NCAPA Condemns Roanoke Mayor’s Appalling Use of Japanese American Incarceration to Justify Suspending Aid to Syrian Refugees



NOV. 18, 2015

 Contact: Mary Tablante;

 (202) 706-6768;


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NCAPA Condemns Roanoke Mayor’s Appalling Use of Japanese American Incarceration to Justify Suspending Aid to Syrian Refugees

The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) is outraged by Roanoke, Virginia, Mayor David A. Bowers’ recent statement to justify the suspension of assistance to Syrian refugees: “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.”

We demand an apology from Mayor Bowers.

NCAPA National Director Christopher Kang responded, “We are shocked and appalled that Mayor Bowers has so fundamentally twisted our nation’s history and would use Japanese American incarceration--one of our darkest and most shameful moments--as a basis to justify any position. The U.S. government has since rightfully apologized for this incarceration, and Mayor Bowers must do the same by apologizing for his comments. Our leaders must learn from the mistakes of the past--not seek to repeat them--and reaffirm our core values as a country that welcomes those fleeing persecution and seeking refuge.”

Priscilla Ouchida, NCAPA executive committee member and executive director of the Japanese American Citizens League said, "Irresponsible statements from Mayor Bowers and others is driving unwarranted hysteria, similar to rhetoric that led to the imprisonment of 120,000 loyal Japanese American men, women and children during World War II. Not one of the Japanese Americans was ever charged with a crime or found guilty of a subversive act. These statements are too familiar -- emotion should not be an excuse for profiling any group of law-abiding people. We call for actions that reflect our nation's ideals."

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 into law (PL 100-383), which formally apologized to every surviving U.S. citizen or legal resident immigrant of Japanese ancestry who was unlawfully incarcerated during World War II. The law discourages the occurrence of similar injustices and violations of civil liberties in the future. In an interview with NPR about the Syrian refugee crisis, Washington Governor Jay Inslee remembered the incarceration of his Japanese American neighbors and said, “ We regret that we succumbed to fear… We shouldn’t do that right now.” Governor Inslee has applied the right lessons from our nation’s history to today. Mayor Bowers clearly has not.

NCAPA supports the continuation of the U.S. refugee resettlement program and opposes restrictions on assistance for Syrians and other groups of refugees.

NCAPA demands a sincere apology from Mayor Bowers for his rhetoric against both the Syrian refugee community and Japanese Americans.



Based in Washington, D.C., the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans is a coalition of 35 national Asian Pacific American organizations that serves to represent the interests of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities and to provide a national voice for our communities’ concerns. Our communities are the fastest growing racial/ethnic group in the United States, currently making up approximately six percent of the population.


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