Virginia Mayor Cites Japanese Internment in Rejecting Syrian Refugees

Roanoke Mayor David Bowers joined a growing crowd of mostly right-wing politicians calling for the U.S. to reject refugees

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Virginia Mayor Cites Japanese Internment in Rejecting Syrian Refugees
Millions of Syrian refugees are seeking homes. Many U.S. politicians are opposed to allowing any such refugees into the United States.

Roanoke, Virginia, Mayor David Bowers joined 31 governors and a growing number of Republican presidential hopefuls Wednesday in calling for a halt to efforts to resettle refugees seeking asylum from the Syrian civil war in the U.S. – in his case, in the Roanoke Valley.

But Bowers took the xenophobia that had been percolating since Friday's Paris attacks a step further by citing the United States' World War II-era Japanese internment policy as inspiration for his decision.

"Since the recent terrorist bombing of the Russian airliner, the attacks in Paris and now with the murderous threats to our nation's capital, I am convinced that it is presently imprudent to assist in the relocation of Syrian refugees to our part of Virginia," Bowers said in a statement.

He went on to say he was hereby requesting "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 is restored."

He continued, "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 United State forcibly placed more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War II, a decision that President Ronald Reagan, on behalf of the United States, formally apologized for in 1988. Since then, the government has paid more than $1.6 billion in reparations to victims of the camps.

As a number of news outlets have noted, neither governors nor mayors can refuse to accept refugees — all decisions concerning the resettlement of refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. are made by the federal government. 

Bowers closed his statement by saying, "Better safe than sorry."