Today, the Minoru Yasui Tribute Project released a statement in response to the recent comment by David A. Bowers, Mayor of Roanoke, VA, regarding Syrian refugees.
On Monday, President Obama announced Minoru Yasui as a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom—our nation’s highest civilian honor—in recognition of his lifelong defense of the human and civil rights of all people, in particular his challenge of the discriminatory orders against Japanese Americans during World War II. Two days later Mayor Bowers referred to the “sequestering of Japanese foreign nationals after Pearl Harbor” as a justification for excluding Syrian refugees from his part of Virginia.
We know that Min Yasui himself, who spent his entire life speaking up and speaking out against injustice, would not have remained silent at this outrage. We condemn the invocation of the injustices suffered by all persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II as a justification for an equally shameful policy of excluding Syrian refugees. The xenophobic thinking advanced by Mayor Bowers, which fires the flames of war hysteria, does not make us more secure, but on the contrary undermines the very foundations of our country that make us strong.
In 1942, just days after Min Yasui intentionally violated the military curfew against Japanese Americans, he wrote to General John deWitt, who was responsible for the “Japanese problem”:
“The President of the United States has oftentimes repeated that we are fighting to preserve the four freedoms throughout the world. Surely then, it is of paramount importance to preserve those self-same freedoms within the United States of America.”