U.S. officials should stop scapegoating Syrian refugees
WASHINGTON, D.C.–America has a long and cherished tradition of welcoming refugees from all parts of the world. This humanitarian gesture affirms our moral values of inclusivity, tolerance and compassion towards the world’s most vulnerable, regardless of national origin, ethnicity, race or religion.
Sadly, following the terrorist attacks in Paris, more than half of the nation’s governors appear to have forgotten this tradition by stating their refusal to accept Syrian refugees. The House of Representatives are threatening to cut off funding for refugee assistance [The House voted to suspend the refugee program-Ed.]. And some Presidential candidates are irresponsibly talking about discriminating against refugees on the basis of their religion.
Even worst, the mayor of Roanoke, Virginia has invoked the xenophobia that led to the unjust internment of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II, when he recently stated: “I’m reminded that President 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 ISIS now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then.”
We join other Americans in demanding a sincere apology from Roanoke Mayor David Bowers for his inflammatory and despicable remarks against both the Syrian refugee community and Japanese Americans.
The American people do not want to repeat one of the darkest chapters in American history when Japanese Americans were incarcerated because of race prejudice and wartime hysteria. We must remain vigilant against racial profiling, distrust of each other’s differences and the vilification of entire communities.
In this light, we are encouraged by the bold leadership exemplified by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee who have gone out of their way to welcome Syrian refugees. As Gov. Hickenlooper said, we can protect our security and still provide a place where the world’s most vulnerable can rebuild their lives. We also agree with Gov. Inslee that fear should not be the basis for preventing the resettlement of these new arrivals. These refugees have been displaced by conflict and are themselves victims of terrorism. They deserve a safe haven from persecution and oppression.
We are a stronger nation when we chose to uphold those very values that make America a sanctuary of freedom and a beacon of hope throughout the world.
JT Mallonga is the National Chair of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA).
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