Steve Lawrence, AP, Sept. 7
Responding to a dark, little-known chapter in American history, the Assembly voted to establish a state fund that could be used to pay reparations to survivors of a massive deportation of Hispanics in the 1930s.
By a 41-23 vote Tuesday, lawmakers approved a bill by Sen. Joe Dunn, D-Garden Grove, that also would create a 16-member commission to make recommendations to the governor and Legislature on how to redress the deportations.
It would take subsequent legislation to appropriate money for the fund, however.
The bill is a response to a policy that was started by the Hoover administration, supposedly in an attempt to remove illegal immigrants to open up jobs during the Depression.
But most of the 2 million people who were deported to Mexico were American citizens or legal immigrants, bill supporters say. They included about 400,000 Californians.
Some of the deportees eventually returned to the United States. Less than 5,000 of them now live in California, said Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez, D-San Fernando.
“Now is the time for California to acknowledge this illegal program that stripped Americans of their basic civil rights,” she said.
Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Sherman Oaks, compared the bill to federal legislation that authorized reparation payments to Japanese-Americans who were interned during World War II.
“If you were removed from your house and land and sent away . . . and your descendants were deprived of their rights to inherit that land, you would be demanding reparations,” he said.
But Assemblyman Ray Haynes, R-Murrieta, said the Legislature should stop worrying about rectifying past wrongs.
“Will there be a time in this country when we stop worrying about what occurred and say what’s done is done?” he asked.
The bill goes back to the Senate for a vote on Assembly amendments.