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The Lessons of Japanese American Internment Should Not Be Forgotten

I was raised in an internment camp and know firsthand how that dark moment in our nation’s history led to repercussions that have resonated over the years.

I am outraged by reports of elected officials calling for Syrian Americans to be rounded up and interned.

We simply cannot let the extremist perpetrators of these hateful acts of violence drive us into such a misguided action. For it is when we allow these criminals to lead us down a dark path, away from our principles and ideals, that we as a country suffer.

The Japanese and Japanese Americans interned after the bombing of Pearl Harbor was an outrage, as was turning away Jews at our borders who were fleeing German persecution. We cannot allow this to happen again and reverse the progress we have made in the last several decades.

We look back, as a nation, and we know this was wrong. We look back and know, as defined by the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, that the internment was a result of ‘race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.’ We look back and know that an entire ethnicity was said to be, and ultimately considered, the enemy. We know that internment happened because few in Washington were brave enough to say ‘no.’

We must now stand up and say ‘no’ to failed leadership and condemn the statements of Mayor Bowers of Roanoke, Tennessee state House GOP Caucus Chair Casada, and Rhode Island State Senator Morgan who would make such ill-advised and backwards-thinking recommendations. They are perpetuating the messages of hate and fear that fly in the fact of what America stands for in the world.

As we learn more about the complexity and the extent of the attacks on Paris, this tragedy continues to send shockwaves through the world community. I am hopeful we will not allow our anger and outrage towards these terrorists and their cowardly attacks on civilians to turn us away from compassion and generosity.

We need to find ways to help the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees who are entering through our thorough screening and resettlement process now to find safe haven in the United States.

As a world leader, we need to help these people escape from the brutal ISIL regime — they are fleeing the very perpetrators of these senseless acts of violence.

Mike Honda with his family.

Congressman Mike Honda

Written by

Former Congressman for 17th District of California, Silicon Valley.

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