Earlier today, Roanoke, VA Mayor David Bowers cited the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans as justification for refusing aid to Syrian refugees. JACL Executive Director Priscilla Ouchida condemned Mayor Bowers’ comments in a statement released by the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans.
Contact: Priscilla Ouchida, Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
A lesson to be drawn from the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans is the fundamental necessity to defend our country’s values and ideals during times of crisis, even when our nation is threatened. Despite calls to the contrary where numerous state governors and other officials wish to close their borders to Syrian refugees, the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) supports the President’s program, which would allow for the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States.
In 1942, all Japanese Americans were deemed to be a security threat, which led to their forced removal from their homes followed by their incarceration in camps in America’s interior. The banishing of Japanese Americans from the west coast caused virtually all the western governors to issue statements proclaiming that Japanese weren’t welcomed in their states except within the confinement of a concentration camp. Today, we praise the lone governor, Ralph Carr from Colorado, who exhibited courage in the face of fear-mongering by welcoming Japanese Americans to his state.
In 1983, a federal commission tasked with investigating the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans released its findings. The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians found that the incarceration was caused by race prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership. It’s important to recognize and name that which may cause us to betray our values and ideals.
The United States has always been a sanctuary of freedom and opportunity for immigrants fleeing oppression and seeking a better life. Today, in the face of threats to our national security, the United States must lead with its values and ideals. We must not succumb to impulses motivated by fear. JACL unambiguously supports a program that allows for the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States.