NEW YORK - A Virginia mayor is facing criticism from “Star Trek” star George Takei after the politician cited the mass detention of Japanese-Americans during World War II in order to deny Syrian refugees the chance to resettle in the United States.
Takei, who was one of 120,000 people of Asian descent put in internment camps in the wake of 1940s-era prejudice, took issue with Roanoke Mayor David A. Bowers’ grasp of history.
The TV and stage star pointed out that Bowers was wrong to call those interred as “foreign nationals” since two-thirds were U.S. citizens. Also, he said there was never any proven incident of espionage or sabotage from the Japanese-Americans held.
“There was no threat. We loved America. We were decent, honest, hard-working folks. Tens of thousands of lives were ruined, over nothing,” Takei wrote on his Facebook page. Takei’s personal story of the camps inspired the Broadway musical “Allegiance,” in which he also stars.
Bowers on Wednesday demanded that Syrian refugees not receive any government assistance and that it was “presently imprudent” to assist in their relocation. He then cited the internments during WWII, saying “it appears that the threat of harm to America from ISIS now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then.”
In his post, Takei invited Bowers to come see “Allegiance” as his guest. “Perhaps you, too, will come away with more compassion and understanding,” he wrote.
Takei was 5 years old when soldiers marched onto his front porch with bayonets in May 1942 and ordered his entire family to leave their Los Angeles home. His school days began with him reciting “The Pledge of Allegiance,” but he could see the barbed wire and sentry towers through his schoolroom window.
“It is my life’s mission to never let such a thing happen again in America,” he wrote, and blasted the mayor’s “fear-based tactics” and “galling lack of compassion.”