Roanoke Mayor Should Apologize and Welcome Refugees

Refugees welcome as a road sign
Refugees welcome as a road sign

Yesterday David Bowers, the Mayor of Roanoke, Virginia, released a statement that favorably referenced the World War II internment of Japanese Americans as a justification for closing the city's doors to Syrian refugees fleeing violence and persecution. Not surprisingly, the statement garnered national media coverage and generated widespread outrage, but Mayor Bowers has only doubled down on his position.

Now that Mayor Bowers has hopefully learned some history, he should immediately apologize for his shameful comments. And to make amends, Bowers should showcase the city's commitment to civil rights and human rights by welcoming Syrian refugees--and all refugees--to Roanoke, VA.

The internment of Japanese Americans during World War II represents one of the most disgraceful episodes in American history. In violation of constitutional protections, over 100,000 Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from their homes and and placed in internment camps across the country.

Mayor Bowers' suggestion that the internment of Japanese Americans based solely on their ancestry was necessary or right is truly shocking.

This outrageous statement builds on the virulent anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, and anti-Muslim rhetoric that has flooded the public discourse in the wake of the tragic attacks in Paris. These attacks were nothing short of devastating, yet the response to the tragedy should not be to close our doors and leave more people to face violence and persecution.

Mayor Bowers' statement unintentionally, and disturbingly, illustrates the potential consequences of fear-mongering based on race, religion, or ethnicity. If anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim hate and fear are left unchecked, the consequences may undermine our Constitution and our democracy.

Mayor Bowers, please issue an immediate apology for your statement and take concrete steps to make Roanoke, VA a more welcoming place for refugees and all immigrants.