WASHINGTON, D.C.(Nov. 18, 2015) — OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates condemns Mayor David A. Bowers reference to Japanese internment in his opposition to Syrian refugee resettlement.
Earlier today, Mayor David A. Bowers of Roanoke, Virginia, released a statement regarding his opposition to Syrian refugee resettlement in the Roanoke Valley. He then justified his statement by writing:
“I’m reminded that 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 now from Isis is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then.”
“It is reprehensible that Mayor Bowers tries to justify his anti-refugee views by recalling one of the most heinous and shameful breaches of civil rights ever inflicted in this nation’s history,” said Angela Chiang, OCA – Central Virginia Chapter President. “Japanese internment took away the civil liberties, homes, and property of over 120,000 Japanese Americans simply because of fear rooted in racist and orientalist beliefs. As an Asian community leader in Virginia, it troubles me that the Mayor would base his comments on refugees on a policy that is universally regarded as a horrible breach of faith by our government and disturbed tens of thousands of lives. As an organization of concerned Asian American Virginians, we ask that the Mayor issue a sincere apology to both the Asian American and refugee communities.”
“Mayor Bowers’ comments reflect a personal xenophobic attitude compounded by a rather tenuous grasp of history. Those interned in America’s concentration camps were mostly U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents, none of whom were ever convicted of espionage, sedition, or treason. That the internment violated core American values and Constitutional Rights is evidenced by Congress passing, and President George H.W. Bush’s signing, of legislation apologizing for the country’s wrongdoing and the payment of reparations to surviving internees. Rounding up people simply because they look like the enemy was wrong then and is wrong now,” said Michael W. Kwan, OCA National President. “This same line of bigoted thinking also led to the Chinese Exclusion Act designed to rid the country of ‘yellow peril’.”
“The Mayor’s comments serve to highlight the common flaws with both Japanese Internment and the anti-refugee sentiments today,” concluded Michael W. Kwan. “The same racist beliefs and misplaced appeals to security that led to Japanese internment are also the same arguments for excluding Syrian refugees from our borders. These are people under duress that we have a moral duty to protect, not a danger to society. We must strive to do better than our forefathers. Instead of falling back on fear, we must come together with compassion and accept these refugees.”
OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates is a national organization of community advocates dedicated to improving the social, political, and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans (APAs).