Mexican Repatriation program, according to Dunn’s office, as many as 2 million people of Mexican descent were rounded up in large groups at parks, hospitals and workplaces, forced onto locked train cars and taken across the border. The deportations were carried out with the help of local and state authorities, with many of the raids taking place in Southern California.
Latino advocates back the new legislation because the deportations are “a very core part of this state’s history,” said Steve Reyes, a staff attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Very little has been printed in school textbooks about the deportations, he said.