Asian-Americans had been singled out for discrimination in California long before the war. Japanese-Americans in particular faced restrictive anti-immigration laws and legislation forbidding land ownership. This legacy of prejudice would culminate in their forced relocation. The Japanese attacks along the California coast at the beginning of 1942 triggered calls for the removal of all Japanese from coastal areas.

With the signing of Executive Order 9066, President Roosevelt began one of the greatest reversals of civil rights to ever take place in American history. Over 112,000 Japanese living on the West Coast (including 93,000 in California) found their livelihoods, property, and lives under threat. Between 1942 and 1946, they would be forcibly evacuated to dozens of assembly, internment, and isolation camps. Two – Tule Lake and Manzanar – of the ten internment camps were in California. Wartime arrests and internment also included Italian-Americans. Other ethnic and political groups would also be singled out as potential "enemy aliens" by the FBI and local law enforcement. It would be decades before many ever received any formal apology or restitution.