LOS ANGELES — On November 18, the Manzanar Committee repudiated statements by David Bowers, Mayor, Roanoke, Virginia, in which he used the unjust incarceration of over 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry as justification for his demand that Syrian refugees be denied asylum in the Roanoke area.
In an official statement, Bowers said, “I’m reminded that 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.”
Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey rejected Bowers’ remarks out of hand.
“Mayor Bowers may be just one of many who are using the despicable terrorist acts in Paris for political gain, but his outrageous statement exposes the dangers of unbridled xenophobia, racism and racial profiling during times of crisis,” he said. “How anyone, much less a public official, can cite the World War II incarceration of the Japanese American community as rationale for any policy in this day and age is simply outrageous.”
“Apparently, Mayor Bowers never bothered to learn that President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 was repealed by President Gerald Ford, that the United States Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 to redress the fundamental unconstitutional nature of the forced removal, and that Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush apologized to those incarcerated without charges, without due process, simply because they looked like the enemy.”
Embrey emphasized that Bowers is not alone, in terms of his ignorance of our nation’s history, as well as his blatant political opportunism.
“While it took decades of struggle, Congressional hearings, and intense lobbying by many to win the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, there are some in our country who fail to understand the illegal and unconstitutional nature of Executive Order 9066,” Embrey lamented. “The text of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 cites racism, wartime hysteria, and the failure of political leadership as the driving forces behind the incarceration of the Japanese American community. Unfortunately, these words can easily describe what is going on today.”
“Xenophobia, racism, and fear are standard tools for many political opportunists,” Embrey added. “What is particularly shameful is how many are willing to turn their backs on those in need, those fleeing the horrors of war, and the brutality of ISIS. Turning our backs on the refugees is contrary to our nation’s values.”
Embrey stressed that our nation cannot succumb to the same kind of racism and xenophobia that resulted in the unjust incarceration of Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II.
“This is precisely the time when, we, as a democratic nation, must reaffirm our commitment to the fundamental tenants of our Constitution,” he said. “We must reaffirm our commitment to human rights and oppose the persecution of anyone on the basis of race, religion, and national origin. We must do our part to assist those fleeing tyranny and persecution. This is our moral responsibility and will be a important step in combating the fear and hysteria being whipped up by political opportunists like Mayor Bowers.”
“As a people, we must stand united with all who oppose terrorism,” he added. “But perhaps most important, we must lead by example and show the world how strong and resilient our democratic traditions are. To bow down to fear and hatred will only fuel the terrorist narrative that our democracy, our progressive traditions, are nothing more than a facade.”
“The description of Muslims and refugees as potential terrorists, fifth columnists, or a threat to our way of life, is reminiscent of what our families faced behind the barbed wire during World War II. To fall prey to that same kind of hysteria, which now targets the Muslim community, would be a disservice to the sacrifices of our families, our community, and it is a slap in the face to all freedom loving people around the world.”
The Manzanar Committee is dedicated to educating and raising public awareness about the incarceration and violation of civil rights of persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II and to the continuing struggle of all peoples when Constitutional rights are in danger. A non-profit organization that has sponsored the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage since 1969, along with other educational programs, the Manzanar Committee has also played a key role in the establishment and continued development of the Manzanar National Historic Site. For more information, check out our blog at https://manzanarcommittee.org, call us at (323) 662-5102, and e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow the Manzanar Commitee on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube.
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