The JACL issued the following statement on Wednesday following controversial comments by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and other public figures.
The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) condemns the dangerous and irresponsible Islamophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric being used to vilify and demonize Muslim and Arab communities.
Several public figures have stoked simmering fears around national security as justification for blatantly racist statements and anti-Muslim policy proposals. Just this week, recent statements recommended that the U.S. halt all Muslim immigration in a proposal akin to the anti-Asian exclusion acts of the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Although it may be tempting to dismiss these statements as extremist political posturing, our country’s own history has proven that hateful racist rhetoric can lead to destructive and sometimes fatal consequences for the scapegoated communities. The World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans was a culmination of decades of anti-Asian and anti-Japanese sentiment that festered along the West Coast.
“We expect the nation’s leader to uphold our nation’s values and ideals. These statements are guilty of the same mistakes that led to one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history, one that destroyed livelihoods, entire communities, and an ethnic culture,” said JACL Executive Director Priscilla Ouchida. “Leaders should not emulate the lowest points of our history, but strive to provide direction that reflects the best of our democracy.”
Escalated fears around national security after Japan’s attack at Pearl Harbor and the U.S.’ entry into World War II led to President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing Executive Order 9066, which gave the U.S. Army the authority to remove civilians from military zones established in the states of Washington, Oregon, and California. Soon thereafter, the U.S. government forcibly removed and imprisoned some 120,000 Japanese Americans without due process. No Japanese American was ever charged, much less convicted, of espionage or sabotage against the United States. Yet they were targeted, rounded up, and imprisoned for years, simply for “looking like the enemy.”
In 1983, the federal Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians fully investigated the facts and circumstances surrounding the issuance of Roosevelt’s executive order and determined the incarceration was caused by race prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership. Their findings led to a government apology for this unconscionable and unjustified act.
JACL reiterates the need to defend the country’s values and ideals during times of crisis, even when the nation is threatened. The organization continues to support the president’s policy to admit Syrian refugees, and to administer the nation’s policies without discrimination based on race, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, or physical characteristics.