Japanese internment camps are widely regarded as one of the major civil-liberties violations ever committed by the American government. However, the mayor of small city of Roanoke, Virginia, believes they're the perfect model to deal with the current refugee crisis.
Many states across the United States have adopted an anti-refugee stance in the wake of the Paris terror attacks that left at least 129 dead. Among those who blame Syrian refugees for the devastation caused in France is Mayor David Bowers of Roanoke, who has requested all government and non-government organizations in the city of 99,000 to suspend any assistance to refugees “until these serious hostilities and atrocities end.”
In fact, taking things a step further, he has said that America should treat the refugees coming in from war-torn countries with the same seriousness as Franklin Roosevelt treated almost 100,000 Japanese during World War II – by forcefully putting them in internment camps.
Roanoke mayor cites Japanese internment in letter opposing resettlement of Syrian refugees... pic.twitter.com/lkZcm5WiYl— Kyle Blaine (@kyletblaine) November 18, 2015
“President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it appears that the threat of harm to America from ISIS now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then,” Bowers said in a statement. "Thus, today, I'm requesting that all Roanoke Valley governments and non-governmental agencies suspend and delay any further Syrian refugee assistance until these serious hostilities and atrocities end, or at the very least until regarded as under control by U.S. authorities and normalcy restored.”
Perhaps the mayor forgot that it was not just Japanese foreign nationals who were put in camps after the attack on Pearl Harbor — Japanese-American citizens bore the brunt of the war as well, even while Japanese-American soldiers fought in the war.
Bowers’ invocation of the World War II-era camps has triggered stern rebukes from fellow politicians, celebrities and masses on social media.
As the Asian-American child of refugees, I applaud the Mayor of Roanoke for achieving the impossible and somehow insulting me *twice*— Tina Nguyen (@tina_nguyen) November 18, 2015
I am outraged by reports of elected officials calling for Syrian Americans to be rounded up and interned. #NeverAgain9066— Rep. Mike Honda (@RepMikeHonda) November 18, 2015
We must now say ‘no’ to failed leadership & condemn the statements of Mayor Bowers, TN Chair Casada, & State Senator Morgan #NeverAgain9066— Rep. Mike Honda (@RepMikeHonda) November 18, 2015
Japanese American internee @RepMikeHonda on Roanoke mayor: "The nicest thing I can say about him is he is pretty ignorant"— Scott Wong (@scottwongDC) November 18, 2015
Japanese internment was a dark chapter & must be a warning, not a justification for unjust fear based refugee policy https://t.co/OeyXQA19ZL— Judy Chu (@RepJudyChu) November 18, 2015
Can’t believe this needs clarifying, but the internment of Japanese-Americans (including my parents) was not a model policy.— Mark Takano (@RepMarkTakano) November 18, 2015
The Democratic mayor was on presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s Virginia leadership council. However, in the aftermath of his shocking statement, he was booted from the campaign.
“The internment of people of Japanese descent is a dark cloud on our nation’s history and to suggest that it is anything but a horrible moment in our past is outrageous,” Clinton spokesperson Josh Schwerin said.
Denying refugees a place to settle in your city is one thing, but referencing such a dark part of American history to justify your stance is just appalling.
“The internment (not a "sequester") was not of Japanese 'foreign nationals,' but of Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were U.S. citizens. I was one of them, and my family and I spent 4 years in prison camps because we happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor. It is my life's mission to never let such a thing happen again in America ... We were judged based on who we looked like, and that is about as un-American as it gets,” actor George Takei wrote on Facebook.
The U.S. government apologized for the internment in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan and agreed to pay $20,000 to still-living victims of the measure in reparations.
Perhaps it is high time that Mayor Bowers took a history lesson and thought about the statement that unquestionably hurt many people.