George Takei Slams Virginia Mayor Who Wants To Ban Refugees

"[You] hold a position of authority and power, but you demonstrably have failed to learn the most basic of American civics or history lessons."
Credit: Associated Press

George Takei has roundly criticized a Virginia mayor who wants to ban Syrian refugees from his town. The “Star Trek” actor slammed David Bowers, mayor of Roanoke, for resorting to “fear-based tactics” and for displaying a “galling lack of compassion.”

On Wednesday, Bowers had cited President Franklin D. Roosevelt's decision to imprison 120,000 people of Japanese descent in internment camps during World War II as justification for barring refugees from resettling in Roanoke.

“I am convinced that it is presently imprudent to assist in the relocation of Syrian refugees to our part of Virginia,” David Bowers, mayor of Roanoke, wrote in an open letter. “I’m reminded that 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.”

Takei, whose Japanese-American family was one of the many detained in the World War II internment camps, responded to Bowers' comments in a poignant Facebook post.

The actor, who is currently starring in “Allegiance” -- a Broadway play about the Japanese internment camps -- called out the mayor for missing out on some crucial facts.

“The internment (not a ‘sequester’) was not of Japanese ‘foreign nationals,’ but of Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were U.S. citizens,” Takei wrote. “I was one of them, and my family and I spent 4 years in prison camps because we happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor. It is my life’s mission to never let such a thing happen again in America.”

The actor continued: “There never was any proven incident of espionage or sabotage from the suspected ‘enemies’ then, just as there has been no act of terrorism from any of the 1,854 Syrian refugees the U.S. already has accepted. We were judged based on who we looked like, and that is about as un-American as it gets.”

Takei ended his message to Bowers with an invitation to a performance of “Allegiance.”

“I am officially inviting you to come see our show, as my personal guest. Perhaps you, too, will come away with more compassion and understanding,” he wrote.

On Thursday, the Republican-led House voted to increase restrictions on the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the United States. According to Bloomberg, the campaign to close off American borders to asylum seekers has only just begun. Republicans are reportedly preparing even more drastic bills aimed at closing off American borders to refugees from Syria and Iraq.

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Ivor Prickett/UNHCR
Syrian refugee Nujeen, 16, waits to be carried from the shoreline to the road after landing on the Greek island of Lesbos with her older sister Nisreen. They fled Aleppo with their parents over two years ago and had been living in Turkey before deciding to seek better medical care for Nujeen in Europe. After a rough crossing that left most of the passengers cold and terrified, Nujeen seemed calm and happy. Speaking fluent English, she described the journey: "I enjoyed it. I have never been on a boat before. It was very beautiful. I didn't know if I was going to live or die, but thanks to God we are here."

Nujeen's resilience captured headlines around the world this year, and earned her a shoutout on HBO's "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver." It was more than just a mention for Nujeen, however, as Oliver got actors from her favorite American soap opera, "Days of Our Lives," to pay tribute to the teen. Nujeen has since arrived in Germany.
Willa Frej/The Huffington Post
Hajar, Amira and Nabiha Darbi pose in their new living room in New Jersey. The Darbi family is one of many Syrian refugee families already living in the U.S. Read more about their story here.
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A refugee, using a plastic trash bag to protect himself from the rain, walks through the "New Jungle" migrant camp in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants live in the hope of crossing the Channel to Britain, on Oct. 21, 2015.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Maaesa Alroustom, center, is kissed by her mother, Suha, as her father, Hussam, back, sits with her brother Wesam in their apartment in Jersey City, New Jersey, Sept. 16, 2015. The Alroustoms are refugees from war-stricken Syria.
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Mahmud, 28, and his bride, Firal, 25, both from the Syrian city of Kobane, show their rings as they arrive with other refugees and migrants on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey on Oct. 8, 2015.
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A elderly Syrian man holds his broken arm, an injury he received during his voyage from Syria, at a refugee reception center on Oct. 23, 2015, in Gevgelija, Macedonia.
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A Syrian child holds a watermelon, one of several distributed near the Akcakale crossing gate between Turkey and Syria at Akcakale in Sanliurfa Province on June 16, 2015.
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Refugees who have just arrived by bus queue in the rain at a refugee transit camp on the border between Greece and Macedonia on Oct. 22, 2015, in Idomeni, Greece.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
In this photo taken Oct. 2, 2015, Syrian refugee Ali Shaheen, 62, and his wife, Abeer, 52, who came from the countryside of Damascus, Syria, pose for a picture shortly after arriving on a dinghy from the Turkish coast to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos.
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Refugees from Afghanistan and Syria take selfies after arriving in boats on the shores of Lesbos on Nov. 2, 2015, near Molyvos, Greece.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Ibrahim Ahmad, wearing an inhaler mask, is seen in a Syrian family's room in the Reyhanli district of Hatay Province in southern Turkey, Oct. 28, 2015.
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Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
A Syrian family is seen inside their room in the Reyhanli district of Hatay Province in southern Turkey on Oct. 28, 2015.
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A refugee from Syria, left, and a Kurdish man from Iraq wait to be registered at the central registration office for refugees in Greven, western Germany, on Sept. 22, 2015.
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Halim Rasim, 6, a Syrian refugee boy who fled Idlib with his family, poses with his pet cat at a tent city in the Akcakale district of Sanliurfa, Turkey, on Sept. 24, 2015.
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Refugees sit inside buses as they are transported to the Brezice refugee camp on Oct. 26, 2015, in Rigonce, Slovenia.
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Syrian refugees sit in the back of a Jordanian army truck as they leave the al-Roqban makeshift camp, on the border with Syria, for the eastern town of Ruwaished, where they will be welcomed and checked by the Jordanian authorities, on Sept. 10, 2015.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
In this photo taken Oct. 3, 2015, Syrian refugee Alaaldeen Mohammed, 25, who came from Aleppo, Syria, poses for a picture shortly after arriving on a dinghy from the Turkish coast to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos. Mohammed was injured in 2013 in a government bombing that burned his upper body and face.
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