While billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson gave one of the best responses to resolve the Syrian refugee crisis, a Virginia mayor probably gave one of the worst.
Mayor David Bowers of Roanoke, Virginia referenced the Japanese-American internment camps used on American soil during World War II as justification for delaying assistance to Syrian refugees. In a statement released on Wednesday, 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.”
The incarceration of Japanese Americans into internment camps by mandate of the U.S. government during the 1940’s is regarded as a dark period in American history. It is remembered as one of the greatest violations of civil liberties that left a majority of Japanese-Americans displaced and discriminated against for years after the end of World War II.
Presidents who have succeeded Roosevelt have apologized for how the U.S. government reacted to what they perceived as a threat on American soil. In 1976, former President Gerald Ford called the internment camps a national mistake and issued a formal apology as he signed a proclamation that would terminate it.
“February 19 is the anniversary of a very, very sad day in American history. It was on that date in 1942 that Executive Order 9066 was issued resulting in the uprooting of many, many loyal Americans. Over 100,000 persons of Japanese ancestry were removed from their homes, detained in special camps, and eventually relocated.”
Years later, President Ronald Reagan passed the Civil Liberties Act and signed into law repatriations that totaled $1.8 billion to those affected. It was a lesson in history that Americans learned not to repeat. People took to Twitter shortly after the mayor released his statement to voice their opinions: