The following statement may be attributed to ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga:
We are deeply dismayed and disappointed by Mayor David Bowers’ statement today calling for Roanoke Valley governmental and non-governmental agencies to ‘suspend and delay’ assistance to Syrian refugees by invoking the sequestration and internment of people of Japanese descent during World War II. The government’s denial of liberty and freedom to over 100,000 individuals of Japanese descent – many of whom were citizens or legal residents and half of whom were children – is a dark stain on America’s history that Mayor Bowers should learn from rather than seek to emulate.
It is appalling that Mayor Bowers has asked public agencies and non-profits (including faith-based organizations) to single out refugees on the basis of their race, ethnicity, or nationality. It is an effort that plays into the very fear that terrorists seek to inspire, and threatens the principles for which the United States stands. For government and federally funded agencies, this is also a call to violate the Constitution and laws of the United States.
The ACLU of Virginia stands ready to defend the civil rights of all those affected, including existing and future Virginia residents. We cannot yield to politicians who play on our fears and violate the rule of law. Let us collectively recall the scourge of our past and not give in to fear. Remember that the Commonwealth and our country are better and stronger because of the constitutional values that unite us, not because of the fear that will divide us.