- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Roanoke Mayor David Bowers said Thursday he has been asked to step down from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton’s leadership team in Virginia for voicing his support for halting the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the U.S. by apparently endorsing the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

“Secretary Clinton has to do whatever she thinks is right, and I have to do what I believe is right,” Mr. Bowers told The Washington Times. “I was more supportive of the president’s foreign policy when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, and I still support her candidacy. I hope she wins, and I believe she will win.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Bowers joined 26 governors from across the country in rejecting President Obama’s plan to resettle as many as 10,000 refugees from war-torn Syria in the United States next year.

In a written statement, Mr. Bowers said he was “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 [the Islamic State] now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then.”

Shortly after his letter was released, Mr. Bowers was asked to leave the Clinton campaign’s Virginia Leadership Council.

“The internment of people of Japanese descent is a dark cloud on our nation’s history and to suggest that it is anything but a horrible moment in our past is outrageous,” Clinton campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin said late Wednesday.

The Roanoke mayor’s comments also drew pointed criticism from former “Star Trek” star George Takei, a Japanese-American who was born in Los Angeles and was sent to an internment camp with his family in 1942.

Mr. Takei, 78, took Mr. Bowers to task in a widely circulated Facebook posting.

“The internment (not a ‘sequester’) was not of Japanese ‘foreign nationals,’ but of Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were U.S. citizens. 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,” Mr. Takei wrote on his Facebook page.

“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,” he wrote. “If you are attempting to compare the actual threat of harm from the 120,000 of us who were interned then to the Syrian situation now, the simple answer is this: There was no threat. We loved America. We were decent, honest, hard-working folks. Tens of thousands of lives were ruined, over nothing.”

The actor’s Facebook post has been “liked” by more than 91,000 people and shared nearly 43,000 times.

Mr. Takei, who currently is starring in the Broadway show “Allegiance,” concluded his post by inviting Mr. Bowers to be his guest at an upcoming performance.

“Perhaps you, too, will come away with more compassion and understanding,” he wrote.

• Jessica Chasmar can be reached at jchasmar@washingtontimes.com.

• Kelly Riddell can be reached at kriddell@washingtontimes.com.

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