This blog entry is more factual and serious, but I thought it important and interesting to chronicle the events of some recent legislation in California. With so many Italian-American groups trying to re-establish their roots, it’s interesting to learn stories of the hardships that Italians faced in creating their new lives in the United States. Many of the current generation have no idea of the struggles that their ancestors endured while trying to better the lives of their families and ensure that future generations would prosper.
World War II was a dark chapter in the history of the world, and many ethnic groups were targeted and treated unfairly. Italians were no exception, even though their story was not one widely known. During the war, over 100,000 Californians were deemed to be “aliens”. Most of these were of Japanese descent, but over 10,000 of them were Italian. Some were forced to leave their homes and interned in labor camps, while others were subject to home searches and curfews. Some, especially fishermen, were denied the right to earn their living. Their rights as American citizens were violated and they were treated as criminals. This classified information became one of the “untold” stories of World War II. But during State Senator Joe Simitian’s campaign of “There Ought To Be a Law”, a resident of San Jose, whose parents were subject to searches and curfews during World War II, exposed evidence of this mistreatment. This led to the passage of Resolution 95 that acknowledged that the treament of Italian Americans during World War II “represented a social injustice” and expressed “deepest regrets” for these actions.
This resolution follows a U.S. Congressional Report from 2001 entitled “A Review of the Restrictions on Persons of Italian Ancestry During World War II.” At that time, Italians were the largest foreign group in the United States and their treatment during the war devastated many of them. The passage of this bill was to provide “a long-due measure of recognition and respect.”
As evidenced, life was not always easy for these Italian-Americans, but their perseverence in wanting a better life was their means to an end. An end that resulted in a strong sense of patriotism and love for their new country, without letting go of their roots. And now, with the recognition and apologies for the unfair treatment they received during a difficult period in history, the loyalty to their new home is even more solid. Italian-Americans are “American” first and foremost….with their roots always to be tied to Italy!!!